Map Orkney Month mapping workshop at Stromness Community Garden, Sunday 15th

There will be a Map Orkney Month mapping workshop at Stromness Community Garden this Sunday. Come along and learn how to map the garden using various GPS devices (hand held, differential). The aim is to create an accurate map of the garden and share mapping skills.
Sunday 15th March 2-4pm (free, no booking necessary) – Meet at the garden
See blog for details:
Updates on Twitter: @pa2015info   #MapOrkneyMonth

Map Orkney Month Week 1: Ponies, pearls and pancakes at Purtabreck

Jo Inkster: Rousay 01/03

A typical Sunday on the farm for this time of year. Cattle feeding duties followed by a wet and windy hack out on my favourite horse Storm. Rode out to the Westside of Rousay and my Waypoint picture is taken looking out over Quandale (site of the General Burrow’s Clearances) towards the Mainland. The rest of my day was spent with more cattle feeding, a quick dog walk and some work in the workshop.

Chris Gee: Firth 01/03

On Sunday afternoon we set off on our regular Sunday outing. This time we decided to go up the track into the Firth hills to the west of Holland Farm. We have been there a number of times before over the years. On the walk up the track you can see the bedrock exposed and there are what seem to be small stone quarries at the side – probably 19th century in date. The boys have fun pushing each other into the tussacks along the banks while I stare out towards Redland and the sky. We saw a double rainbow on the way up this time.

The first official stop is a small gully formed by the Burn o Geo. Here the boys have made up a game called “level one hundred”. It involves climbing along the steep heathery banks as far as possible without sliding down into the (very shallow) burn. Up stream someone has built a couple of little bridges that are good to go under. Dams are easy to make with the flagstones. The torrent released when the dam is opened quickly can carry turf divets and toy boats far down the rapids.


At the edge of the burn on the shoulder of a natural terrace sits a large circular, flat topped mound (NMR number HY31NE 17). Raymond Lamb – onetime County Archaeologist – suggested that it might have been either a burial mound or a burnt mound. There is some indication of an old water channel leading from the burn higher upstream around the other side of the mound as if the water could once have been diverted towards it. And even further upstream a couple of years ago we found what seems to be a dam and pond. If the mound is indeed a burnt mound then the supply of water to it would have been of prime importance. Burnt mounds usually surround or cover a water tank which was heated up using hot stones (which then eventually form the burnt mound).

Even though the boys had wet feet and their spare gloves were a bit thin we continued further up the track. On the journey we spoke about the frog that we had seen a couple of years before at a particular point, I remembered a bit of haematite I had found. It’s interesting how a piece of landscape can seem to hold memories and stories. Looking out towards Redland I remembered Eoin Scott and stories he had told me years ago about buildings there. If you could see all the stories and memories of everyone through the ages impressed on the landscape it would be very full I’m sure.

We walked as far as the old peat track above the Hammars of Syradale, into the Parish of Harray I think. There’s supposed to be a fairy’s pool in the rocks there, I was told. There is a spectacular view over the Harray and Stenness Lochs towards Hoy at this point. People used to walk up the dale to the hamars and carve their names in stone Sundays once. Sometimes it’s hard to separate these Sunday walks in time.

 Sarah Gee: South Ronaldsay and Mainland 01/03

This GPS trail for 01.03.15 shows a re-visit to the mainland locations for an installation work undertaken in 2012 (title: RePlace Orkney Without actually ending up at the installation sites themselves, we travelled to a point near the northernmost (Brough of Birsay) and then traversed the Mainland taking in locations at the Ring of Brodgar, Ness of Brodgar and Wideford Hill, before driving to the nearest parking spot to the Balfour Battery, which was the southernmost installation site (where I was interviewed for BBC Radio Orkney: Tulliementan by Fion, in May 2012).

In the time available I could not visit my installation’s westernmost (Hoy) or easternmost (North Ronaldsay) locations, but it was brilliant to have a beautiful day and great companions for a nostalgic trip. And we did manage a somewhat potholey experience to visit Shunan Loch to see a Blue-winged Teal!

Fabulous day, beautiful weather. Magic place.

 Rosey Priestman & Brendan Colvert: Sanday 01/03

Helga Tulloch: North Ronaldsay 04/03

Isabella and I went out between planes to feed the sheep at Cruesbreck and hens at Verracott, pick up a dehumidifier and managed to fit in a walk round the West Beach and pancakes at Purtabreck.

Site record for the hen house at Verracott is 59 22 30 north/02 25 39 west.

Jane: Kirkwall 04/03

Earl’s Palace in Kirkwall – I just love this place. I often wonder what it looked like before the roof was taken off. I know that it doesn’t have the best history, but it is still a magnificent building. I always wanted to live near a castle when I was younger (which clearly wasn’t going to happen to someone who lived in Australia) but now at least I can say I do live near a couple of palaces at least! I also love the rooks that are usually sitting in the trees in the palace grounds – it’s like they are holding meetings there when they talk to each other, so I have included a photo of them too.


St Olaf’s Kirk archway – I like the archway because of its connection to the naming of Kirkwall. If it wasn’t there, then the town wouldn’t ever have been named Kirkjuvagr (Church Bay) which over the years has changed to Kirkwall. Also the name St Olaf shows the connection of Orkney with the Norse, so for me this is also interesting because I study the Vikings.

Kirkwall Harbour – I feel the harbour is very important to Orkney as a whole as islands rely on the sea so much. It’s always so busy where the ferries come in too, connecting Kirkwall to the rest of Orkney (so I have included Earls Thorfinn and Sigurd ferries in the photos).

Map Orkney Month map so far:

More contributions from Week 1 to follow…

MoM Guide for Participants

Click here for MoM Guide for Participants PDF download

MoM Mappers, March is soon approaching!

You find here a small guide to help you map for your day and plan for a contribution (I’ll also include a printed copy with your GPS if you are borrowing one). It outlines the use of GPS, smartphones and how to record your site. I’ve also included some mapping tips.

For those of you outside Orkney, why not contribute an imaginary site for somewhere IN ORKNEY? Maybe it’s somewhere you have been, or some thing you think should or could be there.

More to follow soon…



PA2015: March Preview – Map Orkney Month – call for participants and info

What is Map Orkney Month?

Map Orkney Month is a large scale public mapping project running for the whole of March 2015. The idea is to make a new map of Orkney from people’s everyday journeys, places and ideas of heritage, a kind of island-wide archaeological survey. The result will be a collaborative map of usual geographies, daily journeys and new sites: a strategy of Contemporary Archaeology counter-mapping set to create new possibilities and encounters. Map Orkney Month aims to generate future heritage: maybe someone will follow the trail?

Who can be involved?

Anyone (as long as you promise to give the GPS back!). You just have to be in Orkney during March, although…

MoM encourages participants from outside Orkney. Imaginary journeys / sites can be emailed and included in the map, helping blur the distinction between conventional maps, survey and situated / imagined knowledge – the project is as much about the event and the process of mapping, as it is about the final map. This can include memory work. Perhaps you have been to Orkney before and remember some journeys and unusual places?

What do I have to do?

Carry a small GPS receiver for a day (I have several to lend out – turn it on first thing in the morning and off at night). This will automatically map your movements for the day and store them. You can walk, run, cycle, ferry, drive or fly within Orkney– it’s your call. You are encouraged to briefly record one place or site that is significant (or insignificant) to you in some way: location, written description, photos or video – it’s up to you. This will be added to the map.

You can use your own GPS if you have one (this would make things easier!). Just save your tracks / waypoints for the day and email me the .gpx files.

Alternatively, you can use your mobile to track your day using one of the numerous tracker apps- please save these as .gpx or .kml files and email.

What will happen to the results?

The new map of Orkney will be compiled with a list and location of everyone’s sites. This will be published in a leaflet available free in paper and PDF formats. I’m also open to suggestions and keen for MoM mappers to help guide the final stages – maybe you have other ideas (I can teach you some basic mapping & IT skills in return).

How can I take part?

Just email with suggested days within March 2015 (preferably within the first 3 weeks) when you can undertake your mapping. There will be a number of participants involved and days will have to be arranged where possible if you need to borrow a GPS. If you use your own GPS or mobile phone, then it’s really up to you! For those outside Orkney, just use your imagination during the month and email your tracks and site coordinates/description.


Dan Lee


Twitter: @infoPA2015 #MapOrkneyMonth


March 2015: Dan Lee, archaeologist

Map Orkney Month

My first thoughts for the Public Archaeology 2015 project were to keep things low key and small scale and to work intensively with a few members of the public over my month to explore places significant to them through walking and mapping. Then I came up with Map Orkney Month and things got (relatively) large scale!

Map Orkney Month will attempt to create a new map of the Orkney archipelago based on everyday journeys, significant (or un-significant) places, walks, driving etc. These journeys will be mapped using basic hand held GPS receivers used to record tracks. During recent projects I have been interested in using the archaeological walkover survey as a tool to investigate contemporary archaeologies, materials and events using GPS to record this process. Walkover surveys are low tech landscape surveys commonly employed by archaeologists to characterise the cultural heritage resource in a given area by walking, basic GPS mapping, making notes and taking photographs. I’m interested in using walkovers as a methodology in their own right, and the creative potential that this encompasses, rather than a first stage or baseline assessment for other archaeological work. I’m also interested in exploring the idea of rural contemporary archaeologies to balance the focus on urban areas in Contemporary Archaeology and see where this leads.

So, Map Orkney Month will effectively be a large scale public walkover survey, but in this case the mode of transport will be widened to include bikes, cars, boats and islander planes in order to broaden the scope and accessibility of the mapping process. I hope this will capture movement and journeying between places, as well as the places themselves, and help create a new alternative map. Participants would be encouraged to visit – and record by walking / cycling / driving – a single site or experience of their choice; but their contribution will be left largely up to them. Places may or may not include heritage sites. Each participant will have a GPS for one day and leave it running the whole time. I hope to have about 5 GPS on the go throughout the month or people can use their own. Participants will be asked to photograph/film the journey or site/experience or write/record a short description of their journey and chosen site. Most of the gestures in each participant’s track will be small scale, personal and perhaps only recognisable to them, however combined they would create new multi-vocal cartography.

I have yet to work out the finer details and the above guidelines may change as I think about the idea more; logistics will certainly be key in trying to get GPSs between islands and keeping track of the data. The resulting text could be turned into some kind of diary to accompany the map. I think it’s important to let the mapping lead itself and leave it relatively open. I’m excited about the prospect of a map that makes itself (with a little bit of help).

I’m keen to hear if anyone has heard of projects like this in an arts context or had experience running similar public mapping projects on a (relatively) large scale.

Map of Papay by Walking created from festival journeys, experiences and events at Papay Gyro Nights 2014.