A knock on the door gave me a start. When I opened it, there stood Dave. He still retains the enthusiasm that I lack these days, and always arrives with a big grin on his face. He loaded my detector into the car and 20 minutes later we arrived at the departure point. It was almost eerie as small groups appeared like zombies out of the darkness to await the arrival of the coach.
Norman was there, with his clipboard, organising the troops and ensuring he had his full quota of bodies. When the coach arrived, however, everyone had to concede that on this occasion Norman had excelled himself. One look told us that, if nothing else, we would at least be travelling to and from the site in style. Initially, he had booked a 21-seater coach but somehow had managed to obtain one with 49 seats for the same amount of money. Nobody was sure how he had achieved this, but suffice to say his previous employment as a debt collector and salesman possibly had something to do with it! With detectors loaded, and a final head count, we began our journey.
I sat next to Norman and we were soon having an in depth discussion about various aspects of the hobby. Eventually we touched upon the subject of rare coins. I had to admit that despite 20 years of detecting, I had yet to find a coin that could be described as rare. By way of contrast however, Norman had recovered a rare coin and went on to describe the unique feeling associated with such a discovery. I was very impressed. It was a conversation that continued at great length and made the journey appear a lot shorter than it actually was. After a brief stopover, and a couple of wrong turns, we eventually arrived at our destination.
In the past we had normally parked in the farmyard but on this occasion the coach was unable to negotiate the sharp angle required to enter the farm gates. This was probably a blessing in disguise. I particularly didn't want to scare the life out of the landowner who, at first sight and unaware that there were only 29 of us, would probably have welcomed a full 49 seater coach with the same enthusiasm as a large group of Viking raiders! Fortunately there was a second entrance on the opposite side of the farm, which was used by heavy vehicles to load and unload produce. It was here that we finally parked the coach. It didn't take long to unload and prepare ourselves. We had a number of new members with us who had not visited the site before, and they were particularly keen to get on with the business of digging up a hoard or two.
After providing a brief description of the farm boundaries and a reminder to fill in all holes, it wasn't long before I was standing alone with just the coach driver for company. He had never experienced anything quite like metal detecting before and was convinced we should all be certified! My next duty was to visit the landowner to deliver a small festive thank you from the club. The farm house was some distance away from where we had parked, and I was seriously beginning to believe that I would be fortunate to manage even a couple of hours of detecting once everything had been dealt with. Still, I thought as I made my way along the track, at least it wasn't raining and the sun had indeed begun to shine.
It took a few minutes for the landowner to answer the door. "Hello, Jim, what have you got there - a bag of gold coins?" "Not quite" I replied. The chance would be a fine thing, I thought, as I handed over our gift and wished him a happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. "You have a few more people with you this time" he said. For a moment I was lost for words. How did he know? He then went on to explain that he had a security camera linked to the far entrance and had monitored our arrival. Once I assured him that there were 29 and not 49 bodies roaming around his land, he appeared quite relieved.
Walking away from the farmhouse, I weighed up my options. It was now 10.30 and I had to be back at the coach by 12.15 to organise the free raffle. There was little point in travelling too far, so I decided to head for the small field opposite the farmhouse. It was only 20 acres, but had produced some interesting finds in the past including the occasional hammered coin. Convinced that I was the only one this far from the coach, I fully expected to be alone on the field. I was wrong! As I entered the field, Dave (the grin), Bob, Edward, Martin and Richard had all broken the existing land speed record to lay claim to the most productive area. I estimated they had a head start of at least an hour.
As I moved across the field there appeared to be quite a few signals. A Georgian penny, a livery button and a piece of lead took care of the first three, and these seemed to set the pattern for the next hour or so. Slowly, the fragments of copper dross and lead began to far outweigh the worthwhile signals. Although it was clear that the field had experienced plenty of activity, it just did not seem to be particularly productive for me. A quick check with the others confirmed this. However, both Edward and Bob each had a hammered coin. These were both single finds from different areas of the field. Dave, Richard and Martin also had a number of interesting bits and pieces, including crotal bells, musket balls and numerous buttons. A glance at my watch made me realise that I needed to start making my way back to the coach for the free draw. If I couldn't find anything worthwhile, perhaps I might just be able to win a bottle of Scotch and drown my sorrows.