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

 

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

A disappointing afternoon’s detecting

Keen to continue detecting the footpath near where I found the hammy on Wednesday, I headed out again this afternoon. Last time I forgot my coffee. Today I forgot the detector. It dawned on me two miles down the road so I had to go back home and get it. Plonker.

I wanted to show the farmer the hammy but he wasn’t around so I showed it to his dad instead. Dad was astonished that so small an item could be found, but he also mentioned that the footpath shown on current maps was not the original one. Apparently it was diverted (legally) in the 1960s because the owners of the farm across the boundary didn’t want it going through their garden. Instead of it following the field boundary as it does now, it previously crossed the field at a diagonal. At least that saved me spending hours detecting a modern footpath.

In any event, it was a very disappointing afternoon. Four hours detecting turned up three enormous lumps of agricultural machinery, a copper ring, an iron ring, an iron horse harness buckle, part of a nylon headcollar with attached buckle, some wire and half a dozen pieces of foil. The only halfway decent find of the session was the spout part of an ale cask tap. I really need to get back onto the field where the rheas are at present and detect the areas around the productive areas previously detected.

I also need some new permissions.

Finds

1 ale cask tap (part)
1 modern buckle (bent, crappy)

150410 Finds

More spoons, lead seals and a hammy

It was such a lovely afternoon it would have been criminal to let it go to waste. So out I went, back to Permission 1 – the barren one which makes me sweat blood for every half decent find. I had hoped to return to the field which produced two fruitful afternoons last month, but the rhea are still in it and apparently they are even randier now than they were then. I didn’t fancy my chances. As a result I decided to try a field I’ve not detected before.

From the start it looked as though it was going to be a crap afternoon. Not only did I forget my flask of coffee, but Tect O Trak, the app I’m currently using on the phone for tracking my movements round fields and logging finds, decided not to work again.

By far the best find of the day was a tiny hammy (12mm x 10mm and 0.32g and therefore probably a farthing), the first I have found on this permission, which came from just off a public footpath running through the farm and was about 10″ down. Well done the Deus. Presumably this is evidence of a sort that the footpath was probably being used in the medieval period if not earlier, so systematically detecting the path on a future visit seems like a good move. Unfortunately the coin is poorly struck and off centre so whether it will be possible to identify the mint and moneyer remains to be seen. I will try to upload larger and clearer images of both sides of the coin as soon as possible in the hope that someone can fully identify it.

And another pewter spoon, or rather part of one. They seem to be surprisingly common on this farm for some reason. I’m starting to think of it as Death of Spoons Farm.

And two lead seals – one from a case of Moët & Chandon champagne and the other probably from a fertiliser sack, though I can’t make out the name of the company concerned.

Finds

1 hammy
1 pewter spoon (part)
1 nickel-plated spoon
1 bag seal
1 Moet & Chandon champagne case seal
1 small ring

150408 Finds

Another pewter spoon

I went back to Permission 1, hoping to return to the field that produced a few finds on my two recent visits. Unfortunately the farmer has moved the alpacas and rheas into it so I decided to try Field 2 which is where the animals were previously.

This is a field with shallow ridge and furrow that can be seen clearly on aerial shots and more dimly on the ground in slanting sunlight. I had a session on it several years ago when it produced a George III penny and a lot of iron junk and foil. Being behind the farm buildings and where the farmer stores his machinery, I imagine a lot of scrap has been chucked away here over the years.

A couple of hours detecting produced 1 pewter spoon handle, a complete vaseline bottle (including its decomposed contents) and the usual collection of scraps of lead and foil and a pair of enormous iron D-rings which look like the bit of a gate that the bolt goes through.

The spoon handle is rather nicely decorated in a style I think may be late 18th century or regency and has a maker’s name on the back which may be Manson or Mamson or similar.

And my tracking app gave up tracking half way through the session.

Eheu!

Finds

1 pewter spoon handle

150329 Finds

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