Folk songs and Footpaths: Part 5 & 6

Recap of Research Questions:

  • How might folk songs and footpaths be considered as related, and relational?
  • If public bodies move to protect intangible cultural heritage, or living traditions, is such an aim possible? Which songs do they chose? Which version of that song? Which singer? What particular version, as no singer sings the song the same twice?

Listen here ->

‘Singing English folk songs is as crucial to me as walking the Sussex landscape … When I sing, I feel past generations standing behind me – and I hope I’m a conduit for them – those farm labourers and their wives who kept the songs going for us. The songs are social history and their beauty and power undeniable’- Shirley Collins, 2015

‘The paths offered (Edward) Thomas cover from himself: proof of a participation in communal history and the suggestion of continuity, but also the dispersal of egotism … folk songs and footpaths are, to his mind, both major democratic forms: collective in origin but re-inflected by each new walker. Radical, too, in their implicit rebuke to the notion of private property’ – Robert MacFarlane, The Old Ways, 2012: pp. 309, 307


St Peter’s Church, Rodmell

Day 5 – Rodmell to Alfriston, 10 miles.

Thank you to my companions Emma, Anna, Moira, Dave, Mike, Jackie, Rachel, Sarah, Sarah Wales, Louise and her partner Andrew, and their daughter Arwen, Mum, and Lily and Bertie dogs, woof!

The recording begins with a stunning song The Sussex Shepherdess written by Charlotte Oliver, which I’ll allow her to introduce. We sang this late in the evening the night before, in Rodmell Churchyard. It’s a beautiful setting and adjoins the Woolf’s home, Monks House

Charlotte and Richard’s website:

The following morning I was at the church with my fellow walkers for the day; this incarnation of Cold Blows The Wind was collected in Rodmell. The person it was collected from is unknown, however it was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams at The Inn (presumably The Abergavenny Arms, also known to feed hungry guests staying with Virginia Woolf) on the 10 Jan 1906 Only the tune was collected, so I looked elsewhere in Sussex for the lyrics and used some collected in Trotton in 1911, these were taken down from a Mrs Brown, helped by her son Jimmy, and Clive Carey notes that George Parrot in Minsted also sang this version

Thirdly, we have the brilliant Bob Lewis back, for a delightful duo of Blackberry Fold and Young Collins. Blackberry Fold is thought to refer to Uppark Park, the grand house near where my route began in South Harting. One of the owners:

‘Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh spent his youthful years in wild carousing. He was a close friend of the Prince Regent and his entourage included Emma Hart (the future Lady Hamilton, best remembered as Lord Nelson’s lover), who allegedly once danced naked on Uppark’s dining table for Harry and his guests. Middle-age saw Sir Harry become something of a recluse, but in 1825 the then seventy-year old scandalized his social circles once again by marrying Mary Ann Bullock, his twenty-year old dairymaid’ (

Here are the references for where they were collected: Young Collins, Blackberry Fold, Mr Baker, Southease, 9 Jan 1906, Ralph Vaughan Williams

The only Mr Baker of Rodmell/Southease that I can find on the 1901 Census is a Mr Robert Baker, who is a noted as a Blacksmith at The Forge in Rodmell. He appeared to be deceased by the 1911 Census. I managed to find out from The National Archives, that he had died in 1907 aged 73. He had carried out repairs on Rodmell church with his business partner

Here is a much longer historical profile of the Bakers of Piddinghoe and Rodmell

After that, by Firle trig point, is The Lark In The Morning, sung by Lily Cook in North Chailey 1954/5 collected by Bob Copper for the BBC:

Sung here by me, with a collective effort of wind shielding and Arwen the baby, and Bertie the dog joining in! I tried to stick as closely as possible to Lily’s rendition, without mimicking it.

Here is an excerpt from Bob Copper’s book Songs and Southern Breezes: ‘When Lily Cook opened her door and ushered me into the front parlour, I stepped back forty years. The chiffonier with lace-edges lined runners, the heavy damask curtains faded into vertical stripes between the folds, the table-cloth to match … loved and tended, since she and her husband had moved in as newly-weds in 1909 … she with a proud tilt of the head, and her dark hair swept up into a large, over powering hat trimmed with ribbon and an ostrich feather … now, in carpet slippers  and a blue and white spotted pinafore, hair streaked with silver … over her shoulder I could look out across the gorse and the heathy expanse of Chailey Common right down to the steep escarpment of the South Downs at Plumpton … We started to swap songs and she was clearly delighted to learn that there were still people about who were aware of and in fact cherished the kind of songs that she had loved ever since she heard her parents and other members of the family singing when she was a tiny girl’ (Copper 1973: pp. 43 -46)

Lily Cook also sang variants of The Merchant and The Servant Man (she calls it The Iron Door) By chance, and happily, she also sang the next song on the recording, Pleasant and Delightful, another choice inspired by the skylarks of the day, sang here by my mother Catherine Bennett. (Lily Cook, Pleasant and Delightful)

Dear Father, Dear Father, Pray Build Me A Boat (a variant of Sweet William) is the next song, again I learnt this from a source singer. The beautiful voice of Sheila Smith, a seven year old gypsy girl was always going to be hard to do justice to. Do get the C.D and have a listen, it feels like you are there with Peter Kennedy in the roadside encampment of barrel top wagons near Laughton in 1952

I’d also like to raise here the vast contribution to our oral and cultural heritage that travellers have made. It’s not possible to cover it here but I would like to link the The Song Collectors Collective who are doing a fab job of keeping the profile and enormous value of the traveller community alive

My mother Catherine Bennett, and a family friend Rachel Cooper, can be heard singing Shepherds Arise, in close harmony. The wind was beginning to be pretty ferocious by then, even though we were in a dip on Firle Beacon, so it’s only a snippet that came out well. The arrangement is that of the Copper Family, but Michael Blann is also know to have sung it!

Copper Family (and Michael Blann)


Catherine Bennett, Rachel Cooper, Sarah Wales, Elizabeth Bennett, Emma Miles, Sarah Bennett, Anna Trostnikova, Dave Reeves + Lily the Dog – Firle Beacon (Moira Faulkner, 2015)

After that an interview with Will Duke, so modest and such a super voice. He’s the person you always look around for in a folk club and hope he’s there (he would dispute this, I’m sure). He sings Ground For The Floor. As we can see form the archives, it was collected from George ‘Pop’ Maynard, who Will had learnt it from the singing of. However,  Charles Moseley (who may be the husband of Betty) of Redford, Sussex and a Johnson of Fittleworth, Sussex, appear to sing a related song

Day 6 – Alfriston to Eastbourne, 7 miles (plus a detour to Glynde)

The next morning was a site for sore eyes. Although gail force winds were blowing, Alfriston was looking exceptionally beautiful in dappled sunshine. I decided to break my folk roots/routes and sing the hymn Morning Has Broken. The famous hymn was written in Alfriston (1931) by Eleanor Farjeon after she was inspired by the beauty of the village and the surrounding countryside. There are some folk motif Blackbirds in there, so I felt it had links and branches. I sang it in the early morning piece of St Andrews.

Following this is Suzanne Higgins, singing the song she composed The Shepherd’s Token. An arresting piece about the English practice of burying Shepherd’s with a piece of wool or fleece in their hands or on their chest, so that St Peter would know why they had often been absent from church. The practice was in use in Alfriston up until the 1930s. Suzanne was inspired to write a song about burial rights after the passing of a family member.


Firle Beacon from Windover Hill (Elizabeth Bennett, 2015)

After a spell of sitting in Jevington church and churchyard and enjoying the peace and shelter, I was joined by the charming Nick Cant and we made for the Eight Bells in Jevington. There I sang The Foggy Dew, a version collected from East Dean singers Mark Fuller and Luther Hills by Peter Kennedy in 1952 (Thanks to Vic Smith for introducing me to it) Nick, a singer and bell-ringer, sang a song from a group called The Pig’s Ear, which I’ll allow him to introduce.

The interview with Steve Matcham, and spotless performance of a song associated with the naval career of his uncle, although it has a West Sussex theme, felt appropriate for my final view of the sweeping bay of Sussex blue and chalky white from the hills. Young Sailor Cut Down In His Prime was collected not too far away in Portsmouth, 1907, by GB Gardiner and John F Guyer

I stopped off in Glynde on my way home to sing in Glynde Church. The first song is The Week Before Easter, I learnt this from a recording of Harry Burgess who was from Glynde. Harry Burgess also sang The Foggy Dew, The Life Of A Man, and Pleasant and Delightful amongst others.

Here are links to Harry’s speaking, and gorgeous singing, voice

The Glynde History site has more on the Burgess family, as well as being a treasure chest of Glynde, and Sussex, social history

Peggy Angus, with her landlord at Furlongs Farm, the Shepherd Dick Freeman (source unknown)

The second song is The Raggle Taggle Gypsies, learnt from a film made about the life of Peggy Angus. Peggy was by all accounts a woman with gumption, and whilst lots of people know her for her work as an artist, and her friendship with Eric Ravillious, there are aspects of her life that are less well know. She rented a cottage, part of the Furlongs row, in Glynde from the Freeman brothers, who were farmers at Furlongs (who in turn rented it from Glynde estate, thanks to Andrew Lusted for this piece information). She’d been living in Eastbourne and teaching, and she wanted a place of her own in the countryside. The Freemans said no at first, and so she camped outside for a few weeks until Dick gave in. Although born in abroad, and raised in North London, Peggy’s family were Scottish. She was famed to have held wild midsummer parties, where she served her guests homemade Elderflower champagne and sang folk songs around the fire. She was something of a radical too, earning her the nickname Red Angus from Ravillious’ wife’s father, I like to think of a hive of Socialist activity between Rodmell and Charleston. Here are a few links for Peggy Angus and Furlongs. Here is a link to an article on William Freeman, a relative of Dick (Richard) Freeman

Thank you to Paul Holden for playing me the following version on the guitar also, although I didn’t have time to learn it! It’s Mrs Moseley of Treyford again, with some quite unusual words!


St Mary’s Church, Glynde (Elizabeth Bennett, 2015)

My Great-Great Grandmother, Mary Martin Page, was adopted by a couple called Leonard and Susannah Page. Leonard and Susannah lived in Glynde, he was a shoemaker and she was a servant at Glynde Place, they were married in Glynde Church in 1836. Mary was raised there, and met her husband at Lewes Grammar School. Mary is said to have been Russian, and we are still researching her life to see if this the case.  In my Great Uncle Don’s memoirs, I thought I had read that Mary’s favourite hymn to sing around the house was Hark! Hark, What News The Angels Bring, so I decided to sing that to finish my journey. Sadly, I later read it was not Mary’s hymn (it was in fact Hark! Hark, My Soul! Angelic songs are Swelling). However, as luck would have it, it is a Sussex folk hymn (although thought to originate from the South Yorkshire carols tradition), collected from two of the singers on the walk no less, Mr Samuel Willett and Mr Thomas Bulbeck. I can’t remember having known that before, but a seed must have been planted at some point on my research.


 (The gravestones of Leonard and Susannah Page, Glynde, and Raymond and Leah Bennett, Shoreham)

Glynde Church was such a beautiful place to sing, and finish my wayfaring, and it meant I could sit and think about my lovely Grandma and Grandpa, who loved May, Sussex, country lanes, and their family, and would have loved hearing about this walk (minus some of the more saucy songs, being Strict Baptists after all).

I”d like to finish with particular thanks to my Step-Father Tony, who was unwell for this week and couldn’t join me, but has been my companion (and bird spotter, botanist, geologist, and historian) for many other walks.

If you like these songs then please learn them, sing them, and keep them alive. Thank you for listening.

The Ones That Got Away:

Mervin Plunkett appears to have collected from a Mrs Jarrett of Rodmell in 1959 (The White Cockade, Sing Ivy)

Geordie, As I Walked Over London Bridge Mr Deadman,  Rodmell, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Jan 1906
Young Edwin (possible the same as The Servant Man and The Iron Door?), The Ship’s Carpenter, Mr Norman, Rodmell, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Jan 1906
The Long Whip, Come All You Worthy Christians, Mr Back, Rodmell, Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906
Pretty Betsy, collected at The Inn Rodmell, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Jan 1906, could be same performer as Cold Blows The Wind?
The Baliff’s Daughter, Mr Walter, Southease, Ralph Vaughan Williams, 10 Jan 1906
Come All You Young Ploughmen, Mr Baker, Southease, Ralph Vaughan Williams, 9 Jan 1906
Copper, B (1973). Songs and Southern Breezes: Country Folk and Country Ways. London: William Heinemann Ltd.
MacFarlane, R (2012). The Old Ways: A Journey On Foot. London: Penguin
Frazier, C (2006). Cold Mountain. New York: Grove/Atlantic

Folksongs and Foot Paths: Part 4

Upper Beeding to Plumpton (14 miles), train to Rodmell  

Memories of Shoreham by Sea

(Peggy Bailey Collection)

‘After a time, though, Inman found that he had left the book and was simply forming the topography of home in his head. Cold Mountain, all its ridges and coves and watercourses. Pigeon River, Little East Fork, Sorrell Cove, Deep Gap, Fire Scald Ridge. He knew their names and said them to himself like the words of spells and incantations to ward off the things one fears most.’

‘Ada wondered about his hundreds of tunes. Where were they now and where might they go if he died?’ – Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain


N.B I have persisted in trying to track down another version of A-Maying (David Miles, Heyshott), as luck would have a particular search subject that I haven’t tried before bought up the tune and words, collected from none other than Samuel Willett. I sent them to the safe hands of the brilliant Valmai Goodyear for resuscitation.

A-Maying lyrics A-Maying

Bonny Light Horseman, Mrs Cranstone, Billingshurst, 1907, George Butterworth

Bonny Light Horseman, Michael Blann, Colin Andrews, Upper Beeding

A Word On Sussex and Sussex Songs, Samuel Willett to Lucy Broadwood

Hare Hunting (lyrics), Samuel Willett, Cuckfield/Fulking, 1890, Lucy Broadwood

Hare Hunting (music), Samuel Willett, Cuckfield/Fulking, 1890, Lucy Broadwood,

George Townsend, Life of A Man

Mustrad preview track The Echoing Horn, George Townsend,

Come Write Me Down, Various

Ploughman Lads

Copper Family

The Willetts, Fulking

Samuel Willett 1851 Census

Samuel Willett 1881 Census

Sussex Postcard by Albert Edward Willett

George Townsend

Colin Andrews, Shepherd On The Downs

Brighton Vox Choir

Shoreham Memories

David E. Gregory

The Ones That Got Away:

Sovay, Painful Plough?, Mr Welfare, East Chiltington, George Butterworth, 1908

The Banks of The Green Willow, Mr Cornford, George Butterworth, 1908

You Seaman Bold That Plough The Ocean, Fair Maid Walking, H. Hunt, George Butterworth, 1908

Folk songs and Footpaths: Part 1

Day 1 South Harting to Cocking, 7 miles

Listen here ->

‘… And they must be the footsteps of our own ancestors who made the whole landscape by hand and left their handprints on everything and trod every foot of it, and its present shapes are their footprints, those ancestors whose names were on the stones in the churchyard and many whose names weren’t.                                                                                                                                          And the tales of them and of men living I would take with me and the songs in my mind as if everything I thought and felt had to be set in words and music – everything that was true in me” – From To Live Like A Man, by F C Ball (Given me to with kind permission by his relative Shirley Collins).

‘ … And that we shall go singing to the fashioning of a new world’ – The Envoi, Woodcraft Folk

The Full English The Full English was a major national digitisation and education project celebrating England’s cultural heritage through traditional folk songs, dances and customs. The project brought together the most important archival collections of folk material, held in numerous libraries and archives around the UK, and made them freely accessible through a single online digital archive. The material was drawn from Victorian and Edwardian folk collectors such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Lucy Broadwood and Cecil Sharp, and includes manuscripts of notated songs, dances, and tunes, printed broadsides, lectures, notes and correspondence. These items were conserved, digitised, and catalogued before being uploaded to a central digital archive accessible through the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website. Alongside our exisiting digitised collections, catalogues and indexes, the site now provides the largest, most comprehensive, searchable, database of English folk songs, dances, tunes, and customs in the world, with over 80,000 digitised items from 19 seminal collections. It is rich in social, family and local history and provides a snapshot of England’s cultural heritage through voices rarely published and heard before.   Aims Promote the Study and Practice of the Folk Arts EFDSS’s mission statement includes “To promote, preserve and develop the folk arts”. Through providing this information in an easily accessible way, we hoped it would lead to an increase in the study and practice of the folk arts Folk is an unusual genre in that it is based in heritage. By providing access to this material, it instantly creates a wealth of material for singers, musicians, and dancers to add to their repertoires. We’ve been able to put the original MSS material online. As compared with published works which have been selected and edited, these collections are relatively unmediated. Therefore it provides an accurate look into what exactly “the folk” were doing. Access

  1. Provide access to materials previously difficult to access.

Digital surrogates of original manuscript material hosted on the VWML website – has a world-wide reach (where internet provision exists). Library users no longer have to travel to London to access materials, but can do so from the comfort of their own homes or singarounds, at any time of day or night. To make access even easier, we have started a programme of transcriptions of the text and music from manuscript material, which allows for full-text searching.

  1. Communities where this material originally came from have instant access to records of their own cultural heritage.
  1. Provide the information in a useful and meaningful way

From experience of how library users had wanted to access material in the past, we used this information to dictate how we catalogued and indexed the materials. E.g., performer’s names, where the information was collected; whether manuscripts contain text, music, or both; Alternate titles, etc.

  1. How the information is presented

Options to sort results by ref no., place, performer, collector, and relevance. Options to browse material visually by collection, or geographically through a map function. Preservation of original manuscripts If fewer people need physical access to the originals, then the strain on them is lessened. Conversely, it also means that awareness of the material is heightened and serious researches are still keen to view the original documents!


Lady Maisry, Thomas Bulbeck

Unquiet Grave, Helen Boniface

A Farmer there lived in the North Country, Frank Hutt

Mother, Mother Make my Bed, Mrs Ford

Barbara Ellen, Mrs Moseley

How Cold The Wind, George Tilson

Unquiet Grave, Mrs Stemp

The One’s That Got Away:

Thomas Bulbeck, Harting: The Highway Man Outwitted, Bushes and Briars, When First Apprenticed, The Nobleman’s Wedding, Deep in Love, Cupid the Pretty Ploughboy, Come all you Worthy People, The Golden Vanity, The Mermaid, You Seaman Bold.

Mrs Moseley, Treyford: The Drunkard’s Child, The Sailor’s Grave, The Golden Glove, Sheffield Park, Will of the Waggon Train, Now tell me Mary how it is, A Fair Maid in the Garden, The Blind Beggar’s Daughter, The Turkish Lady.

Mr Carpenter, Elsted: The Sun is Just A-Peeping Over the Hills, Master’s Health, Come All you Worthy People That Dwell Within the Land, Both Sexes Give Ear to My Fancy, The Irish Recruit, Merry Boys Merry, The Smuggler’s Boy, The Miller’s Dog.

George Tilson: Pretty Susan the Pride of Kildare, Hunt the Squirrel, On the Banks of the Sweet Dundee, General Woolf, The Bonny Bunch of Roses, The Princess Royal. (The Wife of Ushers Well, sung by Gerald Moore) (The Sheep Stealer, sung by Diane Ruinet)  


Imaginary tours of Orkney from Elsewhere: Mapping archipelagos in East London

Before moving to London in 2012 we lived on the Åland Islands, population 28,000 and with a similar population density to Orkney. Bearing that sense of scale in mind and with London large and sprawling and Orkney surrounded by the sea, we decided to limit our mapping to an area containing the same population as Orkney, c 21,000.

In London this is, on average and approximately, an area a mile by a mile and a half. We drew a rectangle, of similar proportions to one drawn around Orkney, and centred it on Kirkwall Place in east London. We mapped the stops on the Imaginary tours of Orkney from Elsewhere itinerary by eye then explored like this:

We flew to Kirkwall via the District and Central Lines (listen here), touching down at the Bethnal Green terminal and proceeding directly to Kirkwall Place.

We found some rock and other art and stopped at the Camel for refreshments and eavesdropping. “So what did you have for breakfast?” “sourdough and avocado”, “well that’s the thing isn’t it, it’s great here now, people like you move in, it was a dump before”.

We spotted two other people who may or may not have been mapping Orkney.

We headed towards Kirkwall Airport, at the south-west corner of Meath Gardens, where we photographed a rather magnificent Gothic arch. Happy to find souvenirs so early on in our journey we acquired a plywood suitcase, Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos from a rather carelessly constructed cairn beside Mary MacArthur House. Close to the airport we recorded local wildlife, signage and earthworks and the broch on Usk Street.

We continued northwards towards Victoria Park and, skirting what might have been the edge of Ingerness Bay, spotted a rugged little pony.

At the Palm Tree, for further refreshments, we again eavesdropped on locals: “years ago, when I was a kid, yeah, during the air raid when the doodlebugs was about, we lived in a house that had an Anderson shelter out in the yard and it had a big tree there and when we used to go down, it was all, and you used to have a bit of string, when you all got in there and you were holding the bleeding string and you used to hear them doodlebugs, and all of a sudden oh damn it, that ff! It’s the tree!”

Revived, we continued onwards past further earthworks and waterscapes;

… we even spotted a whale.

On entering Victoria Park we discovered more islands, a Ring, a mystical grove,

a windswept plain and two more Rings,

one of which was surrounded by a semi defensive moat.

Emerging on the northern side we headed westwards and, nearing the coast we reached the site of four Great Rings. Turning south we searched for Skara Brae in Temple Street and though the settlement did not take the form we were expecting, imagining and hoping for, by its angularity and simplicity of form we did believe we’d found it.

Though we’d found Rings in several places before, the actual Ring of Brodgar should have been somewhere near the corner of Old Bethnal Green Road and St Jude’s Road. In fact, it appeared on Middleton Green.

We took a photograph but were beginning to attract attention so decided to head onwards towards Old Ford Road in the hope of finding a seascape to photograph.

Footweary and thirsty, the search for Helgi’s took us to the Gallery Cafe at St Margaret’s House, which sounded so nearly like St Margaret’s Hope that we assumed it must be the right place. No cocktails were available but the local ale proved a fine substitute.

Our exploration of Orkney from Elsewhere took about 4 hours. Tired but happy and with other places to explore we flew westwards from Bethnal Green, into the city, with our souvenirs.

by Lara Band and Dave Webb


Map Orkney Month Week 2: Re-imagined journeys, gale force winds & a postcard from Sanday

Rebecca Marr: Stromness – Kirkwall 04/03

When, after my commute from Stromness, I arrive at Orkney Library and Archives in Kirkwall the journey begins. Travelling in my workroom I can cover astonishing distances, Papay and North Ronaldsay before tea break, Hoy and Wyre after lunch. Visiting places fleetingly or sometimes lingering longer, I do this through the photography of Gunnie Moberg.

I decided to map the photographs in Gunnie Moberg’s first publication Stone Built published in 1979 by Stromness Books and Prints (which happens to be the shop I live above and where my physical GPS mapped journey began).

To trace this journey I used Blaeu’s 17th century map of the islands, one of the earliest maps of Orkney. The map holds its own peculiarities so plotting some of the sites was tricky, but happily the map features Sule Skerry as being right next to North Ronaldsay (rather than 60km west of the mainland) so I was able to plot the lighthouse without falling off the map. Because of the early nature of this map, the shape plotted by going from point to point, in the sequence dictated by the book, will be particular to Blaeu and quite different from accurate co-ordinates. This seemed to fit the geographically irregular and deeply satisfying journey of Stone Built.

It seems positively unnatural to travel without taking a camera along… The very activity of taking pictures is soothing and assuages general feelings of disorientation that are likely to be exacerbated by travel. Susan Sontag 1977, On Photography’

Barrier: Gunnie Moberg (Orkney Library & Archive)

North Ronaldsay Beacon: Gunnie Moberg (Orkney Library & Archive)

Lynne Collinson: Shapinsay 06/03

Chickens fed, I set out from the yard to the Kirk’s World Day of Prayer. The ‘Green Isle at the Heart of Orkney’ joining forces with believers in the Bahamas and other liminal and not so liminal places.

Hands stretching out to each other around the earth – feet washed miles apart – in joint acts of humility….


…..journeying alone after – to the older, abandoned Kirk, I wonder what such a service might have meant to that congregation. Their prayers, though different, were not presumably in vain. The roofless structure inspires me to gaze up into the big Orkney sky and to expect no limits. What did they ask for? Do we have it – yet?

…..pausing near the War Memorial to view once-connected Helliar Holm, I ponder the ancient chapel remains there – imagine blessings still being passed down – our inheritance from those long silent lips which once petitioned Heaven…..

…….. passing preparation for next day’s ploughing match I am reminded that we so often reap a wonderful harvest from the good things sown by those who were here before us…..even the lovely carpet of spring flowers in my garden is not of my doing.

Returning from this mini pilgrimage, I sense today we joined hands not just across our world but also with many previous generations of faith on this peaceful isle. Maybe the huge answers they believed for but never saw – will gloriously burst forth in today’s Shapinsay and truly amaze us!

Mark Cook: Kirkwall 07/03

A typical day in the taxi never knowing where my journey will take me and who will be my traveling companion. Sometimes they are regulars and we have a few minutes to blether and catch up, other times it’s someone I’ve not met before, and like speed dating on wheels I have a limited time to find out about their story!

Scapa Flow, view from Houton Tower looking south (via Wei Ha Wei, China)

My photo is a large panoramic print that’s approximately 100 years old. We were given it as a present nearly 20 years ago and told it was Scapa Flow in Orkney. We had for many years wanted to visit Orkney, and when we finally did we brought the picture with us to find the location, and quickly confirmed it was not around Orkney after all and also noticed it was inscribed ‘Wei Ha Wei, China’. Nevertheless, we loved Orkney and 9 months later had moved here. The picture, therefore, is an imaginary view from Houton Tower which I visited on the way home on Saturday.

Rod Thorne: Sanday 08/03

Colin Mitchell: South Ronaldsay 10/03

The track I have recorded is the route that I am fortunate enough to have as my regular morning walk. It is popular with dog walkers and nature lovers and also has several points of interest relating to Orkney’s more recent heritage.

Starting from the car park at the North end of Churchill Barrier Number 4, we immediately come upon the enigmatic wooden statue gazing out over the bay. No one seems sure why he was put there and by whom but he stands watch over a popular summer picnic site.

Continuing South along the beach we encounter the remains of the Canaller one of the block ships sunk to protect Scapa Flow before the Churchill Barriers were built. Unlike many other parts of Orkney where coastal erosion is a problem this dune and beach area has formed due to the accumulation of sand since Water Sound was blocked by the Barrier. Photographs from as recently as the 1970s show large parts of the hull of the Canaller exposed, now entirely buried by the accumulating sand.

Leaving the beach and walking along the Honey Geo road, we pass the remains of a World War II searchlight emplacement which has ingenuously been converted into a storm resistant garden shed.

Immediately beyond lies the remains of the Coastal Battery which the searchlight served. The battery is now somewhat incongruously situated amongst modern housing but is well preserved.

Further along the road a signposted track takes us back to the beach. Turning left we head back along the shore towards the Barrier. On the way we pass the ruins of New London, one of a group of three former fisherman’s cottages.

Continuing along the beach in front of the Coastal Battery we come across the remains of another searchlight emplacement precariously perched on the beach, its foundations eroded by the sea.

Re-entering the dune area we can look across the Barrier towards Burray and then follow one of a number of informal paths zig-zagging through the dunes. Although this landscape is of very recent origin it provides a habitat for several varieties of coastal plants which in summer provide a colourful carpet of flowers to walk through on our way back to the car park.

Josephine Jones: Mainland 11/03

Moorside to St Andrew’s and back.

Sian Thomas: Graemsay 11/03

Wind, weather and walking, or not.

My mapping day on Graemsay dawned with an average wind speed of about 47mph with gusts about 60 mph.  But, undaunted, I donned waterproofs and wellies, with GPS firmly in a pocket and set off first to feed my hens at Sandside.  I could barely stand up and they were getting blown about, so no photo opportunity there. The stone hen house is part of the old farm buildings and gets some shelter from the wind. The 5ft garden dyke that leads to the buildings also helps, especially as I’m quite short! But as soon as I get away from any shelter I’m nearly blown over.  Not the time for a walk along the shore yet then.

I retreated to the warmth of home and stared glumly at the Orkney Harbours wind speed graph and peered hopefully out of the window.  Eventually, at just after 3pm, the wind dropped to a mere 38 mph, though gusts were about 58 mph. Plan B would have to be put into action,  I’d have to drive round the island rather than walk.  Getting out the house was the easy bit, getting into the car and still retaining the car door was the challenge.  I couldn’t shut the car door while I was inside, so I did consider opening the window, shutting the door from the outside and scrambling in through the window. But then I had visions of the photo opportunity for Facebook this would provide my neighbours if I got stuck and decided I’d retreat inside until the wind moved round a little.  A bit later,  I set off down to the main Graemsay pier, where the waves were crashing against the stone. Our ferry services had been cancelled for the day!

Back up the road, past Sandside house and a stop at waypoint 1, the old pier built to transport the stone when the Hoy Sound High and Low lights were built in 1851.  There is a beautiful shell beach on the other side, my favourite place on Graemsay, I walk there whenever I can, but not today, sadly.  It had to remain out of sight, a treasure not to be shared on this trip.

Further along the road and Waypoint 2 is the sandy beach at Sandside. Generations of children have played here, made sand castles and sand angels and swum in the shallows.  Even I have managed some bare feet paddling in the summer.

Then, a slow drive up the hill past the old Manse, on past the Quarry, to look towards the dark mass of the Hoy hills.  The ruin on the croft of Dean stood starkly against Ward Hill.

Map Orkney Month map so far

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…

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