New Year’s Eve 2015
Much to be discovered along the coast in Rendall today. We parked by the “doo-cot”, a beehive type dovecot [Link: https://canmore.org.uk/site/2688/hall-of-rendall-dovecot] which acted as the winter live meat larder for the Hall of Rendall.
From there, there’s a good view of Gairsay, where the notorious 12th century pirate Sveinn Asleifarson once lived.
Christopher immediately went to have a closer look at a broch mound, on which there are also the remains of the medieval church of Saint Thomas, known as Tammaskirk. A beautiful carved stone ball was found there [link: http://nms.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-180-001-393-C] in association with the broch. We were imagining what the people in the Iron Age thought of the Neolithic carved stone ball. Which stories did they tell about it? How did it make them feel? Apparently it felt special enough to them to pick up and take home.
As I had been assigned the role of Jedi Knight by our six-year-old, I had to stay and play-fight with a light-sabre while Christopher revisited the site on the beach where he ten years ago discovered in situ human remains from the medieval cemetery, dating to around 1100-1400 AD [link: http://www.orkneyjar.com/archaeology/2005/02/23/skeletal-remains-rescued-from-eroding-medieval-cemetery/]. A rescue excavation team was sent in, who recorded 18 graves. The coastal erosion here is quite bad, so Christopher likes to keep an eye on what’s happening.
Our journey proceeded along slippery seaweed at high tide along the coast towards the wartime buildings at Wasswick Battery below Queenamuckle farm. What fascinates me about these buildings, is how cleverly they have been disguised. When you see them from ground level, as we did, they look like any other World War Two concrete-built searchlight buildings and engine rooms. However, on the roof each has a stone-built gable, so that when you see the site from an airplane they look like ordinary little Orkney croft buildings.
Now we had reached the destination of our journey: A large stone which we had carried, with much struggle, up above the high tide mark last year. But on that occasion we hadn’t thought of bringing a camera, so all we could do was try to draw the curious pattern on it. This time we were better prepared.
What could this stone be? The pattern looks like it has been deliberately made. But by who, and when? Christopher liked to think it might be Pictish, and his gut feeling is usually right, but my in-built scepticism demands to know how it could have survived on the shore. Then again, we don’t know how long it might have been on the shore for. We will have to investigate and see what we can find out.
On the way, we also stopped by Betty’s Reading Room: A beautiful, traditional cottage, lovingly restored and now generously left open to the public by the Tingwall jetty. The room is full of books and comfy sofas, and anybody can take books in to share. Today the owners had even left chocolates in there. It’s a lovely place to visit, and best of all is the trust it bestows on us all.