Papa Stour


Low Tide: 06:06 (West Burrafirth)

So the first field trip of the project was out to Papa Stour on Wednesday 4th of April. It was a fine sunny day but still a bit chilly in the wind. Helen and I met in West Burrafirth before taking the 30 minute crossing to Papa Stour where we were met by Peter. We decided to head out to Hamna Voe in the morning which sits just below the airstrip. The first thing we noticed was the meal road leading down to the head of the voe. Meal roads were tracks built in the 19th century as part of a famine relief scheme across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Meal (flour) was given as payment for creating these roads which often were not a necessity to avoid the stigma of taking charity. Papa Stour’s examples are well preserved due to the fact they were built for small carts and so it would not have been easy to develop for motor vehicles which is what happened to many of the other meal roads in the 20th century. Around Wast Hoop, there are a series of “briggs” crossing over small burns which are getting eroded. We spent some time sketching and photographing these before taking a quick look at the horizontal mills which were powered by water from Dutch Loch. Although the mills are not strictly coastal, they were part of island life and are really excellent examples which are scheduled monuments.

From here we headed south along the coast, noting a small ruined building which potentially was a fishing lodge before arriving at the remains of a fishing station. We spent some time photographing, sketching and measuring the large house known as Hamnavoe Hoose which was owned and run by Mr Thomas M. Adie & Sons who were based in Voe on the mainland. Peter noted the skill used to build the house with marks left from where it had been split. Below the house sits the remains of a smaller rougher building which has an unusually wide door way. Potentially it was a store or may have been a skeo which were buildings used to dry fish. The upper storey of Hamnavoe Hoose has some red brick detail which must have been added at a later date. At the back of Hamnavoe Hoose are the remains of croft buildings which are of a far rougher construction. In more recent times a sheep dip has been constructed using concrete within the walls of the former buildings. The beach below Hamnavoe Hoose would have been ideal for drying fish and the voe itself is a good anchorage.

As we headed back up towards the airstrip, dark clouds began to roll in from the west. Luckily we were able to shelter at Peter’s house and enjoy some lovely soup as it snowed for nearly an hour! There is also a small boatie shed at Peter’s house which was really interesting to look at.

The short time left in the afternoon before the ferry left around 4pm was spent looking at a potential broch being washed out of the banks between Sunna Skerry and Boinna Skerry in Housa Voe. There are also a number of sites directly behind which were similar in appearance with the consensus of the group that rather than a broch it could potentially be another house site being eroded out.

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