Metal Detecting Thursday.

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Greetings my friends,

After the trauma of about three weeks ago, I was glad to get out on the beach last Thursday and partake of a little metal detecting. I needed this and thankfully, the weather was on my side. The wind was fairly strong but not too cold as a tea-shirt and two sweat shirts were enough to keep me snug, especially when I’d done some digging and worked up a little sweat!

Young Herring Gull

Herring Gull Larus argentatus, probably the most abundant species of seagull, around this area.

At first, I was in a quandary of where to go as the tide times were all wrong for detecting at the usual spots, a large high tide was mid-morning and this meant that Blackpool proper, was out-of-bounds. The only places which were available for me to detect, were the absolute top of the beach at Squires Gate and the top of the beach at Lytham St. Annes. Wow though, there was lots more water than I was expecting for the official hight of the tide, perhaps it was the strong on-shore wind which was aiding and abetting more water being driven in.

At Squires Gate (south Blackpool), there were a myriad of different coloured design’s of wind surfing sails and equipment, assembled by various sportsmen and sportswomen engaged in this kind of activity. I envied them, they looked so fit and I would have taken some photo’s but the wind was laced with grains of sand. It was so busy, I decided to move a little further south to Lytham St. Annes and see how I fared there.

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Lytham St. Annes – Google image of where the promenade has been extended out and my chosen detecting spots for the day – finds may be “trapped” by the wall, especially in the corners – those spots are always worth checking out.

At the northern end of the promontory, the extended promenade accommodates some extra attractions, like a small boating pool, swimming pool and a cinema.

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The Lytham St. Annes lifeboat – Courtesy of the RNLI/Ric Oldland.

One of the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) lifeboat’s is also stationed here, she’s named Her Majesty The Queen (no. 12-30) and is an all-weather lifeboat (ALB), so essential to this part of the coast. The boat is housed in the light blue, modern building which is overlooking the boating pool (Google image).

The RNLI is a charity dedicated to saving lives at sea and a few inland locations, they provide 365/24/7 cover, comprising two hundred and thirty-six lifeboat stations, located around the UK and Republic of Ireland. The dedicated work of the charity does not stop there however, they also provide lifeguards (well over 1000) for the many dangerous beaches around the UK (over 180 altogether).

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Statue commemorating the loss of all hands in 1886.

On the night of the 9th December 1886, the German barque “Mexico” foundered off Southport (across the Ribble estuary) and thirteen men with the Lytham lifeboat went to the rescue – all hands died at sea and this statue commemorates the valour of those involved.

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank the many people who have been and still are, involved with the RNLI, especially the volunteer lifeboat crew, the volunteer shore crew and the other thousands of volunteer’s who raise money, give advice and raise awareness on behalf of the institution. Keeping people safe from the often deceptive and treacherous waters around our coast, the sea providing so much for us but costing so many lives in the process.

When detecting at this spot, I often wonder at the enormity of the task faced by the crew, especially when hampered by a rough sea and with waves up to 10m or more in hight. Special people.

Iron debris

Encrusted iron – a lot of this around here!

Before I started, I cleared my mind with some simple meditation techniques and then embarked on a serious detecting session. There was dry sand at the northern and southern ends of this artificial enclosure/dune development, so I decided to begin at the northern end and move south later. The targets for today were going to be recent finds but of course, one never knows (the eternal optimist eh!).

Someone's been digging before me!

Someone’s been digging before me – it’s always best to fill one’s holes, even though the tide will cover this again later!

I found £3.18 in modern coins and some bits and pieces but about half way through the session, I started having some trouble with my headphones. They kept cutting out and I had to twiddle the plug on the phones themselves, to get the threshold tone back. They’re also uncomfortable to wear (probably because I also wear glasses) and I think I’ve just been waiting for an excuse to buy some new ones. I’ll check the cable/plug and see if I can fix the problem but from now on, these will become the spare set! I’ve not mentioned the name of the phones because the majority of other users like them very much, so there’s a good chance it’s just me and I didn’t want to “diss” them just yet.

Finds for today

Finds for today.

I wanted to mention that Freckleton library have asked me back to give a follow-up talk in the near future and my friend, who attended last time, will be accompanying me again. We’ve come up with some good idea’s on how to improve the talk and I’m going to visit the library sometime soon and discuss the options with them. One thing I’m very keen to improve upon, is the practical demonstration of the sounds and tones from different metals but I’ve a few idea’s about that.

On many occasions whilst driving home, I’ve meant to take a few snaps of this well known church. I’ve somehow never managed to achieve this and so today, I was doubly determined.

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The White Church – not so white on this dull day!

This is Fairhaven United Reformed Church, more commonly known as The White Church and was opened on 17th October 1912. This additional church was deemed necessary in fulfilling a need for the continuing expansion of Lytham’s population and all official parties agreed, the building should not only serve as a church, but be architecturally distinctive into the bargain.

There are several classical Victorian and Georgian buildings in Lytham St. Annes, all worth taking a look at yourself, if architecture is one of your passions, that is! They’re amongst the nicest and most well preserved in Lancashire and I love the distinctive character they bring to the town.

Anyhow my friends, I’ll be back soon :) so until then, Best regards James :D

The Wonderful World Of Metal Detecting

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Greetings my friends.

A little while ago, I mentioned I was giving a talk on metal detecting at Freckleton Library, the lovely and picturesque, close-knit village of Freckleton being on the Fylde and only a few minutes away from the coast and Blackpool. The library is a valuable and essential asset to the village, with a splendid atmosphere for both learning and relaxed reading and not only provides a great collection of books and other resources but has access to the internet through several PC’s.

Freckleton library

Freckleton library

The talk was scheduled for the 16th October at 7pm and boy, by the time I arrived, was I nervous. Fortunately, I was greeted by Jacqui and Joyce, manager and assistant manager and luckily for me, one would find it difficult to meet two more lovely people. Impossible though it seemed (knowing my demons), I felt better and a little more relaxed almost immediately, they made me feel so at home and before the talk started, we had a nice little chat over a much-needed cup of tea (I was “spitting feathers”).

I would be fibbing if I said this was my first attempt at public speaking (but it was the first time doing something like this) as there were many occasions, just as many years ago, when I did do a little. I used to read the bible lesson in school assembly every other day (my best friend who attended the talk, read on the other day’s) and I once made a speech at the public hall, introducing the mayor of Preston. The peculiar thing was (I thought so then and well, still do), the mayor was a woman but I still had to introduce her as Mr. Mayor! Since then I’ve kept myself pretty much in the shadows as far as the public eye is concerned, that is, up until now.

Jacqui had made sure the library’s projector and screen were available for my laptop, as I’d decided to do a power point presentation – one I’d already been working on for the occasion and in all, there were some 19 slides with headings and bullet points (with a few pictures here and there). These points not only reminded me of where I was at (a must for my memory) but allowed the audience a chance to keep track of the whole “picture” and where previous elements could easily be referred back to later. I called the talk “The Wonderful World of Metal Detecting” and in the end, it lasted about an hour and a half.

Someof the group looking at some finds from another fellow detectorist and myself.

Some of the group looking at finds from a fellow detectorist and myself.

A bit of self-analysis.

I suspected this was going to be a steep learning curve and I wasn’t disappointed as on reflection, there were several valuable lessons learned. I wish to share these with you but of course, the conclusions I arrived at are only my humble opinion, so here’s a few points I thought were relevant:

  1. I felt that I should have spent a little longer on some points than others, to make sure new people interested in the hobby are comfortable. I’ll explain more about best detecting techniques and what that involves, more data about setting up the detector properly, swinging the coil, pinpointing with or without a pinpoint mode etc., I did cover this but I didn’t explain in the detail I was satisfied with.
  2. I took my detectors with me, to show the different sounds made by each type of metal but there was a lot of interference from all the electrical equipment present, like the library’s personal PC’s, extensive wiring and other stuff. The detectors were very unstable and in my anxious state, I even forgot to press the “Noise Cancel” button on my Minelab, which tries to find a quiet channel automatically when pressed, especially good when there’s a lot of “outside” electrical influences. Doh! I’m particularly embarrassed about forgetting such a simple one as this! As it was, I turned them off and moved on to give a verbal explanation!
  3. I sometimes found it difficult to keep to the structure of the talk as I allowed it to become a little unstructured from the word go. As I explained some points, I was drawn into speaking about other immediately related topics, either by branching off myself or by questions from the audience. Maybe the next time, I’ll ask of the audience that if I could first give the talk and then we could have a question-time at the end.
  4. Next time I will prepare a fact sheet, with links to relevant pages on my blog or elsewhere, which will provide helpful information i.e. tips on how to gain permission, letters, agreements, tides, beach tips and more!
  5. Again, as I look back to the first point, I had planned a strategy and decided on a power-point presentation, I just need to trust myself more and remind myself to stick to the plan.

Anyhow, those were the bits which I think I need to work on besides my general presentation skills (which will improve with experience) but all things being considered, the talk seemed to have been enjoyed by everyone.

Some finds I brought with me.

These are some of the finds that I brought along with me. A fellow detectorist and member of the Blackpool Metal Detecting Club attended the talk, my sincere thanks to him as he brought some of his superb finds for us to look at. They included a spectacular bronze age axe head, hammered silver coins, crotal bells (including a rarer crotal bell which was the largest I’d ever seen) and many other superb finds. I apologise that I didn’t photograph them for you and this is another thing I must remember to do in the future.

(I did a little research on crotal bells and found they actually go up to a giant 158mm in diameter – over 6″. Robert Wells bell foundry of Aldbourne, Wiltshire produced the largest range in sizes of bell, with over 30 different ones produced 32mm – 158mm).     http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/nictdQS0TayEgPCH-vq3FA

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Some lead tokens, military badges, weights and a few buttons etc.

I think I passed on my passion and deep connection to the past which metal detecting brings to life for me and I do hope some take up the hobby and enjoy it as I do. I just wish to remind anyone in the group, to email me at any time and I will do my utmost to help or answer any questions, it would be my pleasure.

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Most of my silver collection – nothing older than 1818.

Besides these finds, I’ve boxes of other stuff including thousands of pre-decimal pennies, hundreds of half-pennies, some farthings, thousands of modern coins I haven’t cashed in yet, musket balls, pistol shot and lots of other curiosities.

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Bits and pieces and including weights, pins, buttons, lead toy, junk rings, a hub cap from an old pram and the odd-shaped thing at the bottom is made of bronze – I don’t know what this could be?

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jacqui and Joyce once again for their wonderful hospitality, this made all the difference and has left me with a warm and positive feeling and two new friends. Thank you both very much and thank you for the lovely present of a bottle of wine and some chocolates, I enjoyed them tremendously (had to keep wrestling them from my wife though heh heh) :D

Finally but foremost in my thoughts, I would like to say a big thank you to the people who attended and made the talk possible, it was a real pleasure to meet you all. You were all so very kind and I really appreciated when people came to me afterwards and said thank you, that was very thoughtful and gave me such a lovely feeling. Maybe we’ll bump into each other sometime, perhaps even on Blackpool beach and we can discuss finds, that would be really good :) As long as I find all the gold that is :D

I’ll be back soon so cheerio for now dear friends and my best wishes, James.

Anxiety Medication Withdrawal…

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Greetings my friends.

Something happened at the weekend which sent me into a terrible spiral of dark confused thoughts, profuse sweating, sickness, diarrhoea and I was trembling in what felt like every cell of my body. It was my fault but having made a mistake with the date of my medication, I ran out of two tablets for my anxiety condition – pregabalin and propranolol, on Friday evening. I realised my mistake early Saturday morning and rang the doctors as soon as it opened, only to be told that “they don’t do prescriptions on Saturday’s – it’s for emergencies only”.

I explained the emergency, I explained the predicament I was in, I explained about withdrawal, I explained that I’d tried on several occasions to bring all my medication under one date so accidents like this wouldn’t happen and that this was the first time I’d messed up in two years.

Anyhow, my doctors receptionist would not allow the prescription. I went to my pharmacologist and explained to them but received no help there either, I understood the chemists point of view though and left. I should have asked for an emergency appointment at the doc’s but by this time I was getting rather anxious, confused and a bit irrational. The documented withdrawal symptoms for these drugs and backed up by doctors experience, state that one should not just stop them but I now faced 48 hours without.

Suffice it to say that in a few hours, I could not talk to the family or take any interest in anything but what was going on in my body. I went to bed and after changing the pillow, which was soon drenched in sweat, I thankfully fell into a troubled sleep for 12 hours straight – anything was better than being awake!

To “cut to the chase” then, I’m still here, and its now Monday evening. I rang the doc’s again this morning and received a prescription within the hour. I took the tablets outside the chemist, now I’m just beginning to settle down but still pretty shaky though.

The pharmacologist phoned the doc’s this morning and must have sorted things out – the normal time one has to wait for a prescription at my doc’s is 72 hours, so to obtain it within the hour was good going. I’ve been on repeat prescription for years, so it wasn’t like they didn’t know about the tablets I took. Anyhow, I won’t be forgetting any more prescription dates any time soon, touch-wood!

It was a hard lesson and one that showed up some issues for me. For anyone who takes these type of drugs, or any other which is on repeat, don’t run out of them!

Best wishes and regards, James :’(

P.S. I’m off to Blackpool on Thursday for a little detecting trip, so I’ll “see you on the beach” :D

Something To Get Your Teeth Into…

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Greetings my friends.

A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way home from a shopping trip for groceries, a job which I usually don’t mind doing but today was different, I was having trouble with my mouth! (Image: Courtesy of ClipartPal).

Now, I know what your thinking, “the trouble is, he can’t keep it shut” and although this has been a problem on many occasions, it wasn’t the case this time. Because of my ageing and decrepit, weak body, I’d developed a couple of ulcers in my mouth due to my false teeth rubbing my upper gum – joyous occasions! I prematurely acquired the teeth after an accident weakened most of the top set some years ago and then I lost them, now all I have left are about four back ones and two Dracula like fangs at either side, which show when I have a broad smile or when I laugh, ha ha ha!

Anyhow, seeing I was alone in the car, I decided to take my teeth out and just pop them on the seat between my legs whilst I was driving home and “oh yes indeed” I thought, the relief was wonderful! The trouble actually started though, when I decided to call at a bakery just round the corner from my house, I only wanted a French stick but as per usual, my mind was on other things.

Off I went into the shop and knowing all the staff fairly well, I wasted no time in having a laugh and joke with them, prancing around like a court jester and enjoying being in a good mood. It was only as I walked back to the car, I realised I’d forgotten to put my teeth back in and my embarrassment was made all the worse, as I remembered all the staff in the shop were female….great! (Image: Courtesy of NJ.com)

As I made my way back and thinking I’ll never go into that shop again, I pondered where my teeth would be. I expected them to be sat on the driver’s seat in full view, whilst into the bargain, acting like some sort of bio-hazard anti-theft device. When I arrived back at the car and peered in however, they were nowhere in sight! From the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of pink on the tarmac, it was in the next car space to mine and even before I could get a decent look, I just knew something bad had happened…..and you guessed it, a car had run over them, they were smashed beyond repair!

61MO5MzHPwL._SS100_I don’t know if any of you have had a similar experience – I mean, loosing or breaking ones teeth, can make one feel very self-conscious. Trying to talk without smiling is harder than you think, easier when talking to family but not so when it’s an acquaintance one meets on the street say, whilst walking the dog. (Image: Courtesy of Amazon).

Anyhow, I couldn’t wait to arrive home and find my spare set and as soon as I did, I washed and put them in straight away. It was all good – for now!

Later that day, it was indeed time to take Sam (my little dog) out for a walk, so after putting on his lead and gathering a couple of doggy bags, I looked in the mirror for a final check, just to see if my spare teeth were OK to be seen in public and thankfully, they just about passed muster.

T - Courtesy of Kids Creative Chaos.

I did meet two other dog walkers and as there were no mishaps whilst talking to them, I was quite pleased and this set would do nicely until my new ones would be ready, in one month’s time. In fact, I had the first appointment the following day to start the four-part procedure!

(Picture: Courtesy of Kids Creative Chaos).

I always wear casual clothes around the house, so when I arrived home I “slipped into something a little more comfortable” and leaving my going out clothes on the bed, I made a mental note to sort them out later……

I decided to make something nice for tea, so I went off into the kitchen and started to prepare some vegetables, when in trotted Sam….. I thought he looked pleased with himself and without any hesitation, he just made himself comfortable and carried on chewing something he’d found. I thought it was one of his doggy chews but then I had a more sinister notion, one which sent me into a panic. I remembered taking my spare teeth out when I first entered the house and then slipping them in the top pocket of my shirt, the shirt which was now on the bed…..I looked back at Sam.

Protruding from the corner of his mouth, I could now see some pink and one white human sized tooth, my heart sank. Sam was looking up at me with his sweet appealing face and an expression of pure innocence in his eyes – the teeth were in pieces!

He’s always had a fascination with my false teeth, not wasting any time in taking this opportunity to stage a covert raid into the bedroom, almost immediately after I left. What a good job I was going to the dentist the next day, at least I’ll be able to get things moving…..then the phone rang!

It was the dentist’s receptionist and after the opening greetings she said, “sorry Mr Oliver, I have to cancel your appointment”….. In the end it will now take just over six weeks for my new teeth to be made and just to “put a top hat on it”, I’ve a few important meetings this week. Ah well, I hope they can take me seriously heh, heh but anyhow, this ends the tasteful story of my teeth, may they rest in pieces…..

I hope you have a good week my friends, oh and by the way, does anyone know where I can get my teeth insured?

Best wishes, James :D

A Ghost and the Silver Half Crown…..

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Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo drying itself – a quick shot on the way to Blackpool.

It’s official, I’m losing my mind. Walking past the Pleasure Beach amusement park (situated on the promenade, just south from south pier), I was making my way to the sand and my chosen detecting spot for the day, when I had a big realisation…..my right hand was empty! Don’t ask me how a person who’s going metal detecting, manages to walk about 300 meters from the car and only then realise they haven’t got their metal detector with them…..well, I just shook my head in disbelief, turned around and made my way back. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this kind of trick, oh no, not the first time at all…..I once left the detector at the side of the road and drove all the way home before I realised my mistake, I was very surprised then, to find it just where I’d left it but it was panic stations for a while. I also like to leave digging tools behind, either at home or in the field, usually reaching the furthest distance away from them before I realise, a wonderful sinking feeling, ho ho ho!

As I shamefully walked back south after retrieving the detector, again past the pleasure beach, I cast my mind back to the last time I visited here and oh my, how time has slipped away. Forty three years have flown by since I shakily stepped off a ride called the octopus and spewed my guts up in front of my new girlfriend – it was my sixteenth birthday! I remember the cost for two people to ride the rides for an entire evening, was just £5 exactly.

We went on a ride called the grand national, the ride borrowing its name from the infamous horse race at Aintree, Liverpool and the first drop on the roller coaster, took one’s breath away. I’d bought a giant red toffee lolly for my little sister (horrible monster, more like) and as there was nowhere to leave it, I took it on the ride with me, wedging it between myself and the side of the carriage. As we went over the first bump, my girlfriend and I lifted bodily from the seat and came crashing down, smashing the red lolly into tiny pieces. Back then, the carriages just had a flat bench to sit on and a metal bar to cling on to, it wasn’t much and one had to hang on for dear life! I couldn’t afford another lolly, so my sis wasn’t too impressed when I gave it to her and she refused to have anything to do with it or me but my dad laughed and I think I ended up nearly sick again, as I had to eat most of it myself…..oh and by the way, my “girlfriend” ended up dumping me that very same week (couldn’t understand why)!

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Ghost Train – Blackpool pleasure beach. Courtesy of Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

It goes without saying that we also took a ride on the ghost train (this was before my projectile vomiting exhibition) and there’s me, praying it was going to be sooo spooky…..and it did the trick, the girl was clinging to me for dear life, it felt wonderful! We’d just passed the Dracula display and reached the skeletons when something or someone gently moved the hair on the top of my head (long hair in those days) and a voice said “Ooooowwwww Daddy” in my ear – it scared the living daylights out of me and I still can’t decide whether it was part of the ride, or if it was the people in the carriage behind us!

Then of course, there was the spooky tale of a supposedly real life ghost which has been haunting the ghost train for many years. In both life and death, his nickname was Clogger or Cloggy (his real name seems to be a mystery), because he always wore clogs and on many occasions since his death, the clop, clop, clop of his footfalls have been heard echoing down the tunnels of the ride…….

So, here’s a little diversion for you but before I go any further, a short disclaimer; whatever I feel about the authenticity and methods used in the video’s made by various ghost hunting crews, has no bearing on my personal interpretation and belief (or not) in paranormal activity of the ghostly kind, you dig?

“Most Haunted” Paranormal Investigations – Blackpool.

Britain’s answer to the USA’s Zak Bagans and the “Ghost Adventures” crew, is a paranormal investigation show hosted by UK tv personality Yvette Fielding and medium Derek Acorah, called “Most Haunted”. A show which has been blasted by sceptics on many occasions (including this episode) but nevertheless, has gained in popularity throughout the UK. The show visited the Ghost Train, Ripley’s, the Tower and one or two other places and was televised in October 2012. The team tried to experience the ghostly happenings and capture them on camera for all to see…..(those who are really terrified or with an uncontrollable desire for the detecting section may skip this bit now, heh heh!).

So there you go my friends!

The Metal Detecting Session.

As I’ve said, today I’m just south of south pier and the topography of the beach is different on this side of the Victorian structure. This is due to the action of the tide and the direction it comes in at (a better explanation of tide action may be found on the Fylde Coast page). In short however, the tide comes from south to north and then prevailing winds coming from the south-west, blow the tide on shore at about a 45 degree angle. When the tide hits an obstruction like the pier, there are further disruptions in the sand. Notice the difference, the sand is much lower on the other side of the pier and with a couple of drainage channels:

Pier

South Pier and the sand is much lower on the other side, giving better chances for the detectorist. This is one example of the changes in topography, one must look out for.

Anyhow, I arrived on the sand and despite a lot of poor souls being lost off Blackpool, I hadn’t heard about any ghost stories around this spot yet (there probably are though!) and my thoughts came straight back to the job in hand.

Starting in the furthest channel from the pier, I quickly gained a 10 and a 20 pence piece, they were like new and in the next hour, I also added a few more coppers to the bag, along with a couple of rivets and a piece of flat copper strip. As I approached the pier structure, two £1 coins and my first pre-decimal joined the rest (it was a penny), another two modern coppers followed and then I had a spate of trash items which I thought were never going to come to an end.

By about lunchtime, I was detecting close to the end of the pier and the sandy bed of the channel now had a layer of pebbles showing through, definitely a good sign and so it proved in this case. My next coin and only the third I’ve ever found at Blackpool, was a silver half-crown piece – wonderful! Sadly though, the coin was rather encrusted and I suspected it’s was of a date later than 1919, when copper was added to save on cost, the coin probably comprising only 50% silver. To remove some of the contamination, I had it soaking in olive oil to loosen the dirt, before I tried to gently clean some of it off (not very successfully I might add, more soaking needed, much more!) and here it is…

Half crown

Half crown (1920) 50% silver 50% copper (1 year after sterling silver had ceased to be used). This standard was maintained until 1946 after which, silver played no further part in British coinage.

…here’s the rest of the coins (half-crown at bottom right):

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Finds.

Not much spending money this time, the wife will have to go without her dinner again LOL but the day was already complete…..I’d found the half-crown.

Cheerio for now folks and take care, regards James :D

The Blog Gets A New Theme…

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Greetings my friends.

I’ve thought of changing the theme on this blog for quite some time now and so today, finally, I browsed the options available. I tried quite a few themes like “Manifest, Shine On, Syntax, Twenty Eleven, Ryu and Twenty Twelve” etc. but decided this fit the bill quite nicely and is called “Chateau”. I might change the header to a photograph of my own and a couple of other little tweaks but essentially, that’s about it.

Hope you like it folks :D

A Most Excellent Detecting YouTube Channel.

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Greetings my friends.

A little while ago, I mentioned I’d acquired a camcorder as a free gift from buying insurance and that I was going to record some detecting sessions with it. In short however, I have not managed to do this yet, so I thought I’d show you a video from someone who’s an expert in this discipline, he’s not only superb with a metal detector but also has a wonderful style of presenting the program. It’s my great pleasure to introduce you to Hans, a YouTube detecting friend whose excellent video channel called TerraGermania, is one of the best I’ve seen and in this particular episode he’s detecting a small stream which has seen activity from at least as far back as Roman times. This is how it’s done folks and I promise you’ll enjoy this:

What did you think?

I’ll be back soon, so cheerio for now :D

Regards James.

Detecting Blackpool And An Earphone Plug Cover….

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The tides at Blackpool are perfect this week, the times of low water moving forward steadily between about 09.00 and 13.30, from Monday to Friday respectively, giving me plenty of options as to when I could go. So here we are, early Wednesday morning, travelling down the by-pass which will take me to Blackpool south, without ever entering the town. Traffic was at a minimum at this time of the morning and when I arrived, I noticed there were still a few free spaces left for me to park my small city car in – joyous, as this saves me about £10 in parking fee’s!

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My Minelab Explorer SE Pro and my trusty edging/border spade!

Before I describe the detecting session and explain my finds, I’ve decided to show you a home-made protective cover for the earphone plug socket and plug, it’s just a simple idea I once read about and adapted for my detector. One takes a small empty snack size bottle of coke or the like and one cuts it down to fit over the earphone socket and slot down into the arm rest clamp. There are a few sizes of these small bottles, so make sure you choose one that will comfortably fit the whole of the socket and plug, without splitting. Here’s a close up of the finished cover, such as it is:

Home made ear phone plug cover.

Home made earphone plug cover – front-side slots behind the arm rest.

Below shows the rear of the cover…..

Cover

The coke bottle cover – this rear-side slot fits over the detector rest which is situated on the underside of the detector, opposite the arm rest.

This completely protects the earphone socket and plug from any rain or sea-spray etc., certainly one less thing to worry about and something I’ve been grateful for on many occasions!

Blackpool beach – squaring up to become a nice day, its was already nice and warm – T-shirt weather!

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An almost deserted Blackpool beach.

I concentrated my first search around the south pier area and stayed close to the end of the pier itself, the sand seemed lower here but even so, I couldn’t get as close as I wanted, there was just too much interference from so much iron, not only the pier but lots of loose iron debris too.

I’ve made some very nice gold finds around this area over the years and some lovely Victorian gewgaws’ but I’ve never found more than the odd coin or two in all that time and even then, ninety percent of those coins were pre-decimal. It came as a surprise then, when I found twelve modern coins totalling £2.34, all in a relatively small area.

I extended my search around the pier but didn’t find anything else except some bits of copper tube/wire, some shells (rifle and handgun) and including an unfired blank but even so, I decided to find another spot. Should I just wonder along the beach and look for any likely places, or should I decide on a certain spot and just go? I made my mind up to wonder along the beach for a while, just to see what happened and well…..nothing really happened at all, my only discoveries were a few bits of trash!

I was a little disappointed but not really surprised, this area has always been less productive than the pier (for me anyhow) and by now the truth was, I found myself loosing interest – not so good! Another move and I was working my way along the foot of the sea wall and luckily, iron interference wasn’t too bad, just an intense signal at every joint of the “steps”, probably from the reinforcing metal rods located there.

Working the detector carefully, I found several more modern coins – my little pouch of treasure was getting heavier!

Finds.

Finds.

Piles of stones had been deposited along the wall in several places – an indication that other things could have been deposited there too and so it proved, with several more coins finding their way into the bag. Four more £1 coins made a total of six altogether and with the other coins I found, added up to £7.99 – not bad! There was also a junk ring, an old safety-pin and again, a suspender belt button!

Cheerio for now my friends, regards James :)

Some Key Developments In The Evolution Of The Flintlock Musket.

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Greetings my friends, I hope you are all well :)

Fire lance.

Fire lance (top right) – 10th Century. Courtesy of Kaleidoscope.

I don’t know whether it’s my morbid outlook on life but when I think about history, the first thoughts I have and how I remember historical periods, seem to be by the many terrible and/or violent things which have happened due to “mankind’s” well er…..due to “mankind’s” nature, sadly. I know there are many great people and discoveries which have come down through history too, like those of Archimedes, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and many others; brilliant composers and musicians such as Bach and Mozart (Mozart was writing symphony’s from about eight years of age) and wonderful painters like van Gogh, Monet and Rembrandt. It is however, the brutal stories of war, conquest and persecution which I remember mostly; the violent dark ages, the Norman conquest, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation, the witch hunts and the World Wars, to name but a few…..

Even as I was going through my small collection of musket and pistol shot the other day, I was again reminded of the bloody times and millions of people who must have died because of this lethal innovation and its eventual development into the modern assault rifle. I realised soon enough that the beginning of the story goes way back to probably Greece in the 7th Century or even before, further back in history than I imagined, at any rate. This is but a flavour, a glimpse of a few brief moments in history but hopefully, it may also serve as a platform for further investigation.

If one wants to start at the beginning of war-fare by fire and read up on the fascinating discoveries of how we [mankind] probably first arrived at the primitive version of the hand cannon, called a fire lance, then here’s a list of Wikipedia pages which may wet one’s appetite and provide a place to start:

  1. Greek Fire.
  2. Fire Arrows.
  3. Fire Lance.

Gun powder (potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal) or black powder as it is also known, was first thought to have been used in China around the 9th Century but initially, the properties of these ingredients were an accidental discovery whilst seeking an elixir to prolong human life and in the early stages, it was only used in fireworks.

It was probably as early as the 10th Century that black powder was first used for military purposes, in the form of the fire lance. A tube filled with gun powder and sometimes metal shards or darts, was attached to the end of a spear and used as a type of exploding javelin which was thrown at the enemy after ignition. If hit, the enemy would be showered in exploding gun powder, damaging projectiles and then the spear itself but the first significant documented use of such weapons, did not occur until the defence of De’an County, China, in 1132.

I suppose firing or igniting the fire lance was a rather risky business, especially the early types which had barrels or tubes made of bamboo. Some of these most probably exploded in all directions when fired but nevertheless, facing several hundred or several thousands of these weapons for the first time, must have been an awe-inspiring and shocking experience to an invading enemy. Eventually, barrels were cast in bronze, which made things a lot more user-friendly and facilitated the next stage of development for this “gun”.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Hand Cannon.

Cannon/Bombard/Gonne/Gun (Gun is a modern term given for a later development). 

With improvements in the development of the fire lance and the explosive yield of black powder, a new era in gun ware-fare was about to be born with the introduction of the hand cannon. Probably first used in 13th Century China but quickly spreading throughout Europe (Europe probably already knew the recipe for gun powder – Roger Bacon’s Opus Majus and Opus Tertium 1267).

Hand cannon. Courtesy of Wikimedia commons,

Hand cannon or bombard – Western Europe (1390  - 1400).
Courtesy of Wikipedia commons.

Originally fired by two people, one to hold the “stock” and aim the cannon, the other to ignite the powder through a small hole in the top of the breech with a piece of rope, a hot piece of coal, a stick or similar but if the stock or cannon was propped against/on something, then it could be fired by just one person. Extremely inaccurate and weighing anything from about 1.5kg to 15kg, the firer just aimed the weapon in the general direction of the target and hoped for the best; the closer they were, the better.

These developments allowed for more effective projectiles to be fired from the tube, including balls of metal or sometimes stone, the range of which was much improved; tactics for battle slowly began to follow a different course but at this stage, cannon power and ammunition still had difficulty penetrating body armour. Of course, this soon changed and the demand for “artillery” such as the hand cannon and other firearms, increased dramatically on the battlefield.

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Large bronze cannon (breech-loading) of the type used by the Ottoman Empire in the conquest of Constantinople (1453). Courtesy of Wikimedia.

By the 14th Century, the hand cannon was being used in Europe and the Middle east but other developments such as corned powder, the slow match and the flash pan, facilitated the next stage of development of not only cannons but the musket and other small firearms…..

The Arquebus.

Arquebus - Topkapi palace, Istanbul. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Arquebus – Topkapi palace, Istanbul (unsure of date).
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Thought by many as the true forerunner of the musket and most widely used from about 1500 – 1700, pinning down the original development of the arquebus was rather vague, probably in China or Europe. They were documented a being used in some numbers in Hungary from 1458 and exhibited a revolutionary firing mechanism. It was called the “matchlock”, a dramatic improvement as far as lighting the powder was concerned as it took away the need for performing this task by hand, or firing the weapon with two people. Using these weapons in the field became much easier.

The operation of a “matchlock” arquebus, involved a slow match held in a curved metal clamp, which later became the trigger mechanism of the “gonne” proper. The match + firing mechanism (lock) = matchlock and this is a general term used for all types of weapon with this design of firing mechanism. When the string or trigger was pulled, a serpentine shaped clamp (curved metal clamp) lowered the match into the flash pan, this in turn ignited the powder in the breech. It fired a metal ball and again, with no standardization, the ammunition usually had to be tailor-made for each gun. Because of this, ammunition making tools which were suited to the bore of each individual gun, were issued to each owner so they could form extra ammunition in the field – a joyous occasion, I’ll bet!

Another development in the early 16th Century, was the “wheel-lock” firing mechanism. A complicated and skilful design but too intricate for mass production and was mainly used for élite, made-to-measure guns and guns needed for special operations (they were better made arquebus and more accurate over slightly longer distances than the easier to produce matchlock design).

The superb workmanship of a wheel-lock mechanism from a pistol made in Augsburg, probably manufactured around 1580:

Exterior of Wheel-lock mechanism.  Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Exterior of Wheel-lock mechanism.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

One wouldn’t want to get mud or grit inside here.

Interior of wheel-lock mechanisn.  Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Interior of wheel-lock mechanism.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

When the trigger is pulled, a sprung mechanism incorporates a spinning steel wheel which rubs abrasively against a piece of iron pyrite, a shower of sparks is created which ignites the powder in the flash pan.

The Flintlock Musket.

By the early 17th Century and several further developments in the firing mechanism eg. the snaplock, the snaphance and the doglock etc., the flintlock mechanism was born. A tremendously important step as now the operation carried out by the “dog” (a sort of safety catch), was no longer required – the whole firing sequence (apart from priming the flash pan and loading the powder and ball) would now be facilitated by the internal workings of the lock. Many different types of weapon came to use the flintlock mechanism but the musket was the most popular and again, as in other pieces which have come before it, this was a smooth bore, muzzle-loading type weapon.

Flintlock mechanism. Courtesy of The Arms Guide.

Flintlock mechanism.
Courtesy of The Arms Guide.

The original musket was large (from 5 – 6 feet long) and heavy (10 – 12lbs), it originally used a forked rest when discharged and fired a round lead ball. As in other “gonnes” like the smaller arquebus, the ball was slightly less in diameter than the bore, allowing for any potential build up of debris in the barrel and in this way, the ball would still be able to exit, unhindered.

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Some musket balls and pistol shot.

The musket was capable of penetrating body armour at a longer range (probably up to 150 yards) and was first used for this purpose but when the weight and length of the gun had been reduced somewhat, they were more easily carried around and were used more by infantry soldiers and small skirmish type groups in closer combat than just for long-range work.

They proved very successful when deployed in a rank firing formation; one line of men fire and then they move to the back of the rank, the next line then fires and then moves to the back and so on. The front line may remain where they are or take a step forward each time it’s their turn to fire, by the time every line has fired the first has re-loaded and is ready to fire again – a continuous volley of bullets. This strategy required that the oncoming enemy was allowed to come within 50 or 60 yards or so of the lines of musketeers before the order to fire was given and at this range, the continual volley of bullets were devastating to the advancing infantry.

Brown Bess

The famous British flintlock musket – the 1756 version long land pattern “Brown Bess”. Courtesy of Military Heritage.

The “Brown Bess” smooth bore, flintlock musket is the longest-serving firearm of the British army, used from 1722 – 1838, it reputedly had a maximum range of about 175 yards and was only replaced in 1839 by a similar musket, the only difference being the newly developed percussion cap type firing mechanism. The first Brown Bess was just over five feet long and could accommodate a seventeen inch bayonet attached to the end, making a total length of just over six and a half feet. The bore of the barrel was .75 inches diameter, or .75 caliber (cal) as it is also known, it generally fired a bullet of .69 cal to allow for the barrel fouling with powder residue.

In my view (humble though it is), one of the most important developments of all was the invention of the rifled musket by the early 19th Century: a set of grooved spirals down the internal surface of the barrel, caused the bullet to spin before exiting the gun. The spin enabled it to fly on a very straight trajectory and along with further developments in the design of the bullet, was a big leap forward in the accuracy and range of the weapon i.e. now very accurate to 500 yards or more and still deadly at over 1000.

Although true rifles had been in evidence for some time, they were not yet a viable proposition for the battlefield. They took far too long to re-load and this became more of an increasing problem as again, debris progressively built up in the barrel after each shot. This was one of the reasons why in 1853, the British “Enfield” muzzle-loading, percussion cap, rifled musket had replaced the smooth bore flintlock musket in the British army; muskets were quicker to reload and were more user friendly than rifles. Likewise, during the American civil war in the 1860′s, the American 1861 “Springfield” rifled musket was the main weapon, followed by the Enfield.

Minie balls and an Enfield.

Minie balls and an Enfield on the right (bullets just over actual size).

The minie ball began to replace round ball shot from about 1830 – 1840, it allowed much quicker muzzle-loading of rifled barrels. The minie ball had a flange type hollow at the end and ribs which expanded when fired, the bullet then fit the rifled barrel more snugly and more pressure was built up in the breech, dramatically increasing the muzzle velocity and the range.

This is the story so far, the stage was now set for the development of the breech-loader and the true rifle proper, followed by the assault rifle of today. This is where the tale will continue next time. Until then, have a good week and cheerio folks…..

Regards James :)

References.

Sixpences At The Squires Gate…..

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Over the course of time, most anything can and does happen with the movement of sand on the beach and that includes movement by things other than the tide. When I arrived at Squires Gate, Blackpool, I was still expecting several inches of extra sand at the top of the beach but instead, I had a nice surprise. A 10 meter strip had been scraped clean by the bulldozer – right down to a bed of pebbles which are usually only exposed after big tides and choppy sea’s. This was a real bonus as there was extra sand everywhere else and as I looked around the piles made by the machine, I could see that a lot of trash had been scraped up too. Unfortunately, some modern finds will also have been gathered in the debris but one can’t have everything and in any case, I prefer the older finds which may be underneath! I must also say that gold rings tend to settle in places like this too, sinking through the sand but unable to penetrate the pebble layer.

Here’s some of the trash which was still left!

Trash.

Trash – from pull-tabs to light bulbs.

There were many people on the sand but the pebbles were clear, no other detectorists were in sight either, so I almost had it to myself. I started on manual sensitivity and set it to level 22 (least sensitive = 0, most sensitive = 32), detecting in all-metal mode which means seeing every metal target (no discrimination) and using ferrous tones (giving a signal tone based on the targets iron content as opposed to its conductivity).

As I worked my way along the pebble bed, I immediately started to find pre-decimal coins and to my delight, a few of them were sixpences. I was hoping these coins were silver but all except one were rather encrusted and green, maybe they were minted towards the end or even after true silver/silver-alloy coin production I thought, as more copper etc., was added at this time. One sixpence did however, turn out to be sterling silver and two others were 50% silver. Their position at the top of the beach allows the coins to be exposed to more oxygen (longer water-free periods between tides). This means more corrosion for the coins with less silver in them, as oxidization occurs with other metals which may be present in those coins i.e. when copper is oxidised, it turns green (it’s all about chemical reactions, bonds and the movement of electrons, kids). Besides this, particles of sand and other foreign bodies stick hard to help form the encrustation.

On the top row are the sixpences and describing from left to right, the first one is a sterling silver Queen Victoria young head (pre 1887) it has had much wear and tear and I couldn’t see a date and hardly any detail. I suspected this coin had a high silver content as there was no encrustation and the damage and lack of detail, was due to abrasion and staining. The next four coins date 1942, 1945 and 1948 with second from right again having no date as yet. (Silver ceased to be used in British coins after 1946).

 

six

The finds.

I found a few “new” one-pence’s, a couple of two-pence’s and some other odd’s and sod’s like a couple of hair clips and several suspender belt buttons (naughty, naughty eh?). I can just imagine, mostly WW2 servicemen I think, taking their dates for a nice quiet stroll along the beach after a night out and a few beers, suggesting a sit down in the dunes to admire the night sky but of course, having some ulterior motive in mind, perhaps? Honestly, with the total number of suspender belt buttons I’ve found here over the years, I could start a little shop :D

Anyhow, it was getting rather crowded here by now, so I decided to move down the coast a little way to Lytham St. Annes. I didn’t go to the pier area this time though, it would be crowded here too, instead I moved just a little further south, almost into the jaws of the Ribble and the last sandy beach on this side of the estuary.

Here’s a few pictures of the second beach I visited (I forgot and left the camera in the car for the first one – it’s just an age thing!).

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The second beach, this time at Lytham St. Annes (looking north).

This was about 11.00 am, maybe a bit early for many beach goers yet…

Most

Most of the finds came from the dry sand and pebbles at the top of the beach.

Grandma and Granddad, the dog and the grand-kids.

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Having fun.

A few more people had gathered by 12.00 o’clock, detecting was getting more difficult as I always feel self-conscious if it gets too busy.

Scruffy beach.

A bit scruffy looking (the beach I mean, lol) but some finds here.

The kids showed a lot of interest and wanted to try and dig targets for me.

end/start of beach

Looking in the other direction (south) – the end or start of the sandy beach, depending on which way you look at it.

There is a rich biodiversity in the mud-flats and marshland habitat of the Ribble estuary.

mer

Looking across the Ribble estuary to Merseyside (about 10 miles at this point).

It was a little hazy as I looked across the estuary today.

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Large candle.

I did meet a couple of nice people as I was detecting here, one was a lecturer from an agricultural college and we had a useful chat about modern farming methods and animal welfare but that’s another story, we also talked about metal detecting on beaches other than those in the UK. The Canary Islands were one of the locations she mentioned and her brother-in-law always detects the beach where he stays every year, always finding enough money to pay for the evening drinks – great work if you can get it! On the other hand, I’m struggling to find enough to pay for a single beer lol, good job I don’t drink much (well only water) :D

I think most of us detectorists have sometimes wondered what it’s really like to look for treasure on foreign shores, the mountains or the desert. I have imagined all sorts of scenario’s in years past, where I discover a huge gold nugget in a remote desert, or a vital clue to where pirate treasure is hidden, to go on an adventure in the mountains and discover secret clues to Jesse James gold. I think for me it’s the adventure, the exciting sense of discovery and in the case of artefacts and coins, the sincere wonder of reaching back and touching the past.

Have a lovely week my friends, best wishes, James :)

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