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

A much better detecting session – huzzah!

I have just rejoined The Metal Detectives and had my first recent outing with them yesterday. Needless to say I will not reveal exactly where the dig site was but for those readers who are interested it was somewhere in the Thame area.

The site comprised three arable fields of disked wheat stubble covering 70 acres shared between 35 detectorists. I detected part of one field in the morning and part of a second in the afternoon. Despite the heavy rain and thunderstorms we had last weekend, the soil remains very dry. The first field, which was quite stony in places and produced a lot of “chatter”, was hard to detect and hard to dig more than a few inches down. Genuine signals were few and far between although one hammered coin and a handful of small Roman grots came off it in the morning.

For me it produced a small worked flint blade (which came out of a hole dug to find half a horse shoe) and my first Roman coin – a small copper alloy jobbie which is in pretty good condition with fairly clear detail on both sides.

The afternoon’s field produced my second ever hammered coin – an Elizabeth I halfgroat which has fair detail but looks as though it might have been clipped slightly round the edges. Two Anglo Saxon brooches also came off this field. It was also easier to dig as the soil was less compacted and more powdery.

Now that I’ve had chance to clean the mud off the Roman coin, it looks like a nummus of Theodora (337 – 341 AD) with the Pietas Romana reverse; judging by other Theodora nummi on the PAS  database, mine looks to be in much better condition than many of them so I’m seriously chuffed.

Finds

1 small flint blade
1 small Roman bronze coin
1 Elizabeth I halfgroat

Finds 160831a.jpg

Finds 160831b.jpg

 

Let’s give it another go

We’d had a couple of nights’ rain since my previous permission visit on Thursday. Optimistic, therefore, that the ground might have softened up somewhat in the meantime I decided to give it another go yesterday.

Spade

Nothing doing. The ground was as hard as it had been a few days earlier although superficially it initially looked damper on the surface. I think I mentioned the depth of the cracks in the soil but the disappearing spade says it all. It’s going to take a lot of rain before the soil is back to normal.

I spent about 3 hours wandering around and across a substantial part of the field but again there were very few signals. The prize scrap find was a modern brass tap (“faucet” for the Cousins) of the sort used for field water supplies, still with plastic hose attached; a 19th century machine-made square cut nail; and a fossil. I know. A fossil. The Deus is good but it’s not that good.

The fossil appeared when I dug a piece of scrap. I think it’s Gryphaea (aka the “Devil’s Toenail”), a bivalve mollusc which was around from the Jurassic to the Cretaceous, but if anyone knows otherwise please let me know.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get my spade sharpened.

Finds

1 19th century nail
1 fossil

Nail and fossil

The stranger and the ring

When my father died he left me a ring which had once belonged to his father. But before long I was thrown into a panic – I had lost it. Racked with guilt, I tuned to a stranger for help.

Gold drew many to South Africa and it was gold that has just reaffirmed my faith in this muddled, mosaic nation.

As a Briton living in Cape Town, I recently received the call nobody wants. My father had passed away. After the funeral in England, my mother showed me dad’s will. It mostly went to her with one named item for me – a gold ring, worn for decades by dad and before him, by his own father.

The stranger and the ring

Rare medieval St George ring found in Norfolk

A 600-year-old gold ring engraved with St George and the Dragon sheds new light on the saint’s medieval followers in Norwich, an expert has told the BBC.

The ring, found by a metal detectorist in South Creake, Norfolk, dates from between 1350 and 1430.

Dr Jonathan Good, author of The Cult of St George, said the ring “attests to the popularity of St George” and may be linked to a guild devoted to the saint.

The ring was ruled to be treasure at an inquest in Norwich this week.

It is set to be acquired by Norwich Castle Museum.

Rare medieval St George ring found in Norfolk

Another disappointing detecting session

I went out this afternoon hoping to be able to get back on the field which back in March produced a sudden flurry of finds, including spectacle buckles and the handle of a litten spoon. Surely the alpacas and rhea would have been moved to another field by now?

There were only sheep lying down in the dappled sunlight under the trees half way along the far side of the field. The coast was clear. I unpacked my rucksack in the shade of the hedge and started detecting. Quarter of an hour later, while on my knees and digging a hole, I looked up to see three adult alpacas and a youngster making a bee-line for me at a fast trot. Not all the sheep were sheep. The boldest two skidded to a halt about 10 feet from me and stood staring. They followed me around for the rest of the afternoon, one of them coming well within touching distance. He/she/it sniffed the coil of the detector, the headphones and Pro-pointer, breathed down my neck, sniffed my hand and eventually nuzzled my face and allowed me to stroke its nose. That one at least was obviously very tame though the others were generally warier.

Unfortunately it was a crap afternoon’s detecting. Although I was working the same area of the same field as a few months ago nothing but rubbish came up, including both halves of broken biro, the inevitable pieces of foil, a corroded metal disk that was the size and weight of an old penny but which had become bright red and orange on one side, broken fragments of green-painted metal and a few small lumps of scrap lead.

So what was going on? I suspect the problem is that the soil is much drier at present than it was in March. There are probably other reasonable finds in that field but they can only be found when the soil conditions are right, ie wetter.

As if that was not bad enough, Tect O Trak stopped tracking me early in the afternoon. Since getting home and doing an internet search, I’ve discovered that some Galaxy S5 phones have been experiencing problems with GPS since downloading Lollipop. Hmmm. Guess who downloaded Lollipop a few days ago. Hopefully it’s an easy fix.

Disappointing as I say. If the weather is decent next weekend I will try to get on one of my new permissions for a change.

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.

Bought a new pin-pointer

Although I thought I’d fixed my Garrett pro-pointer a while ago, it has never in practice really behaved properly since then. Gradually the falsing problem reasserted itself and it was obvious it had to go.

So off I went to Regton this morning to buy a new one. The shop was quiet and there was plenty of time for a good yammer with Nigel, during the course of which we discussed everything from the local clubs to the new Minelab plastic detectors. Nigel showed the latter to me.

Apparently they perform pretty well and may have the edge over Garrett’s Ace machines from a performance point of view, but ye Gods they are flimsy! I can’t see them lasting very long in the field. Indeed, they look like something you would give the kiddies to play with on the beach and I’d be surprised if any serious beginner would choose them over the Ace series.

I was also pleased to see that Nigel is now stocking a range of those pocket-sized compartmentalised plastic boxes which are ideal for keeping small, high value finds safe. When I first saw them being used I spent hours trying to track them down before discovering that they were commonly used by anglers and therefore readily available in fishing tackle shops. I’ve had a few more off fleabay since then. You can never have too many of them.

Anyway, I treated myself to the new Garrett Pro-Pointer AT and threw in a couple of magazines and a book on lead tokens and tallies for good measure.

Italian detectorist finds WWII British soldier’s remains

The remains of a British soldier believed to have been blown up by a German mortar during the Second World War have been found by a metal detector enthusiast on a remote Italian hillside.

Officials are now trying to establish the identity of the serviceman – who is thought to be from the UK because his bones were found next to dozens of British Army issue bullets.

The skeleton was found in undergrowth close to the site where two other sets of remains – also identified as British servicemen – were discovered last year.

Pasquale Capozzolo found the skeleton on a hillside at Pellezzano, above the town of Amalfi, a picturesque coastal town popular with British holidaymakers and the scene of the bloodiest fighting.

The bones were discovered after Mr Capozzolo’s metal detector ‘pinged’. He dug down to discover dozens of British Army issue bullets which were in use with troops for the standard issue 303 Lee Enfield rifle.

Mr Capozzolo said: ‘I found the skeleton about half a metre or so down in the earth.

‘It hadn’t been buried and from the way the bones were scattered it looked as if he had been hit by an explosion. There was shrapnel around which was German so it looks as if he was hit by a shell.

Experts to identify mystery British WWII soldier whose remains were found by metal detector enthusiast on Italian hillside where he was blown up by German mortar

Two new small pasture permissions

This afternoon I went out prospecting for a few hours.

My first port of call was at a mixed farm (cattle, sheep and horses) that I had originally called at a few weeks ago. On that occasion I had spoken to the stable girl who told me there had been people detecting on the land in the past so I left my card with her to pass on to the owners. Despite several other visits it wasn’t until today that I caught up with one of them. It seems my card and the fact of my first visit had not been passed on, so I left another card with the chap who wanted to discuss it with his wife. I’m not sure whether this will come good in the end but if it does it looks like a good 100+ acres.

Next port of call was a bit out of the way. The farmer told me he did a bit of detecting on his land himself so didn’t want anyone else to go on it. Fair enough. We had a long chat, during which he brought out a Garrett Ace 150 (?) which it seems someone had given him. He asked me about the sort of things I had found, asked me how his detector works and took on board my suggestion that he buy some headphones so he could hear faint signals better. Then he suggested that I try X at Y. Good lead.

On the way to Y, I called in at another place I passed on the off-chance and spoke to the landowner. Bingo! The land is currently rented out to a tenant who is vacating it in about 5 or 6 weeks and after that I can have a go. The landowner has owned it for at least 45 years and bought it from a family friend. It has never been detected.

Land: 32 acres

Called in at Y and spoke to X. Apparently someone has detected at least part of this farm but this was some years ago and he has since died. X seemed uncertain as to how long ago it had been detected. There are about 100 acres under arable and 50 under grass. The grass is three fields of which only the smallest is old pasture, the others having previously been arable under plough and only put down to grass in the past couple of years. So not only is the land available all year, but finds won’t have had chance to sink below detector range. Best of all, I can start this week.

Land: 50 acres

Celebrated with coffee and cake at a nearby garden centre.