First visit to a new field

With new land to try I couldn’t resist a trip out, so after an early lunch yesterday I took myself off for an exploratory visit to the largest of the new fields open to me. I drove onto the largest of the fields, still under stubble, and parked up by the entrance.

With a field this size it’s difficult to know quite how to tackle it, especially when the field is about 40 acres and a strange stretched triangle shape. Round the edge? Straight across the middle? Zigzagging from one prominent feature to another? Eventually I decided to detect parallel with the road which runs past, but about 10 yards in from the field boundary. Half way along that side I turned and cut across one corner and followed the line of a strip which had been deep ploughed.

A little over half way up that side I started to find very rough ceramic shards scattered across the surface. They were a pale orangey-pink or biscuit colour, most with a curved profile as though they were broken pieces of pipe except that they were roughly finished and not glazed in any way so I can’t imagine they were pipes. Besides, judging by the profile of the curve they’d have had to have been pipes several feet in diameter.

So what to make of them? I started to wonder if they are pieces of Roman roof tile. If so, taking into account the quantity I saw scattered around a particular area, it’s possible there was a Roman building of some sort on the site, especially as there’s a lot of Roman stuff in the area. In aerial images of the spot there are no clear crop marks suggesting a former structure, but there is an undefined, slightly darker shadow in the soil. It’s something to run past the FLO when I next see her, but in the meantime does anyone know if these things really could be bits of Roman roof tile?

In contrast with all the broken bits of ceramic, there were virtually no genuine metal signals. I found several pieces of chewed up drinks can, a piece of foil, one modern button and one copper alloy ring of around 1.25 inches diameter. And that was the sum total of digable signals. How absolutely weird. I know the field runs along a road but surely it couldn’t have been nighthawked so completely?

My session was cut short when my phone battery died, as I no longer detect if I am unable to track my progress and precisely log my finds by GPS and photograph them on the spot. I could kick myself, and will now invest in a powerbank so I can recharge my phone in the field.

Finds

Photo 1

1 button
1 copper alloy ring
1 piece of red and pink flint-like stone – jasper?

161007 finds.jpg

Photo 2

Selection of possible Roman roof tile fragments pieces of drainage pipe.

RoofTiles.jpg

Tiptoe through the brassicas

On Sunday I was once again out with The Metal Detectives, this time in Oxfordshire not a million miles from Witney.

The dig site was 150 acres spread over two large fields set at right angles to each other with the parking area in the corner between the two. One of the fields ran for about half a mile right to the outskirts of the nearby village and on paper looked rather promising. The soil was largely a sandy loam and easy to dig, and since there had been a fair bit of rain in the 24 hours preceding the dig hopes were high that the soil had been moistened enough to produce good signals.

The fields had been planted with brassicas, the seedlings of which were anything from an inch to six inches tall, interspersed in patches with the remains of the previous year’s bean stalks. Most of the latter were not a problem but there were enough stumps hidden amongst the brassicas to catch on the coil and cause a fair bit of falsing. I found the site very chattery in places and had to drop Deus Fast to 8khz in a few areas, while in other areas there was no chattering at all.

So what came up? By all accounts most attenders found very little. Around 90 minutes after the start of the dig people started to trail back disconsolately towards the cars from what should have been the most promising area over by the village. Elevenses consumed, most then tried their luck on the second field which in theory should have been the less productive of the two yet most people seemed to spend most of the rest of the day there. Unlike most digs where nothing much comes up, there wasn’t a disappointed mass exodus at lunchtime. In fact, most were still swinging away by mid-afternoon.

In terms of finds, I saw a very nice little Roman bronze coin and a photo of a bronze lion-head mount (age unknown) found over towards the village. There was a report of a denarius. I imagine there was more but if so I’ve not yet heard about it.

My own finds were OK – not spectacular, but I came home with one or two bits which are likely to interest the FLO.

Finds

1 book clasp
1 curtain ring
1 Roman coin – badly corroded
2 buttons

160904

 

Another afternoon on pasture

Brimming with renewed enthusiasm for my generally barren first pasture permission I went out to have another swing at it yesterday afternoon.

The first hour was spent on a triangular field that I hadn’t tried before, criss-crossing back wards and forwards in one corner to get a flavour of what might be there. Bugger all but a few scraps of foil.

So it was back to Tuesday’s field. During the course of the afternoon I tackled one area quite intensively, which produced a few odds and sods but nothing to get excited about, headed up to the top of the field in a straight line and then back across towards another landmark. The rest of the session was spent in the lower part of the field in the general area which produced Tuesday’s finds. A few bits and pieces came up, though it was not as rewarding a session as the one earlier in the week.

What’s interesting is that the top half of the field, which lies above a shallow rise, produced nothing at all. The farmer has previously told me that in the past there has been some marl digging from that field, so it’s possible that any finds that might have been in that area have already been stripped away. Presumably though they should be elsewhere on the farm.

Finds

1 lead weight
1 lead disk
2 tombac buttons
1 pewter spoon handle
2 fragments of pewter spoon handle
1 corroded coin, probably a Georgian halfpenny
2 small 4-hole buttons
1 flint thumbnail scraper
1 fragment of black-glazed terracotta

150312 Finds

First detecting session in yonks

On such a glorious spring day yesterday there was no excuse for not getting out to do some detecting. So out I went yesterday afternoon.

Not only was it my first detecting session since the autumn, it was the first trip back to my first, or No 1, permission in about a year. Nos 1 and 2 are pasture permissions so, in theory, available all year. However No 2 has cattle in and No 1 has sheep, and if I am to risk getting between livestock and their young I would rather it was sheep and lambs than cows and calves.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting to find much at all. No 1 produced a few nice bits and bobs from one particular field when I first stated detecting there, but since then it has been pretty barren – so much so that I have toyed with simply abandoning it. Still, a permission is a permission and the farmer is happy to have me there.

Part of the farm is inaccessible at present. One field that leads to several others is currently occupied by a handful of alpacas and half a dozen or so rheas. The alpacas I knew about. The rheas I didn’t. The young male rhea is apparently rather frisky at present and he and the older male have had a few set-tos recently which I didn’t fancy ending up in the middle of, so I went off to a field that I’ve detected before, albeit briefly, but which has produced only a few uninteresting finds in the past.

I started by detecting along the line of a public footpath and bits and bobs started coming up almost immediately. Part of a pewter spoon, then a buckle, a button, another buckle, an iron ring, another button and so on. Over 4 hours of wandering around one end of the field it turned into the most productive session I’ve had on this farm for quite a while and makes me think that while it’s never likely to produce anything spectacular, it’s worth going back for the odd session from time to time.

The most interesting item of the day was a long, thin, copper alloy item (at the bottom of the finds photo) which at first I thought was just a bolt, but when the mud was brushed off started to look like a pipe tamper (I’ve not found one of those so far so it would have been a first). However it has a nobble on the end which, when I researched it at home, sounded more like the handle of a litten spoon, which were frequently cast in a copper alloy and in use from c1550 to c1650. It’s one for the FLO anyway, along with at least two of the buckles.

It was a surprisingly warm day, with a clear sky and not a breath of wind, so I ended up shedding the fleece and detected in a t-shirt. I detected almost until sunset, when it was still warm enough (OK, about 10º C) for just the t-shirt. It’s strange how you get these odd really spring-like, almost early-summer, days in March.

Finds

1 pewter spoon handle
1 copper alloy latten spoon (I think)
1 spectacle buckle, broken at one end
1 copper alloy buckle, outer only
1 small spectacle buckle, complete with pin
1 Elizabeth II half groat
1 funny-looking doodah (broken fragment, probably nothing)
3 small plain buttons

150310 Finds

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

2nd session on new permission

This afternoon I spent a few hours at the new 60 acre pasture permission, this being my second visit to the site. I’d planned to stay for about 4 hours but in the end gave up after two and a half hours.  The ground has been baked solid in last month’s heatwave, so digging is bloody hard work and reinstating the holes properly afterwards even more difficult, and I’m reluctant to dig unless I know I’m not going to leave a mess. Also, my knee is still giving me gyp a full two months after I injured it.

I also had a brief repeat of last session’s wild chattering from the Deus; I’d laid it down while I dug a hole and when I picked it up again it was chattering hysterically. In the past  month a number of other Deus users have reported this phenomenon and worked out that it is caused by interference from the Garret Pro-Pointer since upgrading the detector’s software to v3.0 in June. Once I’d rebooted the detector and ensured that the pro-pointer was kept well away from it, I had no further problems with the chattering.

After the session, while I was changing my footware at the car, the farmer arrived and stopped for a chat. He told me that he believed there had once been a row of cottages in the field across the stream, and that towards the top end of the land he had once found some WWII military stuff including buttons and dogtags. Both areas sound very promising.

Finds: 2 plain buttons, 1 small modern key and 1 cheap modern buckle made from thin metal.

130803a finds

First session on the new permission

I made a first visit this afternoon to the new 60 acres of pasture and spent about 3 hours there with the intention of just having a general wander about the field nearest to the farmhouse.

The first find of the day was a George V halfpenny dated 1931 which turned up in more or less the first hole I dug. It’s in nicer condition than appears from the photograph and virtually all of the detail is crisp. Only the most prominent parts of the union flag device on the shield show any signs of wear so it must have been lost not long after coming into circulation.

After about half an hour of detecting the Deus suddenly started to play up, chattering wildly. I had wandered close to the end of a minor or local power line and assumed this had upset it, but despite switching the control unit and the headphones off and on repeatedly the chattering kept on recurring. I must have switched it all off and back on again several dozen time, and at one point the control unit sent up the worrying message “No coil”. Some programs seemed to be worse affected than others, or rather programs Basic 1, Basic 2 and GMaxx (1, 9 and 5 respectively) seemed to be the least affected. I tried other areas of the field and kept switching programs to see what worked best but I found that if I laid the detector down for the minute or so it took to dig a hole it was chattering away again when I picked it up. I’m not sure what’s going on here, and really hope the coil is not about to pack up on me, but I will try it again in the garden and see about rolling back the software to v2 and then forward to v3 again in case something has been corrupted.

The only other finds worth mentioning were a modern button and yet another copper alloy ring of the belt ring or curtain ring variety. The stuff not worth mentioning (but I will anyway) included a strip of copper, a scrap of lead or pewter and a lump of coke.

The afternoon was uncomfortably warm and there were a few blood sucking insects about, especially under the line of trees along one edge of the field. I was also troubled by my knee which is still bloody painful to kneel on even using heavy duty knee pads. By the end of 3 hours and a dozen or more holes dug, it was very tender and I’m starting to wonder if it will be a couple of months yet (ie, the end of the summer) before it’s back to normal. 3 hours detecting seems to be my limit at present because of this.

Finds: 1 button, 1 George V 1931 halfpenny and 1 copper alloy ring.
130630 finds