Walking Out From The House – Again……..

By Bernie Bell

Pics mostly by McB

This time we set off up the road, turning right at the old BT phone box.  If BT ever take that away, we’ll be stumped when giving folk directions to our house.  Meanwhile, I must admit I have never seen anyone using it, and…there are now things growing in it!

BT phone box Rendall credit Bell

Walking along the road, the view really starts to make its presence felt. Scanning from left to right, we see  a bit of Rousay https://theorkneynews.scot/2017/05/18/bernie-bell-orkney-walks-with-stories-rousay/ , Wyre, Egilsay, Eday, Gairsay, Stronsay, Shapinsay, and Mainland Orkney.  On a fine day, it’s a panoramic vista – that’s the only way to describe it – the camera just couldn’t cope with it!

And on, along the road, down the dip by Breck Farm, and up to the sign for the Rendall Doocot, then down the track to the Hall of Rendall. Pausing on the track, you can look across to the remains of St. Thomas’s Kirk, and its accompanying broch…..

the remains of St. Thomas’s Kirk, and its accompanying broch Rendall, Credit Bell

…where a Neolithic carved stone object was discovered.

I have a mild obsession with Neolithic carved stone objects, especially what I refer to as the EOASSK  https://theorkneynews.scot/2017/12/29/mathematical-musings-of-the-neolithic-kind/.

The carved stone object found at this broch,  has 67 knobs – 67 – a Prime Number – Maths.  This is now in the National Museum in Edinburgh, stored away, and I don’t have a photo of it to show you, but there is one, here……


It pleases me that our neighbours had a carved stone ball.  This set me off again about how those ancient people appear to have had a deep understanding of mathematics, and used that understanding to illuminate concepts – as folk still do today, and have done in between

Here’s something…….We recently watched the film of ‘Contact’, taken from the book of that name by Carl Sagan. We’d both read the book, and seen the film, years ago – remembered the general idea, but not the details.

In 2014, the EOASSK was found at The Ness of Brodgar, which sent me and some other folk off on one about the maths therein.

In ‘Contact’, first known contact with extra-terrestrial life is made by people recognizing the sequence of numbers produced by a signal from deep space.  The main character says how Maths is a universal language. I won’t labour the point, I did that in my ‘Mathematical Musings’ piece!  Just – think on – Prime Numbers – Maths – universal language – knowledge – information – contact!!!

Maths as a universal language, through space – and time.

Phew – I need to have a camomile tea and lie in a darkened room .

I can’t ‘do’ Maths, my brain doesn‘t work that way.  I can ‘see’ what Maths is, but can’t work with it. Same with physics, I can catch the concepts, but not work out the equations needed to attempt to explain/prove them.  So, I scribble, instead.

I very much like the idea that a 67 knobber, Neolithic carved stone object  was found at the site of an Iron Age broch, just down the road from us.

Possibly information encoded in the object, was still being  transferred, or even if the knowledge of how to ‘read’ the object had been lost, the folk of the time still recognized a GOOD THING, enough to keep it with them.

And now, back to the Rendall Doocot. The old farmhouse at the Hall of Rendall is long gone, replaced by a new one, but the old Doocot, dating from 1648, is still standing.   https://www.spirit-of-orkney.com/contents1a/2009/10/rendall-doocot/

It’s a pleasing little structure. I like symmetry, and it has a rounded symmetry, which is even more pleasing to me.

Rendall Doocot Credit Bell

I went into it, once, but it was a bit too full of pigeon poo for my liking – it would make good fertilizer though!  Pigeons still use it, possibly the same pigeons which come and hoover up the  bird food I put out in our garden – big fat things!

Standing outside, we could hear them inside, cooing softly.

The Doocot stands in its own little wetland, which, at this time of year, has Butterbur coming into flower, producing a strange, slightly alien landscape.

Later in the year, the leaves of this plant become huge, and the area becomes more like a jungle.

It’s not a big wetland, but it is full of interest, and plants which love soggy places.

We carried on, up the track, with a view of the Doocot with a wind turbine in the background – Orkney ancient and modern….

Rendall Doocot with wind turbine in the background Credit Bell

…..past the old Manse, now a private residence, as are many of the old Manses of Orkney.  I wonder has anyone put together a history of the old Manses and their change of use in recent years?  A change which is very much a sign of the times.

Along the shore from the Manse, can be seen the remains of another Iron Age broch  – The Knowe O’ Dishero. It is possible to access this from the beach at low tide, but this time, we just stood and looked across at it.

The Knowe O’ Dishero Broch Rendall Credit Bell

Standing at the T- junction of the paths, we were presented with another striking view of our neighbouring islands, a bit closer than the view from the road. We look across to Gairsay, once the home of Viking Sweyn Asleifsson, from where he headed out, rampaging.  A neighbouring island, with a neighbour-Viking. I kind of like to think of Sweyn Asleifsson  http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/historicalfigures/sweyn/index.html  as being our neighbour, over on Gairsay, but, when he was actually there, I would probably have been happier knowing he was over there, on Gairsay, at home,  not out ravening!

Gairsay credit Bell

And down the track, to the Kirkyard and the ruins of the old Rendall Parish Church, with its memories and stories…  https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/10/07/the-old-kirks-of-orkney-part-one/. And – lichen.  If you like lichen, and Mike, likes lichen….

Along the path, and down onto the beach at the Bay of Hinderayre.  Backing onto the beach, is something which appeals to me….nousts and a boat shed, in various stages of picturesque decrepitude.  There is the boat shed, containing a bit of a wreck of a boat – maybe could be done up? But I wouldn’t want to take to the water in it!  “They went to sea in a sieve, they did, they went to sea, in a sieve.”- Edward Lear.

To the right of the shed, is a total wreck of a boat, still with its rusty old engine in place.  Then an empty noust, tucked in by the old tattie shed.  Nousts  are shapes in the land, made to place small boats in when they are drawn up on the shore.

On the other side of the boat-shed, you can just about tell that there was a noust, as there is still a piece of wood sticking up, with the metal ring which would have been used to secure the boat when not in use.

boat shed Rendall credit Bell

A succession of usage, and decrepitude.

Orcadian artist Sylvia Wishart did a drawing of this boat shed and its surroundings, in which she used a bit of artistic licence!  The drawing is in the book ‘Sylvia Wishart  Orkney Drawings 1968 to 1977’, which is available from the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness,   https://www.pierartscentre.com/ , or, it will be when it opens again!

The boat shed and tattie shed belong to the croft which was called South Aittit, now changed to The Ayre, which is mentioned in ‘Rendall in the 1930’s ‘ by Jim Nicolson.  A kist burial was found here, and a Viking hog-back grave marker was found at the site of the Kirkyard. This little corner of Gorseness, has been a special place to folk, for a long time.

I found a stone on the beach here, just down from where the bank is eroding away, which looks to me like it was shaped by hands, not by the sea.

I showed it to various archaeologists, who all agreed that it’s a pleasing stone, which they liked to hold, and turn in their hands.  If it had been found on a ‘site’, it would have been of interest, but, being found on the beach, it doesn’t count.  I’m not an archaeologist – too much like hard work – but I disagree – what’s to say that this wasn’t a site, or isn’t a site?  There has been much of interest, through time, found around the site of that croft.  The other thing is – it’s made of an unusual kind of stone, unlike the other stones found on that beach.  One of the archaeologists I pestered, said that it’s Porphyry – not a stone found naturally in that area.  Here it is, what do you think?

stone credit Bell

And so, up the lang , but not as lang as from Puldrite https://theorkneynews.scot/2020/04/16/a-walk-is-what-you-make-it/ , road home and vege sausage butties with loads of brown sauce  – vege bangers from Flett’s in Stromness – the only ones which don’t give me indigestion!  Too much information? Or, useful information!

Another walk, out from the house – saying hello to folk in their gardens along the way, but keeping our distance. Getting air and exercise, and a whole lot more!

If you live in a town or city?  Look up, look around you – a walk is what you make it.



And, a bit further afield………


6 replies »

  1. Hi – South Aittit’s name hasn’t been changed; it’s still known as South Aittit. However, it has the distinction of having two names, as it’s been called The Ayre locally for generations, probably because of its location on the edge of Hinderayre Bay.
    Thank you for giving my late father-in-law Jim Nicolson’s book a mention. Jim had a real love for his home parish of Rendall, and was a fount of knowledge where it was concerned.

  2. Hi – South Aittit hasn’t had a name change; it’s still known as South Aittit. However, the property has the distinction of having two names, as it’s been known as The Ayre for generations, probably because of its location, sitting as it does on the shores of Hinderayre Bay.
    Thank you for giving my late father-in-law Jim Nicolson’s book a mention. Jim had a great love for his home parish of Rendall, and was a fount of knowledge on the subject.

    • And we love Rendall too – not our home parish – but we wouldn’t live anywhere else.

      Your late Father-in-law’s book is invaluable as a source of information for this area, so thanks to him, for putting it all together.

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