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Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin
1978 - April

Caithness Butterflies
Some members may have made notes of the butterflies they have seen, or may be willing to keep notes on them. The distribution of all species is of interest for the national recording scheme.
If you are interested please contact Mr. R. J. Lilly, Tofts of Tain who will accept records or advise on what volunteers can usefully do to help.

Records are particularly needed for the following Ordnance Survey 1Okm squares: NC(29) 93, 95, ND(39) 02, 03, 04, 13, 14 and 25.

The Buildings and Settlements Group
On 25th November, as advertised in the last Bulletin, the inaugural meeting of the Buildings and Settlements Group was held. Fourteen people attended or expressed interest in participating. The group will be an active field-working group with defined projects to carry out. It is expected that these projects will be concerned with exploring, recording and surveying such subjects as croft settlements, icehouses, mills, tombstones, sheilings, dove-cots, harbours etc..

The first project selected is a detailed study of the settlements in the Broubster area. Initially it involves gathering together the information which is already available, such as aerial survey, maps, written records, legal documents, land ownership etc., and later will be followed by ground surveying and recording, collecting of family history and whatever else is useful in creating a comprehensive picture of the former life of the settlement.

Any member of the club who has information about the area, or who wishes to take part in the project should contact J. K. Butler Thurso 3549.

Wild Flower Survey Group
It is proposed to start a wild flower survey group to carry out projects on the detailed study of particular groups of wild flowers. No expertise is required, as detailed information will be available for most projects. Those interested are invited to come to 15 Brims Road, Thurso, on Monday 24th April, 1978 at 8pm.

Orkney Field Club Study Hut on Hoy
This hut, located beside the Youth Hostel, approximately one kilometre from Hoy pier, is now available to students or field workers requiring study facilities on the island. It is equipped with a work bench and bunsen burners and heating and lighting by calor gas. The hut is meant for study only, and can be booked by day or week, by single persons or parties. The charge is 50p. for 24 hours.

Forms are available from Mrs. J. W. Traill Thomson, Garson, Stromness, Orkney. Tel. Stromness 304.

Applications can be made at the same time for living facilities at the Youth Hostel next door, although this cannot be guaranteed as the Youth Hostel is run by a different authority.

Pirate Gow
The next Field Club publication due out this summer will be a booklet on the life of that famous pirate Gow. Keep an eye on the shelves of your local bookshop because copies may soon be scarce.

The Thurso Society
The Thurso Society has now got away to a good start. At a very well attended meeting in the Royal Hotel, Thurso, Ian Sutherland of the Wick Society showed an early film of Wick which aroused much interest.

The society has now started a project to form an archive of early photographs of the Thurso parish. Any member who has such photographs which they would be prepared to lend for copying should contact the secretary, Mrs. M. A. Spencer, 22 Barrock Street, Thurso. Tel. Thurso 3027.

Recent Publications
D. W. Futty and F. T. Dry: The Soils of the Country round Wick: Macauley Institute for Soil Research, 1976, 287 pp. 2 maps, 9.00. The soil survey of Scotland is a scheme to identify and describe the soils and record their distribution on a map. This book deals with the area east of a line from Scrabster to the Ord of Caithness - some two thirds of the area of the county. After dealing briefly with landform, climate and geology, the soils themselves are described. Along the Wick-Thurso axis the best soils, the non-calcareous gleys of the Thurso Association are found to be only grade three in Land Use Capability Classification, mainly due to the unkind climate and the inadequate water drainage properties of the clay. It is not exactly easy to follow this part of the text, for it presumes some elementary knowledge of soils and the nomenclature of the horizons. Fortunately Mr. Putty's chapter in 'The Caithness Book' (Omand Ed.) 1972, fills this gap adequately.

There then follows a section on the peat, dealing very well with the whole range of peatland forms. Some pollen analyses are used to display the vegetational history of the district, and these are particularly welcome because so few exist for the area. There are then sections on vegetation, agriculture and forestry - alas all too short or superficial to add usefully to the main work.

Almost half of the text is devoted to appendices of definition and data, with a rich collection of typical chemical and physical analyses and plant community data.

But it is when one examines the two maps, both on one inch to the mile scale, that the true size of the task is apparent. The soil map shows the distribution of 43 types of soil, while the land use capability map grades the area into five classes of usefulness.

This is a lasting contribution to the literature of the county which is reasonably priced for a rather specialised book.

Anna Ritchie: The kingdom of the Picts: Chambers: 1977, 48 pp. illus., 1.10. In the years 1970 and 1971 Dr. Anna Ritchie directed an excavation at Buckquoy in Orkney which proved to be quite exciting because it eventually revealed the remains of a Pictish house dating from around 700AD. This book, aimed at school children, is one of a series of 'The Way it Was' histories and shows plans of the Buckquoy excavation together with a drawing depicting the reconstruction of the house. Despite the age group for which it is intended it is an excellent introduction for the adult general reader who wishes to find an introduction to the Pictish period. It is very well illustrated with photographs, maps and diagrams and includes chapters on Pictish art, everyday life of the Picts, and the Pictish church.

Margaret Aitken: The Island of Stroma: Caithness Books: 1978, 7pp., 15p. The author of this little booklet lived with her husband at Stroma lighthouse between the years 1955 and 1961. She gives an account of the history of the island up to the time the last resident finally left to live on the mainland. Information on the years 1870-1957 has been gleaned from the school log books left in the deserted school. This is a welcome addition to the history of Caithness.

New Stone Rows Discovered
Recent survey work by the Archaeology Branch of the Ordnance Survey has revealed a previously unrecorded setting of stone rows in Kildonan parish at NC782 351. This is now the fourth such site recently discovered in Sutherland.

Sunday April 30th
The chambered tombs on Sordale Hill, the Stone Lud, and the Ring of Castlehill will be some of the archaeological sites visited on this outing which will concentrate mainly on the parish of Bower. Cars leave Wick 9.30 am and Thurso 10am. Organiser D. B. Miller.

Sunday May 21st
An outing for those interested in the geology of Strath Halladale. Cars leave Wick 9.30 am and Thurso 10am. Organisers R. Sharpe and G. Watson.

Sunday June 25th
The lower reaches of the Berriedale water flows through a deep-cut valley on the sides of which are numerous antiquities from the Iron Age period. This 1Okm walk suggest strong shoes. Cars leave Thurso 9.30am. and Wick 10am. Organiser G. Watson.

Sunday July 23rd
For members with lots of energy, a walk to the summit of Ben Loyal and for those who prefer to take life a little easier a tour of some of the antiquities of the Tongue area. Cars leave Wick 9.30am. and Thurso 10am. Organisers D. Oliver and L. Myatt.

Sunday August 27th
Last years members walked the lower part of the Armadale burn. This year it is intended to explore the upper reaches. Walking is hard and requires strong shoes or boots. Cars leave Wick 9.30am. and Thurso 10am. Organiser K. Butler.

Sunday September 24th
According to local tradition there is a site near Stroupster where the Vikings had an amphitheatre in the hills where they used to race their horse. With the help of a local guide it is hoped to find this site. Cars leave Wick 10am. and Thurso 9.30am. Organiser D. B. Miller.

Sunday November 12th
This is the time of the year to see the salmon spawning. A visit to Berriedale is to be arranged to see this taking place. Cars leave Wick 10am. and Thurso 9.30am. Organiser D. Oliver.

Subject to suitable weather it is hoped to arrange a visit to the island of Stroma in June. Members interested in making a visit should keep in touch with members of the committee.

If suitable accommodation can be found it is hoped to arrange a weekend excursion in September. Details will be available later from members of the committee.

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