Sometime back in the spring I indicated interest in joining a particular metal detecting club, and having received no response to my initial enquiry I shrugged my shoulders and forgot about it completely. Then a fortnight ago I received an invitation to join it and, after a telephone conversation with the organiser, coughed up my joining fee. And yesterday I attended my first club dig with 49 other detectorists on around 100 acres of stubble somewhere in Northamptonshire. Actually in the general area of Daventry but that’s the closest geographic information you’re going to get.
Unfortunately when we arrived the farmer had covered the lot with
chicken shit poultry manure. Even more unfortunately the locals complained about the stink so he ploughed the lot and ploughed it deep enough to involve ridges and furrows, around 18″ from crest to crest and some 9″ or thereabouts from trough to crest. Not good, especially as both troughs and crests were liberally scattered with great clods which made swinging the detector decidedly problematic. The state of the fields was very like that faced several weeks earlier at the NCMD Shakespeare Hospice Rally, though the soil in this case was more loamy than the solid clay of the Stratford area. It was therefore softer underfoot, less likely to break ankles, and quite a lot easier to dig.
During the course of the morning, the farmer took a tractor and disking unit around the outside edges of the fields to mitigate the worst of the troughs and furrows, but by late morning a nearby pasture field had been opened up for those who were struggling on the ploughed land.
After a couple hours on the ploughed fields, during which I found one (count ’em) musket ball, and after a coffee and a Twix, I repaired to the pasture field where I dug a fair amount of rubbish, including a large horse shoe, a handful of shotties and an air filter unit from a vehicle of some sort, and my only other actual find of the day – a halfpenny. There was the usual evidence of selfish behaviour on the pasture field: I swung my detector over at least 3 holes which gave off very loud signals, and there were at least half a dozen others where the turf had been put back only approximately and a substantial soil scatter left around the hole. I wonder if clubs ever really manage to stamp out this sort of behaviour.
Overall, finds were understandably rather sparse. The site had been visited previously with good results, but by the time I left at around 2.30pm the best finds that day included a mediaeval book clasp, a siliqua, a half-groat and a handful of other similarly pleasing but not spectacular finds.
But one good thing – the club has an absolute rule that headphones must be worn while detecting, so that although there were a number of Garrett Ace machines on the fields the rest of us were spared the incessant distant and not-so-distant ding-donging of the Yellow Perils.
Looking back, I wish I’d hung around longer and chatted to more people. At the time I left dark, thunderous-looking clouds had been building for an hour or more and it looked as though a downpour was in the offing but as I was driving back to the motorway the sky cleared and everything was bathed in late afternoon sunlight. Unless we get an Indian summer, that may have been the last hooray of this year’s fine weather.
Finds: 1 musket ball and 1 1958 halfpenny.