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Metal detecting: more than just searching for buried treasure

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Metal detecting has seen a surge in popularity since the BBC comedy series Detectorists, starring Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones, was first broadcast in 2014.

The biggest challenge facing new detectorists is securing a ‘permission’, an area where the landowner has granted permission to detect on. With this in mind Liam Dennett formed the Gloucestershire Metal Detecting Club (GMDC – a nod to the fictional DMDC in the TV show).

“GMDC is a non-profit metal detecting club – when I started it people were struggling to get permissions, so I found some land through contacts I had, and the aim was to get people digging,” explained Liam.

Three admins help with the running of the club – Karl Monks, Danny Wright and Simon Bellamy. Started only five months ago, the Facebook Group has around 2,000 members. Group digs are organised around the county every other Sunday with the £20 day fee going to the landowner. Depending on the size of the land anywhere between 40 and 100 people can spend the day detecting.

The GMDC dispels the myth that detecting is the preserve of the sometimes-eccentric middle-aged man: “We have children and people of all ages – I’ve got my mother involved, she’s heavily into detecting in her retirement – it’s a great hobby for her and it’s a great hobby for youngsters,” said Simon Bellamy.

Gloucestershire metal detecting club 5 | Metal detecting: more than just searching for buried treasure
Being in the countryside is part of the hobby’s appeal. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

The club’s chosen charity for this year is Mind: “We raise money for Mind, the mental health charity, we get people out and about and whether or not you find something it’s all about getting out the house,” said Karl Monks.

Money is raised through a raffle at each dig, donations, and sales of GMDC-branded T-shirts and hoodies.

Gloucestershire metal detecting club 3 | Metal detecting: more than just searching for buried treasure
Experienced members often offer advice to beginners. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

“Myself and the other admins have all got some kind of connection with mental health. I went through a mental health issue a few years ago, and then my father died so that made things a bit worse, and getting out in the field [detecting] was a bit of respite,” added Liam.

Last weekend’s dig took place near Malmesbury, just over the border into Wiltshire. The weather was glorious though the land, rich in history, didn’t yield as much as expected.

“We’re lucky it’s not raining, though it doesn’t matter to me, I’ll still be digging,” said Karl.

Gloucestershire metal detecting club 2 | Metal detecting: more than just searching for buried treasure

“Just getting out into the countryside and seeing nature – butterflies, wild flowers and we saw two hares this morning – if you find something you’re lucky, if you don’t you’ve still got out of the house and tried.”

Simon echoed the sentiment: “Obviously it’s thrilling if you discover something that’s been in the ground for 2,000 years, it’s quite a moment,” said Simon.

Danny added: “Go out to enjoy it – you’re not going to make yourself rich by metal detecting but you’ll learn so much. I didn’t do incredibly well at school but I’ve learned more about history in the past five years of detecting than I ever could have.”

Gloucestershire metal detecting club 1 | Metal detecting: more than just searching for buried treasure
The club’s dig near Malmesbury on Sunday. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

That’s not to say nothing of interest has been found: “We’ve found Roman and gold coins on digs in Coleford and Wotton-under-Edge as well as musket balls, medieval pot legs and lots of Victorian and Georgian coins,” said Liam.

“We’ve also found loads of horse shoes and BOATs (bits of a tractor) and of course ring pulls…”

Membership is free, just visit the club’s Facebook group to apply.

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