I took myself off this morning for a non-detecting visit to the 1,500 acre place, most of it under arable, where I’ve been doing most of my detecting recently to get some idea of what land might be detectable in the coming months. Since on my last visit it looked as though the field I was detecting was being ploughed imminently I wanted to agree with the landowner which other fields might be available between now and the end of the year.
As it happens, that field has not been ploughed any further because it was too dry, and is therefore still detectable for a short while pending the resumption of ploughing. I was, however, able to agree three new fields which have not yet been ploughed, totalling some 55 acres, in addition to the existing one. I was also pointed at a further field (30 acres) which I was told was detectable but which appears to have beans coming up.
Usefully, I now have a complete map of the farm with all fields named for future reference so there’s no confusion as to where I can and cannot detect.
Although I’ve done very little detecting this year, and almost none since the spring, it seems a good idea to keep in with my farmers so today I drove round and delivered bottles of Port to them. As happened last year, neither was at home but the bottles and cards were left under cover in spots where they should be noticed quickly.
Let’s face it – without the kindness of landowners detectorists would be stuck in their own gardens. Even the beaches are owned by someone and permission is needed to detect on them. So let’s hear it for landowners, eh?
I went out this morning to deliver bottles of port to the landowners of the two personal permissions on which I’ve been doing my solo detecting this year. As well as the port, I enclosed print-outs for each of the finds from their land which has been recorded with the PAS this year. I also took the opportunity to return Farmer No 2’s Roman grot which the FLO had been unable to identify beyond “probably 2nd century”.
Unfortunately neither farmer was around when I visited. Farmer No 1 was out hedging but I left his carrier bag by the kitchen door under an old tiled cart shed. Farmer No 2 was nowhere to be seen either so I left his carrier by the back wheel of his 4×4 under the car port by the side door. Not wanting to risk leaving the coin out in case someone nicked the carrier bag, I posted it through the letterbox so that it was safe. Once I got home I left a message on Farmer 2’s answerphone telling him where the coin was.
I phoned Farmer No 2 again this evening to check he’d found the coin and retrieved the carrier bag (yes to both) and we had a chat about his land, its history and the surrounding area. He mentioned again the “graveyard” supposed to be on the land according to the testimony of a 90-year-old villager when he himself was a lad of about 10. This would date the testimony, as oral history, to sometime about 1880. The area indicated is where the tenant tends to keep his cattle and is accordingly badly churned up, so I’m not sure when would be best to give it a go. The farmer also mentioned again the claimed connections with a local religious house, though he did not have any details. Clearly in the New Year I am going to have to take another trip to Warwickshire county archives.
I finalised a new permission this morning on a mixed farm. This is one of a handful of farms I had prospected earlier in the year where the farmer had asked me to get back in touch once the wheat or barley was off. In fact I think I’ve left it later than I should have done as some fields have already been ploughed and reseeded, but I reckon I can get up to a dozen sessions in before it’s all out of bounds again.
I’m particularly excited about a couple of fields which run alongside one of the region’s minor Roman roads. I’m not sure what sort of traffic, or how much, a fairly minor Roman road would have carried but it would probably have remained in use for a couple of centuries after the Roman departure, so somebody must have dropped something alongside it in that time. These fields are currently lying to stubble so should be accessible for a while.
Time to do some reading up on Roman roads.
I now have a new permission comprising 60 acres of pasture which has only been detected by a couple of chaps for one day earlier this year. I spoke to the landowner again this morning and although he had not been able to speak to his tenant he confirms I can detect as he does not believe the tenant will raise any objections at all. Indeed, the tenant has shown considerable interest in the history of the land in the past and should I meet him I’m just to explain the situation to him.
Online research does not identify any particularly interesting features on the land, nor any significant archaeological finds for several miles around. On the other hand the land lies on the edge of a settlement which is smaller than a village but larger than a hamlet, with a stream running through the middle and a footpath crossing it from one side to the other. The footpath shows up on the satellite images as a definite but shallow hollow way so it seems likely that it has been in use for at least several centuries.
As the forecast for the weekend is warm and dry I plan to put in a couple of sessions to see what turns up. It can’t possibly be less than I’m finding on my existing permission.
After more than 18 months spent on various fields with virtually nothing to show for the effort, I must conclude that there simply is nothing to find. When I first spoke to the farmer in October 2011 and he said I could detect on the farm, he warned me that a number of other detectorists had tried it in the past but given up when they found nothing. But it’s always worth a try, isn’t it? Especially when it’s your first personal permission.
I suspect I know what the problem is:
- It’s a small but strangely shaped parish
- There is no village or other population centre in it
- It supported no services such as a pub or school, merely a small and rather poor parish church
- The labourers serving the farms in the parish probably lived in the substantial village in the next parish, less than a mile away
- Other than that village there is no other settlement for several miles in any direction
- The censuses from 1841 onwards show a population of no more than 120, gradually declining as the 19th century progressed
In other words, there were very few people in the parish to be dropping or throwing away the sort of things that detectorists tend to find.
I’m obviously going to have to bring more, and better, permissions on line. While I don’t now expect to detect on this particular farm in future with any regularity there’s no point in burning bridges with the farmer. If nothing else, I know I can always go back there if there’s nowhere else to detect.