XP Summer Gold Rally – Report

I’d never attended a large rally and have heard and read mixed views of them, so ummed and ahhed about this one for a month or two before biting the bullet and paying for a day ticket for the Sunday.

So, up at 6am for a quick coffee. Made up a flask. Set off at 6.30am for the 40 mile drive to the rally site.

Arrived at 7.30am for a very easy check-in with none of the queues hinted at in the pre-rally instructions. Bought a £5 raffle ticket for the raffle whose main prizes were 10 full XP Deuses (Dei?) – 5 for each day of the rally. I never buy more than one raffle ticket because I couldn’t win a dose of plague in a global pandemic. Inevitably I didn’t win a Deus, nor one of the not-yet-available XP pinpointers. Would any one care to make me an offer on a used yellow raffle ticket? Only one careful lady owner.

Started the rally with a £3.50 bacon and mushroom butty from the breakfast tent. Plenty of bacon and mushrooms (huzzah!) let down by Mother’s Pride type cheap white bread (boooo!). Brown sauce free.

Had a wander round the “village” area to look at the traders’ tents and dealers’ stalls, chatted with Nigel from Regton, met and chin-wagged with John Winter, then had a very quick look at the living history area and displays. Was amused by this in the dealers’ marquee:

hm

Finally decided to actually do some detecting so walked through Field 1 and started detecting in Field 2 and then Field 3. These were stubble, much of it almost impossibly long (8″-10″ by my estimation) and bloody hard work. There were also very few signs that anyone had dug anything. I found a piece of folded scrap lead.

Then the rumour spread that there had been a report over the radios that a “pot of gold coins” had been found in one of the further fields. Almost immediately nigh on everyone in sight started gravitating towards Field 34, reported site of the fabled find. The rumour was quickly downgraded to “a pot” and within the hour to a rusty bucket. Apparently as soon as the rim came into view digging stopped and a couple of the marshals were called in to have a look. All very responsible but ultimately rather disappointing for the finder.

Detecting my way up through Field 6 (bean stubble, mostly very well flattened), I was struck by how many holes had not been filled in. Deep holes. Bloody big holes. With soil scattered for feet in all directions. One pile of spoil even had dog shit curled on top. At least I hope it was dog shit, but since the organisers had actually allowed some Minelabbers on the site one can’t be too sure.

The bottom of Field 6 produced the only actual find of my three and a half hours’ detecting – what is probably a Roman grot.

Making my way up through Field 6, I met and spoke to a few other detectorists heading back to base. The first one, French, was giving up as whatever he did to his Deus he couldn’t stop the chatter. He had found nothing. Then a pair of French blokes who had also found nothing. Finally a pair of Eastern European blokes; they actually had a handful of stuff between them and showed it to me. The only item that looked significant was a small copper alloy triangle with a punched design of circles and what might have been the nub of a broken hook at the pointed end, which I said might be a clothes fastener. I met the finder later in the “village” and he told me it had been identified as a Norman fastener.

Got back to the “village” just before 2pm and had a pint of cider (£4) and a pizza from the wood-fired pizza van (£7). The pizza was well cooked and pretty good value though it could have done with a bit more in the way of toppings for the price. Still, it was a damned sight better than a 50p greasy donkey burger even if the Italians attending reportedly turned their noses up at it.

All in all the organisation, facilities and marshalling were absolutely first class. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the state of all the fields (some were clearly much more detectable than others) nor of the finds. The two “big” finds that I heard of were both found on the Saturday – a Roman gold coin* which the FLO apparently got quite excited about as it was believed to be a rare one, and what appeared to be a gold and garnet Anglo-Saxon mount about the size of a large button. However the stuff displayed in the finds cases by the middle of Sunday afternoon was largely Roman grots, broken fibulae and similar odds and sods. Many attenders seem to have found nothing at all, not even buckles or buttons, though those who ventured to the fields reserved for Sunday, getting on for a mile from the “village”, did seem to have done better – rusty bucket notwithstanding.

Anecdotally I’ve read elsewhere that the FLO was disappointed overall and most of the attenders I spoke to were as well. For around 800 people detecting what must have been  1,000+ acres a few miles out of Burford there didn’t seem to be much to show, but I’ve now seen comments on a number of forums that these fields have been detected regularly by at least one large club, most recently only a few weeks ago. However this rather bears out what many people say – that you attend a rally for the social aspects and if the detecting is good it’s a bonus.

One sour note to the rally was the disappearance from the XP stand, announced late on Sunday afternoon just after the raffle was drawn, of a large plastic case for transporting a Deus. The example held up looked like a Samsonite sort of affair with padded foam interior. I’ve seen nothing more about this so don’t know if it turned up or not subsequently. Unfortunately this isn’t the first report I’ve come across of thefts at rallies.

* I’ve since read that this was not found at the dig but simply brought in for the FLO to identify and record.

A disappointing rally, but I have balls

A spur of the moment decision last night saw me heading this morning to the UK Detecting Rallies open rally at Carlton, near Olney, in Northants.

The site was billed as around 120 acres of ploughed, rolled and seeded arable land. ARCHI showed the area to be rich, especially in Roman material. The weather was reasonable (cloudy, around 16C and dry except for light rain mid morning). It all looked very promising, even for an open rally.

My plan was to concentrate on one field in the morning and another in the afternoon. The morning’s field had reportedly produced a William I penny the last time the site had been detected, though apparently on that occasion most diggers spent the day on another field which had produced a couple of Anglo-Saxon pennies and a few later medieval hammies.

Unfortunately it was a dead loss. By the time I left at around 1.30pm, after 3 hours detecting and an hour for lunch and talking to other diggers, the sole reported decent find was of a hammy of some sort from one field.

I didn’t bother with any of the other fields as I left straight after lunch, but it’s obviously possible that other decent finds were unearthed in the afternoon.

My impression, and that of others I spoke to, was that the fields had been more or less detected to death; if they hadn’t, why was nobody finding anything today, notwithstanding any finds on earlier visits? It was an expensive half day out, factoring in the cost of a 160 mile round trip and £15 for the dig fee. The lack of finds was obviously disappointing, but at least I met and chatted to other detectorists.

So what did I find? Nothing indeed to call a “find”, certainly, but the scrap included:

  • 2 golf balls (both surface finds)
  • Several pieces of lead
  • Around a dozen pieces of thinnish, foil-like metal
  • Half a horse shoe
  • The head of a sledgehammer
  • A bolt
  • The bases of half a dozen very small bullets or cartridges, possibly from a rook rifle

As mentioned in an earlier post I have been trying out Tect O Trak which plots your route around a field and shows the positions of any finds against the route. When I reviewed my wanderings around the field, Tect O Trak seemed to have summed the day up pretty well:

carlton

It was, nevertheless, a joy to detect with a pin-pointer that sounds off only when it should do.

NCMD Shakespeare Hospice Rally

I very rarely attend open metal detecting events. I’ve been to a few in the past and found virtually nothing at any of them apart from rubbish. In fact on one such I came back with several dozen mastitis treatment tubes and bugger all else. Yesterday however I attended the NCMD charity rally in support of The Shakespeare Hospice at Stratford upon Avon. My finds for the day were precisely two buttons and the usual scrap.

There were around 200 detectorists on some 150 acres of arable land spread over 4 fields. The land had been roughly disked and roughly tilled, both superficially, with large clods of dried clay liberally spread across the surface of at least 2 of the fields. This made it very difficult to get a good rhythm of low swings and there were a few examples of people more or less waving their detectors about like Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Phil. 6″ down was more or less solid, sticky clay of the sort to excite artisan potters. The surface had been baked and the dry shards of clay were like rough gravel when you put your hand on them. The field between the parking area and the registration tent was fairly rough and uneven, but the far field was reported to be much worse; indeed one chap told me it was “bad enough to break your ankles”. It was, overall, bloody hard work.

One field was fairly smooth but both fields I tried were contaminated by broken bricks, pieces of glass (including much weathered, old glass with large bubbles in it), tiles and other roofing materials, pieces of cement or mortar and by small, shapeless pieces of metal which were very light and therefore probably melted alumimium of some sort.

There was a lot of dissatisfaction with the state of the land, including several comments that it would have been better left as stubble. A couple of people mentioned a lot of problems with falsing but that may have been down to their particular detectors. As with all large rallies people had come from all over the place to attend including Sheffield, Brighton, Northants and London, thus incurring significant travelling costs. The first person left at 11.30am; he was an elderly chap with arthritis who had come from near Heathrow but couldn’t cope with the uneven ground. There were more departures over lunchtime, including a group of 3 who went off to finish the day at one of their local permissions, and a few more by the time I left at around 2.30pm, but most people seemed determined to give it “just another half hour” and to “get their money’s worth” as one chap put it.

It’s surprising what people will complain about. I overheard one chap saying it was a poor do that the NCMD had not arranged for a trade stand or a burger bar to be there, and that next year he would be joining the FID instead. Since most mobile burger vans seem to be of the greasy-donkey-burger-for-50p variety that didn’t seem much of a loss. The same chap bemoaned the lack of “fun” aspects to the rally, specifying that there was no token hunt (in which the organisers bury tokens for people to dig up and win prizes for doing so).

By the time I left I’d heard reliable reports of 5 hammered coins, a gothic florin, an unspecified number of Roman grots and a half sovereign. After the rally additional finds reported on one of the forums included a “nice small Saxon cruciform brooch apparently with loads of enamelling intact”, a lead bale seal, a 16th century harness bell and a silver item which may have been a mount or strap end (date unknown). The FLO was in attendance but whether she had enough to keep her busy I have no idea.

Finds: 2 buttons.

130922 finds