|The Stupid Brothers Actually Find Something
© Mark Gatter, 2004
"It's about time we found some decent stuff," I complained to Martin recently. "Here we are in Dorset, surely one of the best detecting counties in the whole nation. We're surrounded by the remains of Celts, Romans, Normans, Richards, Edwards and Henrys, and everyone who came after them. Let's go and find something!"
Thus inspired, he agreed. To a rousing chorus of 'Haul Out The Hammered's' (sung to the tune of 'Roll Out The Barrel') we set off to pick up our good friend Derek.
I've only been detecting for a comparatively short time, so between the three of us I am definitely the junior partner when it comes to impressive track records. Martin has been detecting for some 8 years, and Derek a full 30. We suspect that he can remember when it took three adults to carry one metal detector, and that the reason he finds so many hammered coins is that he remembers where he was standing when he lost them. His first detector was probably made out of bakealite (sorry Derek, just kidding). Nowadays he has a Minelab Explorer, and I'm seriously considering getting one the next time I'm feeling flush. That's not to say that I've fallen out of love with my beloved White's XLT - it's a great machine. But he can definitely pick up objects that are too deep for me. Unfortunately he always seems to forget his headphones, so he wanders around the field sounding like an elephant trying to mate with the tuba section of the Salvation Army Brass Band. If he's less than 10 metres away it's distracting in the extreme.
I first got to know Derek when he suggested that we try Nutwit, a local estate that he had detected on some years ago. It was owned by a wealthy farmer he described as being a bit odd. 'Anyway', he sighed, 'I look like a pirate, so he's bound to say no to me. I'll hide while you knock on the door.' I trotted up the driveway towards a beautiful old manor house and soon found myself talking to a pleasant, though somewhat cool, individual who obviously wasn't too keen on the idea of his land being ransacked by the two of us. 'How long do you want to detect here?' he asked. I could tell the future hung in the balance, so I told him that we only wanted to poke around for the afternoon. He immediately brighted up and I assured him that I would return to show him anything of interest.
The only areas available for detecting were some very picturesque and ancient pasture lands right in front of the house, all the surrounding fields having been ploughed and seeded a matter of a few days before. Nevertheless, between us we picked up a handful of Georgian halfpennies, one of William and Mary, a 'cartwheel' twopence, a nice old spoon, and a few other bits and pieces. Derek managed to find a rather nice medieval bronze ring. Nothing great, but still interesting. All were in reasonable condition, as the area had never been sprayed or had chemical fertilizers applied. But it had never been ploughed, either, so all our finds were quite deep. One of the estate workers, Daniel, wandered across to us to make sure that we really did have permission, and we got talking. 'I've always wanted to try my hand at this', he told us. 'Especially as I lost my ring a while ago. My girlfriend had it specially made for me'. We assured him that we would be happy to try to find it for him, and delighted when he told us that he'd lost it while working in the gardens of Stuffitall Manor a mere couple of miles away. We arranged to meet up there for following week.
Towards the end of the afternoon I went back to see the landowner. When I showed him the coins he was clearly fascinated, and we had a good long chat as a result. I invited him to pick out whatever he'd like to keep, and he immediately chose the William and Mary coin. Then he clapped me on the shoulder and told me to call him John. 'You can come and detect on all my land', he added, 'any time you want'.
'How kind', I thought. 'Derek will be utterly heartbroken'.
We arrived at Stuffitall early the following Tuesday and were shown around by Daniel. He thought his ring had been lost in one of two likely spots, and as the first was knee-deep in piles of raked leaves we decided to begin with the second, a large flower bed. 'I'll take the front', said Derek rather quickly, leaving me with no alternative but to cruise the back of the bed, mostly occupied by three large and spiky pyrocantha bushes. After several minutes of bushwhacking I had received more punctures than the Tour de France, and decided I'd had enough.
'Blasted thorns', I complained. 'I bet he didn't lose it here'. 'No', chucked Derek. 'I don't think you'll find it...'. There was something in the way he said it that made me look up. There he stood, leaning on his shovel, with a big fat smile on his face. He lifted up one hand and waggled his fingers at me, and there was the ring. 'Found it immediately', he grinned. 'My goodness though, it's tiring watching other people work'.
Of course I immediately told him that next time I visited Nutwit he could come along too - to watch.
But I digress. Derek, Martin and I had by this time been stumbling around in Maize stubble - well, it's hard stuff - for about an hour. Derek, thankfully, vanished over the horizon quite quickly, and only the occasional honk or moan, carried on the wind, told us where he and his Minelab were searching. Martin headed out alongside the road, and I hunted on the lower ploughed areas between a row of small beech trees nearer the gate. Unfortunately I hunted rather too close to one of the trees. Head down, I walked smack into a hefty branch which in turn caused me to sit down, hard, on a thistle. However, I'm not one of the Stupid Brothers for nothing - so neither event damaged me very much.
A few minutes later, having just crossed the track left by Derek and his elephants, I got a good, strong 2-way bleep. I dug down into the earth, and up came my first ever medieval groat. And what a beauty it was, too. Unable to identify it immediately, we managed to pin it down later in the day to being an early Henry VII coin (Spinks 2198, type IIIa). Henry was king not only of England but probably of accountants everywhere. This crafty monarch collected one of the largest fortunes amassed anywhere in the world by using such expedient moves as declaring that he actually became king the day before the Battle of Bosworth, and so everyone who fought against him was a traitor and all their possessions were therefore forfeit to the Crown. I was absolutely delighted, as I've wanted to find a full-face portrait groat ever since I began detecting. Shortly after this one was made the portrait changed to a profile, a model which British monarchs have used ever since.
An hour later, I'd added a Charles I sixpence and a well-worn Charles I penny to the collection. Derek hove into view with a nice bronze stater and a couple of other bronze Roman coins, and Martin had a nice strap end, a medieval buckle, and a (rather more than slightly used) Mary groat.
'Not a bad day out for the Stupid Brothers', I thought, 'but I bet we do even better next time!'