When it comes to metal detecting in the United States, James and I live in a very good area. The northeast is home to historic land dating back to Colonial settlements and the Revolutionary War. The not-too-far-away Middle Atlantic has tons of Civil War history. So, as relic hunters and old coin shooters, we’re in the place to be.
And then there’s England.
When Yanks like us read about what the Brits find, it’s amazing, and yes, we’re jealous. Our history simply doesn’t go back that far. We’re thrilled to find an 1800s or, gasp, 1700s coin, and it makes an eight-hour outing all worth it. But the Brits find 16th and 17th century coins all the time. They’re not uncommon. But what’s even more envy-causing is their even older finds – 14th century, 12th century, all the way back to BC. Add to that all the fields, farms and other land that seem plentiful, we look at England as some mystical Treasure Island. In NJ, we’re usually on small yards and hope that the houses are old, and even better, abandoned and forgotten.
So when I was told in June that I had to go to England for a few days on business, the first thing that popped into my head was, of course, metal detecting. But I would be there on business, with a packed itinerary, and no connections. How would I make this work? And could I?
Since my trip was sending me to Bournemouth, I turned to Google and searched “Bournemouth England Metal Detecting.” Lo and behold, there was a Bournemouth Metal Detecting Club. What the heck, I thought. It’s worth a shot! So I filled out the website’s contact form, explained my situation, and hoped for the best.
Darren from the club quickly emailed me and told me he’d try to connect me with someone in his group. Fantastic! I was excited, but wasn’t getting my hopes up. After all, I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to coordinate a short hunt. Two days before my flight, Darren told me that Gary would be in touch with me.
Yes! Excited as I was, I still wasn’t sure I could swing it (no pun intended). I explained to Gary via email my schedule and mentioned that I wasn’t packing my detector and gear as I wasn’t sure I’d have a connection or time. I then headed off to the UK to meet with a great digital agency, 3 Sided Cube. When not relic hunting, I work for the American Red Cross as Director of Digital Product Management. I’m involved in most of our app development (check them out!) and some of our website and social media initiatives. My flight left at 7pm New Jersey time, and 6.5 hours later would land us at 7:30am England time. Since I’m unable to sleep on a plane since I can never get into a comfy position, it would certainly be a long day.
Our days would be full of outlining and brainstorming upcoming product launches and maintenance plans, and evening dinners that would ultimately bring us all closer together as a group. On night two we visited Corfe Castle prior to dinner. It is amazing! Walking around the ruins, and I was physically pained by not being able to detect on the land. I sadly kept looking at the ground hoping to see a surface find (a coin or relic that is lying right on the surface of the ground). Yes, I know, pitiful. After about an hour we went off to dinner at Scot Pub and I had bangers and mash for the first time – surprisingly delicious to this unadventurous eater (but it needed a side of green veggies). The view from the restaurant was of a beautiful field, a castle, and ocean. Something I’d never think I’d see.
As I was staring back in time, my cell phone rang. Seeing a non-US number, I didn’t care that it would cost a bit to answer as I was pretty sure it was Gary. And it was! Knowing of my busy schedule, Gary agreed to pick me up at my hotel at 5:30am so that I could detect till 8am, and be back, showered, and at the office by 9am. I was pumped!
A few pints later I was in bed. I think it was about midnight, or half twelve (to use the local parlance). I woke up without the assist of an alarm at 5:05am and Gary texted me at 5:08am saying he’d see me in 20 minutes. Woo-hoo!
I met Gary in the car park (more local lingo) and off we went! I had requested that Gary bring some of his hammered silver coin finds and other notables to show me as I’ve never seen them in real life, and he didn’t disappoint. I flipped through his catalog of AMAZING coins, and he mentioned that the field we were headed to produced a hammered silver just 2 days earlier. I was certainly in for a treat.
I don’t know how many times I thanked Gary for giving me this opportunity, but I must have sounded silly to him. No matter, it was the truth. Gary didn’t have a spare detector or gear, and he was gracious enough to let me use his AT Pro and simply walk along side me and let me enjoy the experience. Amazingly generous and I can’t thank him enough for it (there, I did it again). I’m a little familiar with the AT Pro’s numbers because it’s the detector James uses and we often compare signals, but I’ve never actually used one myself. I was very impressed. Really good machine!
It was go time. I was on an old field in England. Two hours to detect in the wee hours of the morning. Gary mentioned that the field was mostly untapped, but that he and his mates found coins in a pattern that seemed to reveal an old path.
I started carefully swiping the coil along the surface of the field listening closely for good tones. We didn’t use headphones so Gary was able to offer me guidance on what the machine was telling me. My first hit didn’t sound the greatest but it was worth digging anyway. Well, OK, it wound up not being worth digging… just some melted lead or junk metal, but still, it was my first UK find. My second hit seemed like a very good signal, so I began to dig. Being extra careful not to get too close to the target, I dug a big but solid plug. Pulling away the earth I got the signal on the pin pointer. I got closer and closer to the target and… a coin!! A coin, and it was old copper. YES!!! Definitely old, definitely copper, but what? I would have to pocket it and clean it up later and hope for an ID.
I was on cloud nine. I went to England, I detected, and I found an old copper. By the looks of it Gary guessed 18th century, but we didn’t know for sure. It was smaller than the colonial copper I’ve found in the U.S. but these things come in many sizes.
I continued on swiping and listening for good signals. The next one came and it was another coin!! This one was bigger, along the lines of what I’m used to. But too difficult to ID. Two coppers in such a short time. Amazing!
The ground wasn’t very junky at all and I didn’t do a ton of digging. But the digging I did was well worth it! The third copper coin I found was right on the surface. No digging required! So my prayers from Corfe Castle were answered in this field.
Another dig yielded what may be an old lead trade weight, but I’m not certain. More research and help from the metal detecting community will be required. I also found a button and what’s either a piece of a button or the top of a thimble. (Gary explained that people used to cut the tops off of thimbles so that the fingers could slide in deeper.) One of the holes even produced an old pottery shard, and another first for me — a musket ball.
It was time to call it a day and we started walking back to the car. Along the way I held the detector near the ground and suddenly a really solid high tone. It rang as an 80-85 on the AT Pro. “I gotta dig it!” And I dug. And dug. And dug some more. The hole, OK, crater, was embarrassingly big … but the signal was still there. Gary took the detector and tried to hone in on it. Apparently my pinpoint was off about 2 inches and I missed it completely. I chalk that up to not being savvy with the AT Pro. So, one shovel later and out pops a large copper coin. Yes!!! Four for the day!!
We packed up and headed back to Bournemouth. The traffic was brutal, but it gave us a chance to talk and get to know each other a bit more, so it wasn’t a bad ride at all. I got to the hotel at 8:45am, took the fastest shower of my life, and got to the office at 9:05am. On time in my world!
You’ve probably heard James and I say this before but it’s worth repeating. When we go out detecting, we’re looking for buried treasure. It’s not gold, it’s not diamonds, but it’s treasure in the form of the experience and camaraderie. Good finds are an added bonus. On this trip I found Gary and Darren. They helped a complete and total stranger realize a dream and, if all goes well, opened the door for the dream to continue on future trips. Their generosity was completely selfless, completely unexpected, and completely appreciated. I sincerely hope the digital world helps us maintain the conversation and makes us friends. And if they ever visit my neck of the United States, I will more than happily reciprocate. They are both a class act and (I’ll say it again) I can’t thank them enough!!