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22 Sep 2013

Minelab supports local scouts rally

Laverstoke Park, Hampshire, UK

Scout Metal Detecting 001 (5).JPG

Out and about…with the Scouts at Mr and Mrs Sheckters place.

Metal detecting is such a rewarding pastime and it is always nice when the time and effort spent in gaining permissions is repaid in making an interesting find or two from a new field.  Our hobby can also be rewarding in many other ways and it is this belief that has always been a fundamental part of the Southern Detectorist Group’s way of doing things. 

The Southern Detectorist Group, (SDG) is a small friendly bunch of like-minded Detectorist that are passionate about showing how metal detecting can be carried out responsibly whilst contributing to the recovery and preservation of the Nations heritage. As such the group prides itself on doing things “a little differently” and as such we often find ourselves in new and exciting detecting situations. This write up tells the story of when the SDG met the Scouts at Laverstoke Park for a day of discovery.

The story started many months ago after an idea was hatched by SDG member, Martin Gilchrist (aka Broadsword). The initial idea was for the SDG to host a dig where Martins local scouts group could attend and come along to try their hand at metal detecting. After a few discussions with the scout leader and the other members of the SDG, it was decided that the plan was a great idea and the SDG then started to put the plan into action. Little did we know at this point just how big and exciting a challenge this would become..!

To make the day a success, many things had to be considered and the biggest one of these was the selection of a suitable venue.  One of the venues that were discussed was Laverstoke Park which is a large estate in the heart of historic Hampshire that is owned and managed by Jody Sheckter, the ex-formula one racing driver. Since taking over Laverstoke Park, Jody and his wife Clare have developed the site into a self-sustaining organic farm which produces some of the finest quality meat and produce in the area. Laverstoke Park has also played host to many festivals, (Most recently the Chris Evans Carfest event) and it was therefore thought that the number of modern losses  might make the site a good venue for a day’s detecting as well as assisting the landowner with the removal of any unwanted metallic debris from the site.

The wheels were put into motion and soon the correspondence and meetings were being arranged to get the event off of the ground. Over the coming months, representatives from the SDG and the scouts worked tirelessly to make the event happen. Access to a number of fields at Laverstoke Park was secured and site visits were made to confirm the arrangements and ensure that all parties involved were in the picture as to what was being organised. The event was also supported by our good friends from Minelab, who got to hear about the dig and supplied the group with an overwhelming amount of goodie bags for the scouts which contained pens, badges, hats, flasks and a few compasses…just right for those orienteering expeditions. A local detector supplier also provided two new metal detectors as prizes that could be handed out to the scouts that found the oldest item and the most valuable item.

The support from the SDG, the Scouts, Minelab and the team at Laverstoke Park was second to none and it was only through the help, generosity and assistance of these people that the dig was made a possibility. The planning continued and a date for the dig was set for after the August Carfest event.

Preparations continued and before long the car was loaded with equipment and the members of the SDG and the 1st Frimley scout group descended onto Laverstoke Park to see what secrets lie in wait beneath the surface of the soil.

It was an early start for the SDG members on the day of the dig as we had agreed to set up a finds desk where all of the finds made during the day could be logged and identified. The first scout on site was Callum Gilchrist, who had arrived with his mum and dad as part of the SDG contingent. It wasn’t long before Callum had got the got the group organised and the SDG gazebo and finds table had been erected at the entrance to the first field.

The morning was grey and overcast and there was only the occasional shaft of early morning sunshine punching through the clouds as the cars started arriving at the site. The weather forecast for the day was good and thankfully the chance of rain had all been ruled out by the weathermen.

The farm buildings were quiet at this time of the morning and the peace was only broken by the friendly chat and banter of the assembled SDG members. Occasionally, the lovely smell of fresh cut hops floated across the site as the Laverstoke Park as it turned out that the Laverstoke Park organic beer brewing was in full production. Overhead, a red kite, wheeled round, keeping a close eye on the proceedings. The conditions were perfect.

The fields that were accessible during the day had all been cut short and a fair bit of “organic material” had been spread on some of the fields, and although a bit smelly, this just seemed to add to the countryside feel of the occasion.

Right on time, the advance party for the scouts lead by the scout leader for the 1st Frimley pack, Kieron Goron arrived on site. The catering gazebo, toilet tent (pure luxury for an SDG dig) and hot water boiler were then quickly set up in readiness for the arrival of the scouts that would be attending the dig. Soon enough, car after car arrived at the security gate to the fields and before long a sizable group of around forty scouts and parents were assembled in readiness for the days digging. A briefing was then provided by SDG member Steve Broom (aka Dirt-fishing) and the scout leader Kieron, on how the day was to be conducted. All of the attendees then collected a pair of gloves and headed out into the field to team up with the various members of the SDG who already had their heads down and were slowly fanning out across the first field.

SDG member Richard Martin (aka Suresight) remained behind to welcome any late comers and to man the finds desk and it wasn’t long before the first excited shouts could be heard from the scouts as the finds of modern money made its way from the ground into their pockets. Amid the shouts of “yay…50p” and “I’ve just found a quid” an announcement was made across the back to back radios that one of the scouts had just recovered three one pound coins from one hole. That was a nice little hoard to start off any new detectorist’s account.

The first couple of hours passed and the group was now well spread out across the three fields that had been allocated for the day. Small groups of three, four and five people could be seen navigating their way across the landscape intent on finding that first significant find. Then, just before the morning refreshment break was called, a small life guard and life savers medal dating to the 1930’s was found. News of this interesting find soon spread and before long the find was back at the finds desk being bagged up and recorded for everyone to take a look. Soon enough the other scouts started to arrive at the finds desk to hand over their finds to be catalogued. The finds desk attendant carefully cleaned and mulled over the finds to achieve a positive identification and as a result a small George III farthing was then recorded for one delighted scout. A quick glance through the reference documents that had been supplied for the day confirmed the style, shape and date of the coin and the lucky scout quickly took on some refreshment before heading off into the field once more.

Throughout the morning a steady stream of finds, artefacts and coins made their way to the finds desk. Unfortunately, the fields did suffer from a lot of unwanted targets and these also found their way into the scrap box. This resulted in a nice collection of can fragments, plough shears and tent pegs being collected, but this was a useful bi-product of the days detecting as the fields were cleared of the items and the scouts readily offered to recycle and reuse the straighter tent pegs.

Lunch was approaching and the call went out that the hot dogs would soon be ready. All of the groups seemed to turn towards the catering tent and slowly they made their ways down off of the fields for some well-earned sustenance which was beautifully cooked by Kieron and his team.

As the weary legs trudged back up towards the finds desk, a number of other coins, buttons and other unidentifiable objects were declared, none of which threatened the position of the George III coin for the oldest find, or the medal for the most valuable find. However, my favourite find of the day was declared by one of the girl scouts who proudly declared her find of a badge which simply stated “I Love Biscuits”… very apt seeing as the group were now tucking into the tea, biscuits and hot dogs that had been laid on by the scouts.

As lunch progressed, the back to back radio crackled into life and above the noise of people chatting over lunch, a faint claim was heard… “Finds desk, we have just found a roman coin in the top field”. This caused a buzz of excitement around the group and it wasn’t long before a single solitary scout was seen to be marching across the field with the prized coin in his hand. A quick glance of the coin confirmed it to be a Barbarous Radiate, from the 4th Century and this was swiftly confirmed by other members of the group.  Congratulations were handed out and before long, many of the groups had reassembled after lunch and these could be seen heading off in the direction of the top field.

After another hour or so, the final 15 minutes of the dig were called and all of the groups could be seen frantically digging holes to retrieve targets. Unfortunately, this effort only added to the modern coinage and scrap totals for the day and before long it was time for the groups to head back to bring the event to a close.

It really is surprising how far you walk during a days detecting and this was evident as the groups slowly made their way back across the field to the finds desk. There was a lot of interest in the finds to see who had been successful in securing the oldest and the most valuable finds of the day. Adjudication was made and after offering some words of thanks the SDG Leader, Steve Broom then handed out the prizes that were presented to the winners by Clare Sheckter.

The winner of the oldest find was Daniel Short who was lucky enough to recover the roman coin. The winner of the most valuable find was taken by Katie Whapshott and Cameron Goron who found the life guard and life savers medal. The winners were presented with their prizes and remarked that they had thoroughly enjoyed the day and had found the experience to be hard work, but fascinating.

The event was then bought to a close and before each of the scouts left the site, they were handed one of the goodie bags that had been supplied by our good friends at Minelab. Once again, this generated a lot of excitement as the scouts peered into their bags to see what it contained.

Hopefully their experience during the day will lead some of them to take up the hobby in its own right and the SDG can only hope that we have showed them the right and responsible way to do things.

As the scouts were collected and made their way from the site, the news that two other roman coins had been discovered during the day, but because the finds had been made by a detectorist that wasn’t with a scout at the time, they didn’t count towards the prizes. However, the find of a 1st Century Sestertius and another, as yet, unidentified roman coin provides us with a tantalising glimpse of what else might lay under the soil at this fascinating location and the invitation of a return visit has already been kindly extended by Clare Sheckter for the following year.

As the equipment was packed away and the organisers and SDG members reflected on the days events, it was agreed by all that the day had been a great success. The scouts had behaved impeccably and it was agreed that they were a credit to the organisation that they served. Their interest had been maintained throughout the day and each of the scouts from the youngest to the oldest (and including some of their parents) had taken part enthusiastically. It really was a great day out in the field where a number of organisations had come together to produce an experience that was not only worthwhile and memorable and I can only thank everyone that was associated with the event for making it possible.

It is so important to engage with young people and metal detecting achieves this easily by captivating and firing off the persons imagination into wondering as to what might lay beneath your feet when the detector gives of a signal. This makes the hobby a great leveller and one that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, interests and backgrounds.

I would think that many of the scouts (and SDG members) slept well that evening and I can only hope that their dreams were of their next interesting, historical or valuable find…as many of my dreams so often are.

Steve Broom (aka Dirt-fishing)

Southern Detectorist Group

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