Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fallow Deer Guilty of nighthawking?

Hi all after watching BBCs Inside Out programme concerning night -hawking (Illicit trespass and metal detecting on sites without permission) I thought it could have been handled in a far more professional manner....I placed a comment on Joe Crowleys blog and Emailed him personally with the below :-

Very interesting report, I guess after the Staffs Hoard and the Scottish torque finds the hobby has attracted much positive attention, and then as always someone examines the tiny negative night-hawking minority. Abit old hat but none-theless always ripe for over sensationalism. They are so insignificant they should be given no time or attention. I have been detecting for over three decades have over 150 sites and have never encountered a problem with illicit activity on any of them. Night hawks are a real pain but can hardly be accused of robbing the nations heritage. Since the land owners are negligent of the objects presence on their land (as is the Nation) the aforementioned object would in all chances have never been discovered unless by a metal detectorist whether he or she be an illegal or law-abiding one.

If the nation is not aware of the existence of an object then it can hardly be robbed of it...surely or certainly not feel its loss. If anything this alleged "robbing" could be halted by the modification of such antiquated and ignorant attitudes of persons such as English Heritage. They could easily team up with responsible detectorists to search protected sites (I have offered this service for free many times)for several seasons removing the vast majority of coins and artefacts...but choose not to. Preferring to waste vaste amounts of tax payers money on producing highly detailed reports on Night Hawking" to which they have the very authority and opportunity to stop. But its not just night hawking they and other critics are against its the entire hobby of Metal Detecting as a whole no matter how delicately butter in the mouth they present the facts. Im sure any night hawker would not bother with illegally plundering a site that had been well searched for years....pretty obvious that isnt it?...The threat of night-hawking is negligible, as I say Ive been detecting for over 30 years and found the odd nice thing but largely have pockets full of junk....so surely it cant be any different for the night hawks. Sensationalism gives coverage to those who dont deserve it and hurts those who are legitimate...does the maker of this programme really feel it will enhance the ease with which us legitimate detectorists will obtain future sites to search?. I feel that this once proud country has far more pressing urgencies to deal in these modern times with than a bunch of idiots that traipse around at night finding the odd coin. Looks like the legal system thinks this too as two so called night hawks caught, were found not guilty recently...common sense from a Judge who has far more serious issues to deal with. The general public that doesnt have any knowledge of metal detecting and its methods and fantastic contributions to academic knowledge as a rule could easily be swayed by such sensationalism, which is unfair.

Thank God such sensationalism wasnt prevalent in 1939 as we would have been discussing the importance of Liquorice Allsorts coloration whilst the Panzer armies massed in Calais....Basically as said the night hawking threat is so negligible as to be pathetic, its only enlarged and given coverage by programmes such as this which of course are readily seized upon as fact by our critics who cannot find anything else to attack us with now their old and tedious arguments, that are accepted even by the academic archaeological community as being tired and incorrect. I suspect that all may not appear as it seemed. For example the fact that these night hawks clotted up into one bunch looked dodgy or was that simply to suit the field of view of the optics being used for filming. One wonders at after so many nights of no-results... just how the convenient "Tip off" that the field would be visited that night was obtained, perhaps it was just dumb old night hawks shopping themselves to a BBC filmcrew for publicity..of course it was ....the attitude of the guy who was caught did seem true to life though, allbeit I would sack the so called security called for as they seemed a tad wimpy here....the aggressive behaviour is of course explained by someone committing an offence and then being caught with a spotlight in their face...a reaction that could be guaranteed for good dramatics when the light source was not dimmed or turned off...same reaction you might get doing same outside any pub on a weekend night. I dont think this was probably stage managed for effect, but hey any old news will do eh?

The innaccuracies of the lady from English Heritage made one question her employment status as a warden for example if she thinks night hawks go round with bloody torches this seems a tad unbelievable if they want to sink into the darkness to commit their crimes. Also I would end this blog comment with a note of some humour. whilst they were discussing the soil disturbance evidence left behind by the nighthawkers could the producers please explain to me WHY WE VIEWERS WERE TREATED TO A SHOT SHOWING THE CLEAR TRACKS IN NEAT ROWS OF A FALLOW DEER ACROSS THE NEWLY SEEDED FIELD. Talk about desperate, if they had left so many holes how difficult for the production crew would it have been to find a real night hawk manufactured one. Perhaps some of the production crew were bored with the subject matter had accidentally slipped into wild life film mode, or surely not, it couldnt be that the majestic Fallow Deer itself is being accused of traipsing across the fields at night...coz hey guess what as a wildlife photographer and naturalist let me solve this issue now.....THEY DO!!!! Or perhaps they were indeed holes made by the night hawks and this ancient site was subjected to coin and artefact loss that occurs in precise neat rows...give us a break if you are making a documentary above all be accurate as there are always people out in the real world that spot the errors which just lend credence to desperate over dramatics and the need to sensationalise......Jo if you would like to do a documentary section on responsible metal detecting my group would love to take you out for day......not sensational I know but I could guarantee you a Roman coin or two which you may even enjoy finding....but as I live in a heavily wooded area I could not guarantee the site to be free from Fallow Deer prints which may confuse you.......give us strength.....

The Complete Guide to Beach and Water Detecting

Saturday, February 6, 2010

field of dreams - Alaistair Mcpherson

 The story of the field started three years ago,

 My niece Kaya aged 8, wanted me to take her out for a hunt

with my detector . Having just acquired permission to
detect there it was virgin territory. So out we went - my
wife, Kaya and myself. The field being in set-aside was
practically undetectable, with tufts of grass and only
occasional clear areas. After 10 minutes the ladies were
thoroughly bored so headed for the gate, then “beep
beep” . Digging the signal revealed what the girls
thought was a bit of barbed wire, it was in fact a head and
spring for a 2nd to 3rd Century Roman trumpet brooch.
Now maybe down in the South of Britain that would not
be to uncommon, but up here in Moray in the North of
Scotland this is extremely rare, and with the field almost
undetectable, very frustrating ! However, soon afterwards
the field was ploughed and in the short time before it was
seeded I found another three Roman brooches along with
a couple of hammered Eddies and a Medieval pin. Alas,
the farmer was quick of the mark and the field was deep
ploughed and de-stoned for a crop of
potatoes, so once more a frustrating wait. As the field was
alongside the road which I travelled to work I was able to
keep my eye on it.

Then coming home from work I noticed that they were
lifting the tatties (potatoes), so I knew where I would be
the next day after work! The field is very large, so I
called my mate Richard and asked if he would like to join
me and the next afternoon we went out to access the

We were not going to be disappointed and over the season
2007/2008 we had a haul of three Roman brooches,
a unique Iron Age chariot harness mount, hammered
coinage from 1150 to Victorian silver, a large number of
worked flints and iron age fragments.

The National Museums of Scotland were getting interested,
but by far the best was to come at the end of 2008
and the start of 2009.
2008 saw the field planted in barley and the day after the
crop was cut it rained for nearly a whole week - it was so
frustrating. Richard took one side of the field and I took
the other - after four hours it seemed as if the area was
dead - just a few cartridge bottoms and some grotty Viccy
pennies with Richard not faring much better. Then as I
turned to head up the field to where the car was parked,
“beep beep” and out popped a Early Medieval silver ring.
Being well pleased with myself I put it in my pocket and
gave the dig hole a perfunctory sweep of the coil , “beep
beep” again. Then the fun really began because in my
hand was a mint denarii of Antonius Pious and I had to go
to work……….grrrrr.
Returning over the next few days we collected another
twenty denarii, two sesterious stuck together and a
Roman head stud brooch. Richard also found a complete
Medieval disc brooch complete with pin. As he showed it
to me, I had something I wanted to show him - My first
Medieval gold ring with a sapphire in situ.

“Was there no end to the surprises that this field would turn up!”

Now the National Museums of Scotland were more than
excited, and after a few phone calls, Dr Fraser Hunter and
a small team arranged to do a small exploration of the
site. While we were waiting for the archaeologists to
appear at the end of the week, I went and found an
absolutely beautiful piece of bronze age 'ring money'.

On the Friday morning Dr Fraser Hunter and a small team
turned up with a JCB digger. My first thoughts were I bet
they find nothing, but within minutes of the digger
removing the first 6 inches of topsoil over an area of 50
feet by 50 feet, we had another ten denarii. The next six
inches removed provided another 18, now things were
getting interesting.
Once onto the occupation layer Richard and I were asked
to do a sweep of the site, and once again more denarii,
three sesterious stuck together, Iron age pins of copper
alloy and iron, and also a bucket handle dating to the Iron

The Field of Dreams
The Archaeologist's were over the moon, as they also
found a stone structure below the Iron Age occupation
layer. They are now making plans to geophys the whole
field and do a large scale dig. The local museum has also
forwarded a file to Time Team of the site as a suggestion
for a future programme
As the field was stubble there was still round bales in the
area of the dig waiting to be detected, all be it small
patches - anything continues to be possible. Then winter
descended with a vengeance - The ground was frozen to
depth of 9 inches and any detecting was out of the
question. This situation carried on like this for 6 weeks,
either because of frost or heavy rain. February rolled
round and the field was ploughed, so out we went for a
final throw of the dice before it was planted. First signal,
“bang”, a denarii of Julia Doma, then “bang”, denarii of
Hadrian, then right where the bales were, “beep beep”,
another denarii maybe? But to my surprise, lying in the
spoil, was the most beautiful gold ring with a loop and dot
design. Taking it home and checking it with the digital
microscope, I noticed that it had a repair with a rivet,
which is minute. The field has also produced two button
loop fasteners, which are recognised as being extremely
rare north of the Forth valley.
Now we just wonder what this field will surprise us
with next!

These discoveries featured in the Northern Scot

Newspaper—you can read the article here

metal detecting secrets

All that signals is not Gold - Ted Gurski

 A few years back, early eighties as I remember, I read in our local newspaper that work was about to begin constructing a new dual carrigeway through a shallow valley very near to my home.The area was called Billingham Bottoms and the new road was the A19 and it would replace the previous single carrige road known as the old A19.

When I studied the plan I saw the direction of the new road was to run directly over the remains of an old water mill known as Bishops mill, this referred to the Bishop of Durham who owned the mill in the 12th century. In fact the article stated that the remains of the mill would be buried under the road but a plaque would be erected to signify where it once stood.

So, although I was sure this area would have been detected before, I decided to do it again before all was lost. The day I went was bright and sunny and equipped with my trustee Whites TR/IB machine (which was the vogue then) I carefully went over every inch of detectable land around the foundations that remained of the old mill. The result was not good, all I found, apart from some modern coinage, was a rectangular buckle with some decoration on it and a 1939 half crown.

Coin Values

As I was about to pack up and leave I cast my eye across the valley, a distance of about half a mile, and noticed something I'd not seen before, at odd intervals I could see stumps sticking out of the ground and lining them up with my eye could see that they had probably been the remains of fence posts that once crossed the valley.

It had to be worth a try so I started detecting in a line that crossed through the stumps. At the third stump I was stopped in my tracks by a massive signal which sounded good in all metal and discrim. I was virtually sure it would be iron but my brain started thinking possibly a hoard, a good signal next to the remains of a fence post? who knows?...so, I started digging.....4 inches,nothing,...8 inches, nothing... at 10 inches swept the detector over and it was still there. Two inches deeper I saw something ceramic, blue and white, so began using my fingers to clear the dirt around it and YES..it was a pot, laid on it's side. This is the point when my heart started pounding. Tried the detector again over it and it screamed even louder. At this point my concern was to get the pot out intact so it was a finger and knife job. Finally I got to the point where I could get my hands under the pot to extract it. Getting a good grip with both hands I gave it a tug, and.................... it broke into a thousand pieces.

And what was inside?........................ a large amount of rusty nails welded together with age and a bunch of what looked like hair.

A good while later reading a local history book in our library I disovered it was once the custom for farmers to bury a pot near a fence post containing nails and horse hair. These were called 'witches pots'

and were placed to ward of evil spirits. I'm sure some of you may have heard of this.

So, up to date, that has been my only NEAR MISS hoard.

The quest goes on.