The landline phone rang the other night. It was quite late in the evening and these days it is hardly ever used, so it was quite a surprise.
I jumped off the sofa – well, I fought off a pile of cats and rolled off, would be a better description – and made my way out to the East Wing.
The caller explained that I didn’t know him and he hoped that I didn’t mind the cold call but he was a metal detectorist and was on the hunt for new area to practise his hobby.
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I had trouble stopping him – he was in full flow reading from his script all about the million billion pound insurance he had and how all finds were shared 50/50 – but finally I managed to get a word in.
“Sorry, no can do,” I explained. “This farm is National Trust land and metal detectors aren’t allowed.” He sounded disappointed, hung up, and I made my way back to the cat-ridden sofa.
A couple of days later, there was hammering on the front door. Now, that door is used even less that the landline and vast quantities of furniture and electronics have to be moved first. So I went out of the back door and went round to meet him.
Big lad, he was, with the demeanour of one of our friends from the white van community. “Hello, mate,” he said.
Call me old-fashioned, but that’s never a good start. I was expecting a request for scrap or an astonishing deal on Tarmac but instead he too went off on a metal-detecting speech.
Once again, I had to stop him with my National Trust line. He didn’t seem to believe me and had real trouble accepting “no” as an answer. It all got a bit heated.
I asked if he wanted to see my tenancy agreement but luckily he didn’t; I haven’t a clue where it is at the moment.
He then went back to his noisy van, which had been parked round the back, and that had another surly “mate” in it. These two were dodgy enough to warrant a text to our local PC.
Not long after that, I was on the local Facebook page, fighting farming’s cause with the angry mob who spend their time incensed that agriculture takes place in the countryside, and up popped a request from a metal detectorist.
There it was again – all the same spiel. And when a nicely typed letter arrived with the same request, and a stamped addressed envelope ready for my reply, I started to think there was something funny going on.
Nice to be asked
It has to be said that at least they were all asking – I’ve moved on teams who are “just going for walk” when they’re parking their vans but who can be found unloading high-tech detector kit if you wait round the corner for five minutes.
But I was puzzled. Why the sudden popularity of my little patch of Hampshire? The answer lay on a page of our wonderful local paper – the Hampshire Chronicle.
A detectorist had made a significant and valuable find in a “secret” mid-Hants location: a very rare coin from the reign of Emperor Carausius, worth thousands. It all made sense.
The calls have stopped now but it wouldn’t surprise me to find a field full of little holes one morning. I’ll then spend an evening or two hand broadcasting that huge bag of penny washers that’s tucked away in the barn somewhere.
It’ll make a nice change from fighting with cats on the sofa.