Vil­lage has gone me­tal de­tec­tor crazy

Loughborough Echo - - MIKE LOCKLEY -

I WAS fas­ci­nated by news in last week’s Sun­day Mer­cury that the site of a “guerilla” English civil war skir­mish has been dis­cov­ered in a se­cluded cor­ner of Shrop­shire.

The scat­ter­ing of mus­ket balls, un­earthed by a me­tal de­tec­torist, paints an evoca­tive pic­ture of a farm­house siege.

His­to­ri­ans knew such house-to­house fight­ing took place, but have failed to pro­duce ev­i­dence to back their claims. Now they have it.

Peter Reav­ill, finds li­ai­son of­fi­cer for Birm­ing­ham Mu­se­ums Trust, ex­plained many towns and vil­lages used the con­flict as an ex­cuse to set­tle old scores.

“What the civil war was re­ally about be­tween the big bat­tles, that’s the fas­ci­nat­ing thing,” he said.

“One fam­ily had held a grudge against an­other fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions. The war gave them an ex­cuse to thump peo­ple over the head. It was an ex­cuse to right wrongs and pur­sue per­sonal vendet­tas.”

I like their think­ing. If North Korea kicks off, I’m go­ing to smash my neigh­bour’s green­house.

The spec­tre of nu­clear war is some- thing, not re­turn­ing my gar­den shears quite an­other.

The news item has only fu­elled my fas­ci­na­tion for the Civil War. I live close to Bosco­bel House in South Stafford­shire, where King Charles II shim­mied up a tree to hide from Cromwell’s men. That’s where he dif­fers from the cur­rent Royal Charles – he’d have merely hugged the oak.

King Charles is also al­leged to have hid­den in trees in Worces­ter­shire and War­wick­shire. Strange man: half monarch, half mon­key.

If only those Round­heads had looked up, the con­flict would’ve been over in the blink of an eye.

The grip­ping story – a glimpse into a for­got­ten past – has spurred me to dust off my own me­tal de­tec­tor, moth­balled be­cause it bleeped ev­ery time Un­cle Nor­man, and his D-Day shrap­nel, limped up the drive­way.

“What I don’t get,” said Colin while fran­ti­cally sweep­ing Farmer Smith’s field, “is who was the Stafford­shire Whore.”

I switched off my me­tal de­tec­tor and cast a pained glance in my col­league’s di­rec­tion. “It’s ‘hoard’, as in ‘lots of them’,” I pointed out.

Colin thought long and hard. “They found more than one pros­ti­tute, then?” he asked, the au­tumn chill turn­ing his words to smoke.

I ex­plained that the Stafford­shire Hoard was a price­less col­lec­tion of An­glo Saxon arte­facts dis­cov­ered by a me­tal de­tec­tora­tive, de­tec­torist ... chap with a me­tal de­tec­tor.

If he could un­cover a for­tune, so could we. Af­ter all, there was a Ro­man fortress on a hillock only a mile from here.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have un­cov­ered the foun­da­tions of a bath house and even a prim­i­tive cen­tral heat­ing sys­tem. It’s in­cred­i­ble how ad­vanced the Ro­mans were.

“Yes,” nod­ded Colin, “he wasn’t ev­ery­one’s cup of tea, but that Mus­solini knew his onions.”

“To be fair, you could see your face in his boots,” he added.

That’s why we are scour­ing the par­ish field, along with 52 other peo­ple, five of whom are only armed with Dyson vac­uum clean­ers.

“They are bloody good, though,” pointed out Colin. “There’s not a speck of dust on this field.

“One of those Dysons un­earthed my wife’s lost wed­ding ring. Mind you, I had to hold the noz­zle against our Stafford­shire bull ter­rier’s back­side for a good 15 min­utes. My, did he yelp.”

I ig­nored the re­mark and con­tin­ued comb­ing the quag­mire land.

“I’ve got some­thing big,” shouted Colin. “The ma­chine’s go­ing crazy.”

“Colin,” I sighed, “are you wear­ing your steel toe-capped boots again?” He was.

Terry Her­bert’s dis­cov­ery of An­glo Saxon trea­sure in a Brown­hills field and last week’s Sun­day Mer­cury ex­clu­sive has sparked some­thing of a gold rush in th­ese parts.

The cor­ner shop owner has sold out of me­tal de­tec­tors and is now send­ing the lo­cal pop­u­lace into the fields armed with fridge mag­nets. To date, we’ve dis­cov­ered more fridge mag­nets than you could shake a me­tal de­tec­tor at.

Me­tal de­tect­ing has be­come so pop­u­lar around our par­ish that I went out with one yes­ter­day and un­earthed ... a me­tal de­tec­tor.

Now the par­ish coun­cil fears the craze is harm­ing our com­mu­nity’s frag­ile ecosys­tem. A lit­tle over the top, I fear.

So far we’ve only dug up two foot­ball pitches – and that was a very worth­while ex­er­cise. I found the most glo­ri­ous set of goal posts.

It’s just a hunch, but I think there’s an­other set nearby.

On Wed­nes­day, I came across a hel­met in an­other of Farmer Smith’s fields.

“Ro­man?” asked Colin. “No, Ja­panese. An­cient Honda, I think.”

I’m still con­vinced there is trea­sure out there.

Our tiny par­ish is steeped in his­tory. When King Charles hid in that big oak, he must’ve dropped some loose change, surely?

Farmer Smith was an­gry about the lat­est large gath­er­ing on his spud field, but one of our party de­tected some­thing very in­ter­est­ing.

“A coin! A coin!” shrieked Colin. The mob dashed to his side.

“And it’s got a Ro­man Em­peror’s head on it,” he an­nounced, but which one?”

I grabbed the coin and scru­ti­nised it. “Em­peror Bobby Charl­ton, I told him.

“It’s a 1970 Tex­aco World Cup to­ken.”

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