Tales of rare finds, Instagram stories, and, of course, that hit TV comedy means metal detecting is buzzing. Today’s detectorists reveal what they love about it
Lucie Gray, 31, Lincolnshire
Set up Roman Found on Instagram
We almost started it as a joke in the garden during lockdown. My cousin, Ellie, bought a metal detector for herself and then I got my hands on it – and she never got it back! It was something fun to do when we really couldn’t do a lot. I’d always had this interest in history since I was a young child as I grew up metal-detecting with my dad.
It’s a bit unique how we do it together: I find the targets, then Ellie digs the hole and excavates the find out. We were addicted after the first coin we found: which was a 1947 halfpenny. I think metal detecting is sometimes labeled as geeky or nerdy. But when you try it, you realize those labels don’t actually mean anything if you’re enjoying yourself.
Metal-detecting is now much more in the public eye, with shows like Detectorists. When we saw that there was a community on Instagram, we started our own page, Roman Found, which now has more than 55,000 followers. We’ve got a TikTok page and a YouTube channel, too. I think the popularity of our accounts probably comes down to the curation and the attention to detail: we’re both designers and we try to tell the stories of our finds by filming each one. Metal detecting is really good for my mental health, too. I’m neurodivergent, and being able to focus on one task is something I have struggled with. But metal-detecting is impossible if you’re not focused on the task, so it really makes me feel present at the moment and stops my mind from wandering into places it shouldn’t.
I’ve learned a lot of patience and focus. When I first started metal-detecting I couldn’t do it for more than an hour at a time. Now I’ve built up the stamina to detect all day.
Ellie Bruce, 23, Lincolnshire
Co-founder of Roman Found
Finding old things is appealing. It’s the wonder of going out and picking up something that no one has touched or even seen for years and thinking: “This could be 1,500 years old!”
When I was about 21, a friend of mine got us permission to go on this farm in Norfolk. We’d got to this one field and we thought: “Well, that looks quite interesting.” Over the next couple of years we went there when we could and built up a collection of bits of brooch, bits of Anglo-Saxon metalwork and buckles.
Before Christmas 2014, I was there on my own one day, detecting to see what Anglo-Saxon metalwork I could find. I got this big deep signal, dug down 2ft, and eventually found the rim of a big bronze bowl. I left it in place, marked the spot and went and spoke to the Norfolk county council’s historic environment service. They came in the January afterwards and excavated the bowl and the area around the find. It had been a high-status burial, which included a stunning golden garnet pendant and gold necklace, and other grave goods.
It went through a coroner’s inquest and was declared treasure. In the end, myself and the landowners, and the museum that wished to acquire it, Norwich Castle, came to an agreement on value. The pendant itself was £140,000, and just over £5,000 for the rest of the assemblage.
I got a quarter of the payout. There was a quarter for me, a quarter for my friend who got us permission, and then half for the landowner. That formed a fair chunk of a deposit on a house after I left university. The find probably gave me some encouragement to go and get into archaeology professionally – I work in commercial archaeology now.
It’s a fun hobby, but one that requires a lot of patience. There are a lot of hours that you’re not finding anything. But if you put the hours in, I’ve found, you’ll eventually get the results.
Ruth Harding, 68, Lancashire
Took up metal-detecting in retirement
During lockdown, I was sitting around like everybody else. I must have seen something somewhere because I just remember that one day I thought: “Metal-detecting, I’ve always wanted to do it!” I’m retired, I came back to England three or four years ago. I’d been living in Canada for 40 years, and it’s just not a thing there.
I went to my first dig – and I was hooked. In some ways, I think humans are like dogs. Because I always think dogs need a job, even if it’s picking up a stick that’s been thrown.
Researching the detectors was actually a nightmare because there are so many, but I bought one: a Minelab Vanquish 540. I’ve now got a Deus machine, which is one of the lightest metal detectors. For most of us, as we get older, we can’t swing the detector all day. I’ve got one knee replacement and arthritis in the other – kneepads, boots, and gloves need to be upgraded all the time.
In the UK, you need the landowner’s permission to detect on their land – and also that of the tenant, like the farmer if the land is being leased. Because I don’t have permission to detect on anybody’s fields, I go on group digs, where the organizers have secured permission for us to detect on the land in advance. When I first started, I went out practically every week. Now, I tend to do one dig a month, because it can be expensive – many digs are now £20.
I’m in a Facebook group, the Sassy Searchers Ladies Metal-detecting Tribe. It’s great to have a group for women. There are more than a handful who have joined the Sassies because they’ve been in other groups and felt that when they’ve asked questions, they’ve had someone mansplain. We’re very supportive. It’s like a little family.
Recently, I found a hammered Elizabeth I coin – hammered refers to the process used to make them. I keep everything I dig up, even rusty machine parts and bits of lead, and weigh it all in at the scrap yard at the end of the year.
I get out, even if it’s pissing it down with rain. I feel like I’ve been reintroduced to England. I left when I was 25, I spent more than 40 years abroad. I’m going to some areas where I’ve last been 40-odd years ago, and parts of England I’ve never seen before. I wish I’d started detecting years ago. It’s all history, isn’t it? We’re walking over this ground and we have no idea what’s beneath it.
Dave Crisp, 76, Wiltshire
Finder of the Frome Hoard
I’ve been metal-detecting for 35 years, and I’ve never looked back. I’m as passionate now as that first time I went out and started to find what I thought was treasure, but really was just rubbish: the few odd coins and bits and pieces. As soon as I walk across that field, all my troubles disappear.
One week in April 2010, the sun was shining. I was working as a chef in a local hospital and I had two days off. So, I asked the missus: “Is it all right if I go out?” She said: “Yes, go!” Off I went down into Somerset. I had three farms all next to one another where I had permission to detect.
I got a good signal, so I cut a little bit of turf, flapped it back – and there was a silver Roman coin, a siliqua! They don’t come up very often, certainly not for me. I put it into my pouch, not realizing that I would spend the next three hours going round in circles on that field, literally picking up silver coins.
I had to work the next week, but I really wanted to try this field again. So on the way home, I thought: “I’ll pop in for a couple of hours.” I got a signal and, at first, all I could find was this one coin and a bit of black pottery. So, I dug a bit more. I ended up pulling out a big chunk of yellow clay and, studded like little sultanas in a pudding, were bronze coins.
I literally shouted: “I’ve got two hoards!” There was the scattered hoard of siliquas and what is called the Frome Hoard: 52,503 coins in a pot that weighed 160kg in total.
The Treasure Valuation Committee valued the Frome Hoard at about £360,000, which is a payment in recognition that you did the right thing and reported the treasure. Now, it’s in the Museum of Somerset. They have made a fantastic display of it.
I split the money that I was given with the landowner of the field, so we got about £180,000 each. I always say if I’m talking about it: “Well, 180 grand, that’s not bad for three days’ work.” I bought my council house, which I’m still in. My family did well out of it, too. When I pop my clogs, they’ll do better out of it again. It changed my life.
The excitement is still there whenever I go out, even if I have a bad day and I only find rubbish. I just think: “Hey, it’s a bad day, but I’ve been out in the fresh air. I’ve been out in the sunshine. I’ve done a bit of walking, so I’m keeping a bit fitter.” It doesn’t even matter if I don’t find anything.
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Every time I mention that I’m pre-med to someone, the first question that always logically follows that is “What kind of doctor do you want to be?” Only two years into college now, it’s understandable that my answer is always changing. I’ve responded with neurology, anesthesiology, gynecology, endocrinology, cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology… I might as well just add zoology and geology at this point. But never in my life have I ever said that I wanted to pursue surgery.
I thought about this phenomenon and why I was so deterred to ever share a liking for the surgical field. I have the utmost admiration for surgery, especially after reading Dr. Gawande, Dr. Youn and of all these other great surgeons of our time. It’s a difficult field. It’s respectable. It’s the epitome of the medical field. And yet, I can’t utter the words that I even like the field.
I realized this past summer that without even realizing it, my mind was wired to believe that women and surgery don’t mix. Something about the dynamic of medicine or the countless discussions I’ve had with doctors or medical students has completely psychologically shaped me to not view surgeons as women. All the books or articles I’ve come across by surgeons are always by men. The only time I’ve ever seen female surgeons is in “Grey’s Anatomy,” and well… That’s it.
Now, I understand that this is a personal perception and there is much more to this reality. There arewomen surgeons. They do exist. Many of them are successful and extraordinarily hard-working. But, surgery is a very male-dominated field. According to Stanford University, while 33 percent of men choose to pursue surgery in medical school, only 14 percent of women choose to do so. For many reasons, this makes some degree of logical sense — the lifestyle is worse, many women want to have children and have a family, the pay isn’t equal, the treatment isn’t equal, there are many barriers for women in the surgical field. When I brought up the topic to other doctors, both men and women agreed surgery for women not good for “looks” and the lifestyle is grueling. The journey is very long, arduous, and physically and emotionally taxing. The pressures on a female surgeon to be both a “woman” and a “surgeon” are unreal.
Yet, despite the obstacles that women do face when deciding to pursue surgery, I was primarily bothered by the fact that I never even considered women to be in the equation at all. Never have I been told to pursue it. Never have I been described its rewards. There’s just too much of a stereotype that men should be surgeons.
And with all that, such is the dynamic of medicine. Medicine is constantly changing. The treatment and pay that women face in medicine is slowly but surely working towards full equality. Like I said, I don’t know what I’m going to pursue as a doctor, but I do hope that when I’m in medical school and we are all choosing our fate that I see more Meredith Grey’s and Christina Yang’s, and that I don’t feel deterred to choose what passion comes my way.
Summer is still a while away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start developing your plans. My freshman year of college is ending in about a month, and I can’t wait for summer break. Since I have to keep myself occupied from the beginning of May to the end of August, I want to make those months fun and memorable. Listed below are some of my plans for this summer!
Get a tattoo
Last summer, I was going to get a tattoo but never ended up scheduling a time to do it. I’m actually glad I didn’t get that tattoo because while in college, I discovered another idea. Now that I have found a design that has a stronger meaning to me, I can’t wait to make definite plans to get it this summer.
Binge watch season three of “Stranger Things”
After watching the recent trailer for season three of “Stranger Things”, I can hardly wait for it to return to Netflix. Even though I will most likely be working on the Fourth of July, that won’t stop me from pulling an all-nighter to watch season three. And let’s be honest, binge-watching is part of the experience.
Work with friends
I absolutely love my job. I even told my two closest friends and sister to apply where I work because I love it so much. Working at the Turkey Hill Experience last summer was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I made a bunch of new friends, and I’m so excited to go back this summer to work with them and make new memories.
Catch up with high school friends
Despite the fact that I’ve made new friends at college, I’m excited to go back home and meet up with some of my high school friends. I can’t wait to sit down and just talk with them in person. From discussing college to telling funny stories to reminisce, I’m going to treasure the time I’m home to visit these friendships from four years.
Learn to play the guitar
It has been a huge goal of mine to learn to play an instrument well. I already have a guitar in my hands, so now it’s time to learn how to play it. Since I won’t be tied up with schoolwork, I’ll be able to set aside time every day to teach myself. Hopefully, by the move in of fall semester, I’ll have the guitar somewhat mastered.
Last summer, I fell in love with exercising and was really happy with my health/fitness life. College has definitely taken a toll on me, both mentally and physically, so I’m ready to have more time dedicated to working out. I’m also looking forward to actually making my own meals instead of going to the dining hall everyday.
Spend more time with family
After attended college far from home for a year, I’m happy I get to spend more time with my sister and parents this summer. They are all huge inspirations in my life, so having them close to me this summer will only make me inspired every day to work on my passions in life.
Make new recipes
Like I mentioned above, I can’t wait to make my own meals. With that comes looking for new recipes to try. Since I’ll be moving in an apartment next semester with a kitchen, I need to work on discovering the best dishes to make. I want to get more into cooking, and the summer is full of opportunities to practice and perfect new recipes.
Leave stress behind
I truly can’t wait to not have to worry about schoolwork for about four months. After two semesters filled with constant stress from classes, this summer is dedicated to relaxing. It will be nice to finally breathe and enjoy life without the responsibility to study for multiple tests and write three papers at once.
These are just a few of my summer plans, and I can’t wait to make this summer memorable with my family and friends. Here’s to summer 2019!