Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Ridge and furrow on my doorstep.

Ridge and furrow, what is it?

I have detected on many ridge and furrow fields, with very little success.
It always gets the blood flowing when you turn up to a dig and see those ancient markings in a field. It sends out a message that this land has been used throughout history and therefore finds will be abundant. Well I am sure that this will be the case for some people, but I have never had such luck, in fact I avoid the R&F fields when I go on a dig.
Now the town I live in grew up around the coal mining industry, I know little about what occurred here prior to mining fever taking hold. I know the A5 runs through one side of the town, with a famous Roman landmark being only 4 or 5 miles up the road.
But that’s it to my Knowledge; I know little else about its history. I follow a great blog by Brownhills Bob Here which I am sure contains some information about pre mining Brownhills. Once I have posted this blog I will have a trawl through the many great maps and post Bob has on the subject.
I have detected on a patch of wasteland on and off over the last 20 odd years and found a fair few bits and bobs. Part of the land had ridge and furrow characteristics which I had noted, but never thought about investigating further.
Today I had a trawl over Google earth and spotted how prominent the markings looked. Here is an image of the R&F from my screenshot.

Below is an extract from Wikipedia relating to R&F.

Ridge and furrow is an archaeological pattern of ridges (Medieval Latin sliones) and troughs created by a system of ploughing used in Europe during the Middle Ages, typical of the open field system. Other names for this are reans (or reeans) and butts - the rean being the furrow between two butts. Field names using rean exist on Tithe maps. It is also known as Rig and furrow agriculture, mostly in the North East of England.[1]
The earliest examples date to the immediate post-Roman period and the system was used until the 17th century in some areas, as long as the open field system survived. Surviving ridge and furrow topography is found in Great Britain, Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. The surviving ridges are parallel, ranging from 3 to 22 yards (3 to 20 m) apart and up to 24 inches (61 cm) tall – they were much taller when in use. Older examples are often curved.
Ridge and furrow topography was a result of ploughing with non-reversible ploughs on the same strip of land each year. It is visible on land that was ploughed in the Middle Ages, but which has not been ploughed since then. No actively ploughed ridge and furrow survives.
The ridges or lands became units in landholding, in assessing the work of the ploughman and in reaping in autumn.[2] Strips were sometimes known as quillets such as those on the Tithe Map of Erbistock in Denbighshire.

Image below from Wiki, page found Here
Ridge and furrow in Cold Newton,Leicestershire

Here is an extract from British Archaeology web site the poo poo’s my theories to some extent.
Text taken from Here.

Not all surviving ridges relate to pre-enclosure fields. There are two other types that commonly occur, both dating from the 19th century. Wide ridges were sometimes ploughed within enclosed fields, again for reasons of drainage; they are distinguished from open-field ridges in being generally straight, rather wider (often 20m), not so steep and always parallel to at least one field hedge. An outside furrow going all round the field completed the ploughing technique. Good examples survive at Naseby in Northamptonshire (they can be seen from the A14), and other examples are known in Kent.
Another type of 19th century ploughing, most common around Manchester and in Cheshire, has very narrow ridges, 2m - 3m wide. The narrowness distinguishes them from pre-enclosure types; they too fit within present-day hedged fields.
Historical records, particularly open-field maps and detailed ridge-by-ridge surveys amplified by lists of open-field orders or regulations, reveal much interesting information about ridge and furrow. The scattered distribution of strips across a township was often managed in a regular pattern, so that if there were 40 yardlands in each township, a ridge belonging to one farm would be placed at every 40th position, and the farmer would always have the same people farming the ridges either side.
Ridge and furrow is generally regarded as `medieval' but the age of surviving remnants is strictly the date when they were last ploughed, that is when a township was enclosed. For many Midland places this was in the period 1730 - 1840, with examples known as late as 1895 and 1901. Away from the Midlands enclosure was usually much earlier.

The ridge and Furrow i have been looking at does not appear to have any hedge boundaries, which may point to it being early. This is something i will have to investigate further though.
It would be nice to be able to pin some history to those markings.
I will post a follow up to this very soon.

Best regards.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Help, i can't find anything with my metal detector!!!

A question I find myself screaming into the cold and wet morning air as I walk my dogs.
Yes there are over 100 flood warnings out there, and yes the coming weekend is going to be very wet.

This doesn’t always mean bad news for the detectorist, though the same can’t be said for farmers. Poor farmer Giles is unable to seed those fields as he can’t get on them; poor fellow, his tractor will sink.
This year I have noticed there are lots of stubble fields still waiting for the farmer’s attention. This is something that is increasingly irritating farmers as their income is taking a bath along with their land.

My advice is to go and see that farmer who has refused you several times over the last few years and ask him again. This time be armed with a £5 ready to put under his nose. It’s not a lot of money in the great scheme of things, but just might tip the scales in your favour.
Remember he is losing money on that field each day he can’t seed it. He is like anyone else trying to earn a living, give him an opportunity and he will take it.

So go put your rain coat on and pop off to that farm that as always tempted you. Have a chat with the landowner and wave the fiver. It could be the start of a beautiful relationship for you and your detector.

Good luck to you all, and if this post inspires you to go door knocking please let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Two weeks on a whore of a field. Paid feilds for metal detecting at your leisure.


After developing a rain induced bout of "cabin fever", i decided that i would go detecting. My idea was to visit a farm not far from my home, where the farmer charges £5 for a day of detecting (a gauranteed yes).
Now if these fields where human and had a name, they would be "Sticky Vicky" from Benidorm. They have had more men...and women paying to get on them than Vicky could ever dream of.
Anyway, my mind wanders…..

I had mentioned on a forum that I was going go to one of my detecting buddies.  He was one of the few that lived close to me from the clodhoppers club. Lets Call him Smudge for old times sake. Smudge said he wouldn’t mind coming along, so the arrangements were made.

We met on a McDonald’s car park after a 5 minute drive from home.The McDonalds lies next to one of the fields. I took Smudge a ride around the farmers land in my Saab to give him an idea of the land available (those tracks were awful).  We happened across some fields that were ploughed (still some parsnips in them), adjacent to a stubble field which is where we decided to put coil to soil.

It’s always a good idea to do some research on your land; however I have to confess i didn't as I knew a lot about this land from conversations with other detectorists. There used to be a pond on this part of the land where medieval farmers would take their cattle for water.The pond had been filled some 300 years ago. A lot of finds have come from here, including a fair few hammered.

Well, we had about 3 hours on here and found not much more than a few buttons. The rain had heavily waterlogged the ground which I believed was reducing the depth the Deus was working at. We could clearly see where the pond had once been, however it was deep mud and not navigable.

We then moved allong to a field next to the busy A5. This proved to be a rewarding decision. Within 1 hour I had my first and only hammered silver coin. It was an Edward I 1273 I think (don't mind being corrected). It was not in great condition as it has sustained some damage, but recognisable none the less. Smudge had found a Saxon strap end, which he was made up about. I have never found one and would be delighted if i ever did. About 2 hours in I had one of my favourite ever finds. It was a 12th _ 13th century "betrothal seal", in great condition. This is yet to be confirmed, a knowledgeable colleague gave me the identification. Smudge wasn't doing bad either, to follow his strap end, he had a large Roman grot.
The clouds were quickly closing in with rain forecast. After a quick conversation we called it a day. We made a run for it at about 3.30pm which was just in time to avoid yet another deluge. I managed to ground my car on the way off the track which is a risk we detectorists take on our adventures. Smudge had a SUV which handled the muddy tracks with ease.

During the following week, my son had expressed a interest and wanted to come along with me on the Saturday.
The weather forecast was dreadful for the whole weekend. The only light at the end of the tunnel was a few hours on Saturday morning. According to BBC weather there was a possability of a break in our part of the world.

Again we met on the McDonalds car park; I only had coffee…..Honest. We decided to firstly put coil to soil on the field that yielded the betrothal seal. This time I had a George ii half penny not long after we started. My son had a Roman grot possibly a minim. I had a further two George ii one was a penny and the other possibly a farthing. My son had a coin which we suspected was a George ii half penny. He then unearthed an oak leaf pendant, sadly there was no decoration left on it. I had a mysterious Korean cut half coin. One of my forum friends Wayne had said that he might go so my mind was on venturing off to find him.

I stupidly decided we should head across country to a field where I had previously found two Bronze Age arrow heads circa 2000bc, and a few flint tools. The rain had saturated these fields, they were a quagmire which was pulling us down like quick sand. It was exhausting just to try and move 10 meters. We soon put the white flag up and headed for the safety of a stubble field.


 It was about 1.30pm, we had met wayne and his buddy had a chat and moved off. As we crossed the stubble field we noticed the sky becoming very dark indeed. I had a chat with the farmer as he drove past and asked him about a field where a Roman building had been discovered. He confirmed that he owned it and it was in stubble. We jumped into the car and headed off to the said field.

As we disembarked from the car I stated to my son that we had less than a hour to work this field as the clouds were quickly filling the sky. Unfortunately we had only made it to the other side of the field before we were startled by a huge flash of lightening. Now I am no pussy, but standing in the middle of a field with a metal detector during a lightening storm is not a good idea. We headed at a pace towards the car, accompanied by numerous flashes of lightening. I had a cracking signal as we were heading off and stopped to dig it. Again it was a Georg ii half penny. We made it to the car with 30 seconds to spare as the heavens opened. It actually hailed for about 5 minutes making the roads lethal. The rain then set in and put an end to any hopes of extending our day.

Considering these fields are complete and utter whores that have been done to death, they still come up with goodies.
For £5 I get a days entertainment without any hassle driving around door knocking.

These fields are open to anyone. I would recommend if you have no permissions of your own, and your not too far away, give them a go. Even if its just to practice with your new machine. Or may be to release yourself from a rain nduced bout of cabin feaver.

God bless.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Metal detecting with clodhoppers at a open dig.

If you are new to the hobby and happen to stumble upon this post, you could find the following useful;

Open digs are more often than not club digs that are opened to visitors (subject to numbers).
If you have never been detecting, you may want to start at an open dig. You can get help advice and even confidence from these types of events.

The second of December had the clodhoppers out in the wilds of Worcestershire. A fantastic venue with more than enough land and finds for everyone.

From Roman to modern, the fields had it all. I did not hear a single person complain about lack of finds, which tells a story in its self.

Members were in a cheerful mood as this was supposed to be our last dig before Christmas, however now we have another. Christmas hats, tinsel and costumes of all descriptions were present. My friends Roy and May furnished me with mulled wine and mince pies, they were delicious.

Next weeks dig will i have no doubt be just as successfull, details are at clodhoppersmdc.co.uk.
Its a open dig, so if you are responsible and want to get a dig in before Christmas you could always join the forum and put your name down (subject to organiser accepting).

Here is the dig video, please enjoy.

All the very best,

Monday, 18 November 2013

The humble spindle whorl, an everyday find and how it worked.

The weekend brought a much needed relief to the cabin fever i have been suffering of late.
Clodhoppers MDC had a open dig which i was determined not to miss.

As ever the location was kept under wraps until the last minute.
It turned out that the venue was a 115 mile round trip for me, which is nothing unusual.

I arrived deep in the Worcestershire countryside at 8am on a crisp and refreshing November Sunday morning. The venue was adorned with new faces, as normally happens on open digs. The regulars were out in force too, all deep in conversations and forging new friendships’ along the way

The dig was on a site along a river valley with a disused railway cutting at the other side. The landowner had put on some food after slaughtering a pig to celebrate the occasion. I did not take part in the feast, however i believe the food was fantastic.

The detectorist whose permission it was gave a speech which informed all of no go areas and boundaries, then off we went.

The fields were easy digging along the riverbank, as the soil appeared to be sedimentary. In fact there were very few areas of the 100 acres that the digging was difficult. The fields had livestock in them; They were real noisy critters. There were about 20 longhorns with their calves in 1 field, and a Bull in the next field. A few sheep were tagging along with the cattle. I did notice 1 sheep which was hobbling around on three legs, however this is something that is not unusual. Wherever we go to dig, and sheep are present at this time of year, we find three legged hopalongs. I must find out at some point what it is that afflicts them.

After a couple of hours it became apparent that the fields were not going to be giving up tons of goodies, one would have to work for it.

As everyone disappeared off to the sausage chef for some luncheon, i decided to grid out a part of the field the size of a pair of tennis courts. This took me two and a half hours to complete, and yielded 3 coppers two modern 5p's two bag seals and a rather large spindle whorl.

The later find got me thinking about how many of these are found, and how important they must have been to everyday life back in the day. I say back in the day because they have been in use for over 2000 years.

After searching youtube for videos, i found that the use of spindle whorls still happens in some countries. Below is one such video, others are available.

Thanks to spin2weave for this video.

 An ingenious yet simple device that allowed the spinner to get some extra purchase on the spin of the spindle. 
I wonder how they could have been lost, but then again i wonder this about a lot of things i find.

I like to think about how these things were discovered by the ancient folk. I am sure that it was not the case of some one waking in the morning and thinking "if i put some weight on the spindle it will spin better". No, my imagination has some matriarch of the family spinning her spindle in a hollowed out stone. In fact the motion of spinning causes the spindle to wear through the stone and create a small hole. The spinner then finds that the spindle goes through the hole and accidentally grips the stone. On her next spin, the stone causes the spindle to spin for longer and faster than ever before. There and then the spindle whorl is invented..........by a woman.

My paltry finds, oh but what fun. Spindle whorl bottom left.
In the clip below you can clearly see the whorl on the slender spindle as she flicks it between her fingers. The whorl gives weight and motion to the spindle, thus creating the twist in the fibres. A magical glimpse into what our ancestors would have been doing throughout our history.

Thanks to Ecuador 1 for this video.

All the very best to you diggers out there.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

For 25 silver years Julie has stood by my side.

The love laden ramblings of an old curmudgeon.

It was 29 years ago when I first met my wife. Her name is Julie (I called her Jose the first time I met her), I am such a lucky man that fate caused our paths to cross.
Love can not be quantified, it either is or it isn’t, and safe to say they day I met her I knew I loved her. To this very day, I still love her to the full. Throughout our time Julie has always been there by my side.

Julie has put up with an awful lot of nonsense from me over the years. Some things I am not proud of, but none that I would change.  I believe they are the sand and cement of life that kept us so together. To be fair, I have had to put up with nothing from Julie. My dear wife Julie has always been as straight as a die with me, it makes me feel humble. We became the proud parents of a son (Carl) some 28 years ago. Julie was barely 16 and I was coming 17 when he arrived into our na├»ve young lives. We were given a council flat in Brownhills not 500 meters from where we first met (we still live and always have lived within 500 meters of that spot). With help from our parents we made a home of it. My mom and dad only lived 300 meters from the flat, they were a tremendous help to us throughout our early years together and still are now. On the 13th February 1988 we moved into our current house, only 200 meters from the flat we lived in. On that very day we took delivery of our second son Simon. Both Carl and Simon have grown into outstanding individuals, thanks  to the hard work put in by their mom. Through all of this, she stood by my side.

25 years ago we tied the knot, or more accurately left Walsall registry office as a married couple. Times were hard; I was working for peanuts, running building sites for my uncle. I believe this is what helped me get to where I am today, as a manager over £7 million of work (yes I have become a responsible adult). We barely had enough money to buy a bottle of Harveys Bristol Cream for the reception which was held in our lounge. Julie wore my mom’s old wedding dress and could not have looked more beautiful. I wore a cheap suit purchased from Top Man in Walsall. Only a handful of relatives were present as there was not enough room in our tiny house.
We worked hard to make ends meet; Julie however carried the burden of raising the family while I continued with my slightly wild ways. Boxing, Rugby, football and the TA were some of the more memorable distractions I had. Through all of this Julie stood by my side.

21 years ago our family was complete. Darren a bouncing boy came along on the 25th November 1992. We were by now a little better off, with me pulling in a half decent wage. It was nothing spectacular, but kept our heads above water. Julie has almost always dealt with our finances (in the few times I have been left in control I have literally pissed it up the wall). Julie is a complete and utter genius when it comes to domestic finances. I was still playing Rugby (the love of my sporting life), coming home all beat up and drunk on a Saturday night. I was a total and utter cad sometimes!
I would also go out on the lash with my workmates, while Julie dutifully stayed at home. I was made to pay for all of the wildness when I contracted a disease called sarcoidosis, which set us all back, I was only 27; it also ended my sporting days, well temporarily anyway. We have and still do live from month to month with our finances, but I am proud to say we have never been in debt (other than mortgage).  Through all of this she stood by my side.

In the year 2000, we made the decision to purchase our council house (thanks Maggie Thatcher). We were by no means well off, but both of us were working. We got a mortgage, which scared the life out of me. Julie however was as strong as ever and as proud as punch, she quickly set about steering me into many home improvements. In 1999, we had taken the momentous decision to end my career as a ground worker. I was very upset with where my working life was heading,  Julie could sense it as well. As usual she backed me up 100% and I took up an opportunity with a central heating firm as a builder. The kids were growing up fast; in fact Carl was soon to be working with one of my colleagues as an apprentice gas fitter. The money was starting to come in a little quicker now and we were able to treat the kids to gifts and the like that had previously been out of our reach. Julie always has and always will put the kids first. We went without if things got tight, but the kids would not. Neither of us are ones for going on glamorous nights out, or any form of partying for that matter. A Chinese curry and a bottle of cheap fizz was a meal fit for princess as far as we were concerned. I was still capable of letting myself down occasionally and becoming a drunken slob. Through all of this Julie stood by my side.

By 2011, all of the boys were in work with Carl and Simon being employed by Npower alongside me. Both are extremely competent, and confident in what they do. Carl has brought us two wonderful grandchildren. Darren has sorted his career path out and is now a maintenance engineer in a factory not far away from home and doing very well. Julie is a postmistress, which I love announcing to everyone who asks me. Prior to that she worked at Greggs bakery and back further she was a school cook. Needless to say she is an example of how an employee should conduct themselves. I can’t remember her ever having a day off for illness. I am now a contracts manager for Npower, with some far less adrenalin fuelled past times. The most dangerous thing I do is metal detecting on uneven fields. We now have upon us our Silver wedding anniversary…..bloody silver wedding anniversary, I can’t believe it! Julie is as ever my rock and my soul mate. This brings me to the end of my eulogising over our life so far…because guess what? You got it; Julie is here stood by my side asking “what are you doing”?

Friday, 11 October 2013

Clodhoppers dig 29th September 2013.

The day was set to be warm and dry, although we were deep in September. The clods were gathering in the farm car park in droves, it was going to be a well attended dig.
Ayit the dig organiser was taking in the dig fees and busily speaking to the farmer and dig members. Jax was selling the raffle tickets (which is the only fundraising the club does), and to be fair they were sold quite quickly. Without the funds raised by the raffle, the club would be potless. The monies raised goes towards paying for its and bobs what we use for the day to day running of digs.

At 9am Ayit made a quick speech, informing of out of bounds fields and field boundaries. The masses were then released into the wilderness.
On first impression the fields were littered with lots of foil, causing some indignation. This was reflected in the finds for the first three hours which were not the most encouraging.
At lunchtime, a fair few of the detectorists returned to the car park for refreshments. This is the time where if you listen well enough you will hear where the best finds are concentrated. I feel this happened as a few suspected Roman pieces were located in the far field. 
Encouraged by a quick view of the finds, a fair few members headed towards the fields. The afternoon finds improved on the back f this and this is reflected in the few nice bits of roman that appear in the video.

Here is our club video, i hope you enjoy.