A stay you will love! Metal detection is booming in the UK and a Suffolk farmhouse known for its buried treasure offers short breaks for ‘detectors’. The mail is getting ready…
- Butley Abbey Farmhouse in Suffolk offers ‘detectorists’ getaway
- Butley is close to Sutton Hoo, the site of the ship burial in The Dig
- “Probably there is no better place to track down in England,” says one expert
- Max Davidson tries his hand at ‘ridiculous but pretty exhilarating’ hobby…
Found something, Max?’ ‘No. Few rusty nails and a ring pull. you, Andy?’ ‘No. 1968 pennies.’ ‘Jules?’ ‘No. Pellet from a pheasant shoot.’
If I sound like a character from the BBC Sitcom detectorists because I turned into them for the afternoon. I’m criss-crossing a field in Suffolk with some middle-aged guys with metal detectors looking for buried treasure.
On one level it’s ridiculous; quite intoxicating on the other hand. Who would have thought that the UK tourism industry would have come up with such an oddly brilliant staycation idea?
Thrills of the hunt: Butley Abbey farmhouse is a perfect base for explorers
Metal detection is booming, not just because of the TV series, but because many people have discovered the riches beneath our green and pleasant land – like the Staffordshire Hoard, a priceless collection of Anglo-Saxon treasures unearthed by a local detectorist in 2009.
Now landowners Edward and Clare Greenwell are offering probers and history buffs in general short breaks at Butley Abbey Farmhouse on the site of the 13th Century Butley Priory.
They couldn’t have picked a better moment. Not only does a feature-length episode of Detectorists starring Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook air later this year, Butley is also near Sutton Hoo, the site of the Anglo-Saxon ship burial featured in The Dig, the 2021 film seen is Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes.
“There’s probably no better place for metal detection in England,” says Jules, who publishes a metal detection magazine.
Butley is near Sutton Hoo (pictured), the site of the Anglo-Saxon ship burial in The Dig, the 2021 film starring Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes
“Don’t forget that during World War II, thousands of planes were shot down here, alongside the Vikings and the Saxons.” The smallest piece of metal can tell a story. Jules has unearthed countless old coins and other valuable artifacts, but he’s just as proud of other finds, such as a button from the jacket of an RAF pilot who helped the pilot’s daughter locate the spot where her plane crashed father’s had crashed.
Metal detection is easy. They sweep the detector across a field and start digging when a beep sounds. A smaller gizmo will help you find it. What have you found? Not much in my case. The most interesting thing I dig up is rusty metalwork labeled “W4”. The crown of King William IV I hope I ask? “Nah,” says Jules. ‘A bit old garden furniture.’
Others in the group are luckier. Over the course of two days, the six of us unearth everything from musket balls to 17th-century buttons, Georgian coins to primitive farming implements.
Nothing is of great value. The forms we had to sign to agree to split our hort 50/50 with the landowner do not need to be relied on.
After the day’s work done, we sit down to dinner together in the Georgian farmhouse, a beautiful cluster with large lawns, ancient trees and swooping house swallows.
As the wine flows, Jules keeps us captivated with tales of metal detection in Jordan. Andy tells us how he found a pile of ‘Roman’ coins – only to discover they were props from a TV series.
Many archaeologists look down on these amateurs in search of treasure. But they are wrong about that.