Culture

The Bay Of Bones

By Bernie Bell

Years ago, when on holiday in Orkney, we went to what we now know to be the Sands O’ Wright, in South Ronaldsay.  That first visit, we called it the Bay Of Bones, because there were so many of them in among the stones of the beach.  Not so much, now. I don’t know why this happens – beaches and sections of coastline change – maybe tides change slightly, so that what is deposited on the coast, changes, or maybe it’s just because folk like us pick things up and take them home!  Marwick Bay is the same – as described here….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/04/20/orkney-walks-marwick-bay-left-or-right/ .. the bay there, used to be great for finding bones and bits of old crockery – not so much now.

The Sands O’ Wright is still full of interest, bones or no bones, and, this time, instead of bones we were hoping to find wood – old wood – very, very old wood!

I’d read about this site in a piece by local archaeologist, Caroline Wickham-Jones  https://www.mesolithic.co.uk/blog/2017/05/10/the-tradition-of-invention/ . I think it must be very much a matter of chance whether a walker on the sands can come upon these tree stumps and peat beds from long ago – depending on tides, time of year etc.  As mentioned here, by ‘Kath’ –  https://twitter.com/Orkat3/status/1277198078567686144

They are thought to date from the Mesolithic, when what is now known as Orkney had a slightly milder climate, and ….trees!

We failed to find the ancient forest, but we did find some colourful jellyfish, and a shiny jellyfish!

When is a dolmen, not a dolmen?  When it’s some stones in a rock pool………..

rock and stones on beach credit Bell

Also – well – I see faces in everything

rocks on beach credit Bell

After mooching on the beach,  we crossed the road and followed the path to the left of the toilet block (closed at the moment – due to……). We then walked through a wetland area, which is bursting with life at this time of year, with impressive stands of willows of various kinds

willows at the Sands of Wright credit Bell

The path is so soggy that it supports Marsh Cinquefoil  – a beautiful vivid red…

I should warn anyone meaning to walk here at this time of year, that the path through the wetland was very fly-blown – maybe some Bug Ban would have been a good idea!

Emerging from the wetland, and looking over to our left, there is the unmistakable outline of a broch – and it is marked on the OS map as such – with a house, right by it.

Broch remains at Sands of Wright walk credit Bell

I wonder what was found when the foundations were being dug for that house?  What happened to what was found? And what might now be found, when they dig their garden?   Do they have noisy/nosy neighbours?

We then found ourselves on another bay, the Dam of Hoxa, which has  a different character to the Sands O’ Wright. This one is more stony, and I was grateful for the track to walk on, as stony ground and I, don’t get along!

Dam of Hoxa credit Bell

The Dam of Hoxa, is on the left, and on the right, more pools, one with a ‘Pushmepullyou’ Arctic Tern

We  followed the track, but stopped well short of the house at the end, and had a sit down on one of the big stone there, to admire the view, and the  flowers among the stones…

It’s such a peaceful place – the air was still, and the sky and the sea were dong interesting things – soothes the soul – to sit……..

And so, we retraced our steps, but, instead of cutting back through the wetland, we carried on along the track, up the hill a bit, looking back to see a fine view of the big pool and the Bay…..

Bay at the Dam of Hoxa credit Bell

….and also the broch, and it’s position in the land and sea scape…..

broch at the Sands of Wright walk credit Bell

We then turned left onto the tarmac road, and left again, to get back to the car park.

On the way we passed an otter ….

stone otter credit Bell

…wearing a spotty bow-tie! When we’ve walked here, previously, this otter has been wearing a variety of ties and bow ties, including a seasonal Christmassy one – an otter of considerable sartorial elegance!

Turning right out of the car park, we drove up the hill, passing verges full of flowers – someone has taken a lot of trouble to make this stretch of road into a drive – through garden!

Maybe they get help from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – who do like to dig!

Snow White and the seven dwarves gardening Credit Bell

We parked in the little car park just past the Hoxa Tapestry Gallery  ( closed, for now)  https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/06/15/heading-to-hoxa-head/ , to eat our sandwiches and enjoy the view through the car window….

view from Hoxa Gallery credit Bell

The boggy land behind us, was a blanket of Bog Cotton and Bog Asphodel

bog asphodel wild flower credit Bell

All which makes the land look like it’s been scattered with flakes of gold…

bog asphodel and bog cotton wildflowers credit Bell

Another grand day out, Gromit.

Sands of Wright Dam of Hoxa walk credit Bell

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