Ploughing……While We’re In Stenness…. And While We’re At The Ness…..From The Ness - Over to Hoy……

by Bernie Bell - 07:20 on 23 March 2023


…serves more than one purpose.

All over Orkney the fields are being ploughed ready for sowing crops, and the archaeologists make the most of a golden opportunity….


The pipkin doesn’t just sound cute - it is cute – can’t think what to do with it though?

What strikes me is – the breadth of time covered by the finds from this area – that’s good, fertile land, in a relatively sheltered position, with a reliable supply of fresh water.   The folk of Stenness – whatever it might have been called way back - recognized a good thing when they saw it. 

Skaill Bay provides a similarly good place for settlement…


And how much more is there to be found?


While We’re In Stenness….


Roof tiles?....



And While We’re At The Ness…

My winter hat is losing its stretchiness – I’ve had it for over 20 years and have worn it a lot. It now doesn’t fit as snug as it used to and, for one thing, my hair escapes and blows in my face!

So I’m looking out for a replacement. When we were at Scapa Bay on Sunday I saw a woman wearing a Ness of Brodgar ‘butterfly’ beanie hat – which might be available in the shop again for the new season …. https://www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk/shop/  – and thought maybe one of those would do.  But…..I am of the opinion that the ‘skritchy-scratchy’ marks at the Ness are writing or symbols  of some kind… https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/10/29/writing-symbols/ , so if I wore one of those hats - with a bit of the skritchy-scratchy ‘writing’ on it – I wouldn’t know what it might be saying!

It could be anything – it could have been giving directions…. ‘This way to the Paint Shop’…… or the actual use of one of the structures…’Kitchen’…etc. 

It might even be some very rude graffiti!

So I decided against a Ness hat.

I’d like a jolly one – I’ll keep looking.


From The Ness – Over To Hoy……

I saw a post on the  Orkney Wildlife Facebook page… https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/133013273445588/ about the position of RSPB Warden on Hoy being cut to part-time and wanted to sign the petition mentioned there, asking the RSPB to reconsider – but couldn’t work out how.

I emailed Ross Flett to ask,  and Ross helpfully replied….

”I had that problem as well and have just discovered that the actual post is the petition so it’s just a matter of adding the word ‘signed’ in comments.” 

I had a go, but I can’t access the site to post a comment –  because I’m not on Facebook.  I can look at the pages, but can’t interact with them.   I tried going to the original post on the Hoy Facebook site – and Facebook wouldn’t even let me look at it!

Not everyone is on Facebook, and this could mean that other folk who would like to sign – can’t. 

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, so I thought I’d approach it this way so that even if I can’t sign the petition - others can – if they choose to…..and are on Facebook!

Someone who can access Facebook copied the link and the text for me…. here it is…


“Please sign the petition below calling on the RSPB to reverse their decision to cut the Hoy warden job to part time.

If you want to sign just write 'signed' in the comments.

Paper petitions will also be available on the island.

Can I please ask that people avoid adding any other comments on this post for now.

Thank you.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The RSPB has taken the decision to cut the RSPB warden post in Hoy to a part time job.

The reserve makes up almost a third of our island and includes some of the most important features of our landscape, including the Old Man of Hoy, St John’s Head and the Ward Hill.

The RSPB have decided they can manage and maintain this important part of our island, and our community’s heritage, with a part time post.

The RSPB has failed to take into account the impact this will have, not only on the management of a vast part of our island, but on our small community, of which the warden and her family are integral part.

The warden’s job currently supports a family of 4 to live in Hoy. The warden has lived and worked in Hoy for 20 years, she has a wealth of knowledge and experience both of the reserve and as a member of our island community. A part time post cannot support a family to live on the island. This effectively means the warden, her husband and two young children, will have to leave their family home, as their house is owned by the RSPB and is tied to the job.

This decision has been taken with no consultation with our community and we are stunned and horrified that an organisation such as the RSPB can treat their employee, our friend and neighbour, and our community, in this manner.

We the undersigned demand the RSPB recognise the consequences of their actions and reverse the decision to cut the warden post.”

And this - about a public meeting on Friday….


This decision on the part of the RSPB  is very bad indeed – they are one of the richest charities around – they can well afford to keep the post as full time. 

Also - think how many visitors are attracted to Hoy because of the birds, including in recent years - Eagles!  That’s a good thing, but more people means that more vigilance is necessary on the part of the Warden.

Maybe, somewhere in the labyrinth of offices at the RSPB HQ this makes economic sense - but money isn’t everything – and they have plenty.

I’ll also contact the RSPB about it.  Mike and I are long-standing members of the RSPB , and have increasingly come to the conclusion that - as happens with many organizations -  they have got too big and lost sight of their initial aims.

This decision is simply un-necessary and wrong.



Following the post in my blog and the item in ‘The Orkney News’, I had the following exchange with Stewart Bain,  RSPB Communications & Events Officer for Orkney……make of it what you will!

“Hi Bernie,

I have just read your piece on the current restructure of the reserves team in Orkney https://theorkneynews.scot/2023/03/23/rspb-cuts-hoy-warden-hours/ and I thought the statement below from Josh Wells, Senior Sites Manager in Orkney, may be helpful. As you will see, the hours dedicated to the Hoy reserve are remaining the same under the restructure.

Kind regards,



Ahead of the meeting with the Hoy community on Friday evening, we would like to provide some context and clarity regarding the current restructure of our warden team in Orkney. As a charity with the conservation of birds and wildlife as its central priority, RSPB Scotland must find the best way to protect and restore nature in Orkney with the resources we have available, while maintaining the responsibilities and commitments we have to our staff, nature reserves and the communities we are part of. 

To do our best for nature, it is imperative that we make some changes to the structure of the small team of wardens who look after our reserves in Orkney. Reallocating some resource to our suite of eight Mainland reserves will help us to meet our objectives most effectively and ensure priority work can be delivered and is shared more equally across the team. The responsibilities of the current warden role based in Hoy are split 60/40 between Hoy and Orkney Mainland nature reserves. However, the practicalities of this are challenging. Under the new structure, there will be no reduction in staff time dedicated to the Hoy Nature Reserve. Hoy will retain a three days per week allocation based on the island, while the other two days per week will become part of a full-time role resulting from a wider restructure. This role will have the Orkney Mainland as its base and deliver work across RSPB Scotland’s suite of Mainland reserves. 

We recognise that the Hoy warden is a valued part of the community and understand the concerns regarding these changes. The restructure has followed a full review of our reserve staffing and associated workloads, which identified areas that need increased input to maximise conservation benefits. We encourage everyone with an interest in this matter to attend the meeting at the North Walls Community Centre at 7.30pm on Friday 24 March, where you will be able to share your views with us and we will give more detail on why the changes are necessary and our continued commitment to the Hoy Nature Reserve.


Stewart Bain 
Communications & Events Officer


07554 331138 | 01856 852025


And my response….

“Hi Stewart

I read this with interest, and wonder at the two, slightly varying interpretations of what is going to happen.  My response was to the first version of events which came my way.

Is it OK with you if I post this as a PS to my blog, and as a ‘comment’ to the piece in The Orkney News?

All in the interest of clarity!



Stewart said ‘yes’  - so here it is.  Should be a lively meeting – to which I can’t go as health difficulties make travelling - difficult - for me these days.


Here’s  one I made earlier…. https://theorkneynews.scot/2020/06/23/interesting-moths-supplemental/



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