Thursday, 10 May 2012

What to expect on your first rally, and what to take with you.

So the time has come when you feel confident enough to sign up for a rally.
But what is a rally all about?
A rally can be one of three things in my humble opinion;

1) A club event for members only. This is a very safe event with a club where you have become a member. Clubs often put on events for their membership on tried and trusted land. There won't be any toilets available on most of these digs, so make sure you have not had a Vindaloo and 12 pints of larger on the previous evening.

2) An open event put on by an established club. These events are put on every now and then to generate income into the club, and also to bring in new members. They are generally well run and reliable events with friendly marshals and readily available information. It is a very safe bet for someone who wishes to dip their toe in the organised dig scene. Again, there is probably not going to be a toilet available.

3) An open event put on by someone who wants to generate an income or turn a profit. These events are put on solely to generate money, and run like a business. This should not put one off attending, as some of these digs are fantastically successful and a ball of fun.  Events of this type can be full weekenders (camping), where entertainment may be available on the evenings as well as refreshments. It can be a truly amazing experience. On the other hand it should be noted that occasionally fraudster's have seen these events as a great opportunity to help relive you of your hard earned. If you do plenty of research and stay in touch with events through forums and magazines you should be safe. Don't hand any money over until you are sure it’s a good thing. These events often have toilets (thunderboxes) available. 

So what can you expect to find on arrival at a rally?

Well I can tell you this, the first open rally I attended had me struggling to find the location of the farm (make a u turn, you have arrived at your destination, turn around where possible grrrrrr!). I knew I was in the postcode area, but leafy tree lined roads obscured my view and I could not see the cars in the adjacent field. I did however happen upon a strange fellow wearing a Roman helmet knocking directional placards into the verges. Well it isn't every day you find a Roman legionary carrying a lump hammer in the middle of nowhere.
As it happened, the legionary was the chairman of the club who had put the dig on. You see, the thing with metal detecting is that it does attract some very colour full characters. Ok, some are verging on the eccentric, but that's the kind of thing that makes the hobby so interesting to me. 
When you finally arrive at the car park, you will usually be shown where to park. Be careful, as detectorists tend to park up and lay their machine out at the rear of the vehicle with machine leaning on their shovels. Now it would not be a good start to the day if you drove your Mondeo over a couple of Deus which had been left out in full display while their own quaffed on a cup of tea! 
Once parked up you will need to find the main man, not difficult if he wears a large red Greco Roman helmet!
On most reputable rallies you will be required to show your detecting insurance. This is best gained by either becoming a club member, where the club is affiliated to either FID or NCMD. Alternatively by joining either organisation direct. Now here is the hardest part of the day! Take your wallet/purse from your pocket and remove the required amount of money/fee. Now pass it to the person who is coordinating things. Members pay less than visitors, so anything from £5 to£45 dependent on the type of dig. You will usually be required to sign in and show your FID/NCMD card at this point.
Now you’re almost there, just a little while longer. You may have been handed a bird’s eye view map of the land, marking out the fields available, put it in your pocket you will need it.
It’s highly likely the organiser will want to brief everyone before the off, listen carefully to what they say. They are most likely to be able to point you in the best direction for finds. They usually give you a briefing on the dig rules and regulations.
Something i always like to do is to strike up a conversation with fellow enthusiasts. Not everyone wants to speak, but you will offend no one by trying. It’s a good thing to do for several reasons. One of which is that when out in the middle of nowhere , you can always say hello again and find out where the finds are coming up. Don't be shy, it’s good to talk.
Early doors at a rally in the West Midlands.

So the whistle goes and
Well here goes! Ok a quick check before i set off, water for drinking....check, spare battery.....check, map....check, snack....check, small plastic wallets for best finds...check.
(I always think it a good idea to have somewhere safe to put anything interesting hence the plastic wallets.)

 Some of the detectorists will have done hours of study on the land and will be telling everyone where the features and likely hot spots are. You can follow these guys to the hot spots if you so desire, no one will complain. They are not always on the right track though; however you can't beat good research.
The organiser will sound off to let you know you can get underway. I always find it an amazing sight when 80 or so detectorists do a charge of the light brigade up the field.
At this point I will say don't allow yourself to be intimidated by all of the guys with whistle and bells detectors! If they don't walk over it they won't find it. Hold your head high and enjoy your day out, after all you have paid for it.
The organiser will want to photo any nice finds you have, he will probably tell you where to meet for photos and at what time in the day to be there. There are often marshals dotted about; you can ask them any questions you may have. Remember the map in your pocket; you can be up to a mile away from the start point. The map will help steer you around the field without having a red faced neighbouring farmer loading up his 12 gauge because you are in the wrong field!

So enjoy your day and make friends, ho and don't forget to find something.
Good luck and god bless.

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