I made a first visit to my new permission (Permission 3) this afternoon, intending to spend a few hours on one or both of the fields bordering the Roman road. Things did not work out as expected.
Firstly, the field had been rough-ploughed. Arable fields are best detected either when they still have short stubble or when they have been finely tilled or ploughed and rolled, ready for reseeding. The problems with roughly ploughed fields are two-fold:
- The turned soil is loose and contains a great deal of air, and this air means that the detector gets less depth; and
- It’s also very uneven, with large clods, holes and so on, so it’s impossible to skim the surface with the detector – again, you lose depth.
Following recent rain, the soil was also incredibly sticky. It clung to the detector, the spade and especially my boots; by the time I’d walked 10 yards from the field entrance it was like wearing divers’ boots.
But there was a further problem – rubble. The field was full of broken brick and tile, lumps of cement and concrete, and pieces of metal detritus. In the first half hour I dug scrunched up pieces of wire fencing, lengths of dexion, handles off paint cans and similar builders’ rubbish. My immediate thought, feeling sick to my stomach, was that this was green waste gone wrong.
Now green waste has generally caused fury amongst detectorists, because at least some of what is being spread ain’t biodegradeable as it is supposed to be, and even that which is biodegradable such as wood and timber, is often contaminated by other stuff such as nails. And once contaminated in this way by metal debris, the land becomes essentially undetectable.
And so, after about an hour, I retired in disappointment and set off home. As luck would have it, I spotted the landowner’s son and stopped to chat. He assured me that no green waste had been spread on any of the land, but that there is a significant problem in the area with builders fly-tipping rubble and debris in field gateways and even inside the fields. So common is the problem that farmers locally have given up trying to do anything with it and now just plough it in. Hence the presence of rubble in the parts of the fields nearest any entrance, but there wouldn’t be any further in. Cue great relief.
I found confirmation of the extent of the problem later on. I stopped by the roadside to have a look at another of the fields, this one without access from the road, and found it clear of anything but pebbles. Close by there were a couple of signs attached to posts – one asking people to witnessed fly-tipping or suspicious behaviour to note down the vehicle’s registration number and to notify the police, and the other claiming that CCTV was in use locally.
I also learned that the farm extends to 1500 acres, though not all on one site.