Last Monday a group of volunteers came out in thick fog to help us clearing gorse and scrub on Leeden Tor. Being the hardy bunch they are they worked all day, despite the fog and drizzle, and did a great job.

One of the team made a dreadful discovery at the end of the day. Her wedding, engagement and eternity rings, that she had carefully stowed in a pocket for safe keeping, had disappeared. We didn’t find out about it until the next day and the team felt awful.

As the weather had cleared Derek, Val and Bill set off on what they thought was a hopeless task – finding three small rings on 365 square miles of open moorland. They had borrowed a metal detector to help in their task. It is forbidden to dig on the open moor, especially around the archaeological sites the team had been clearing, but they hoped it might help them detect metal hidden under the vegetation they had been cutting the day before.

Luckily the volunteers had been working on two specific areas all day so the team decided to search there and the gully where they had sheltered for lunch. The first area yielded nothing, despite a thorough search and the lunch spot had the same depressing result. Feeling despondent Derek headed off to the second site they been clearing. Before he even started searching with the metal detector Derek saw a flash of light in the gorse – it was the engagement ring!

The metal detector soon started beeping over a mound of grass that had been cut the day before. Carefully Val moved the grass aside and Derek re-swept the area. No sound, but when they swept the grass Val had moved it started beeping again. Very carefully Val started to pull the mound of grass apart and there was the eternity ring. By this time the team were singing Meatloaf’s “Two out of three ain’t bad”.

They worked their way backwards and forwards over the area and finally found the third and final ring about an hour and a half after starting the search. Talk about looking for a needle, or three needles, in a haystack!

Needless to say the rings are now safely back with one very relieved owner and Derek, Val and Bill are feeling pretty pleased with themselves. They have ask me to say that you really shouldn’t take a metal detector out on Dartmoor and certainly should never try to dig anything up on the moor. Val contacted the Dartmoor National Park’s archaeologists to get special permission and  on this one occasion they agreed we were justified in using one provided we only searched the surface of the moorland.