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Digging the dirt even before Inside Out returns.

Chris Jackson | 00:10 UK time, Monday, 23 July 2012

A coin from the reign of Edward I unearthed in Coquetdale

You don't get a medal for devoting more than a quarter of a century of your life to the BBC, you get a bit of extra time off. It was during this bonus holiday that I was part of a team that unearthed the coin pictured above.

It's about as close as I'll get to a silver medal.

The coin had lain underground for some 700 years until I and a handful of others started digging around an archaeological site in Coquetdale, Northumberland.

I decided to use my extra few weeks away from work to start a fresh hobby. As you'll see from earlier blog posts of mine, my last project was to produce a history documentary and I finally decided I should get hands-on and do some actual archaeology.

As the presenter of Inside Out I'm used to digging the dirt on our investigations, but this is real dirt and real digging.

There are lots of community archaeology groups where enthusiastic amateurs carry out digs under the guidance of professionals.

Chris Jackson on an archaeological dig in Northumberland

Chris Jackson with trowel in excavation site

I had no idea that I'd be let loose with a trowel quite so soon after joining. There is a real thrill at the thought that each scrape could reveal a hidden treasure. But there is an awful lot of scraping!

The Coquetdale Community Archaeology group has been excavating an old fulling mill and this month we returned to see if we could take previous years' work even deeper.

As we unearth more and more stones, walls emerge and so do some mysterious lines and structures, changes in soil colouration. I leave it to the experts to see if they can made head or tail from it.

Every now and then we come across something a bit more tangible.

A potential piece of medieval pottery

My first "find"

After endless small stones and pebbles coming out of the ground before me I caught sight of something very different.

A fragment of medieval pottery. From the curvature it was clearly a section where the pot wall met the base.

My imagination started to fill in the rest and of course you start to wonder who might have handled it centuries before I did?

This was my first ever "find" and whilst it was being bagged, numbered and filed, I was still in the afterglow of feeling connected with the past in an incredibly unique way.

Emotions can run away with you though. That high was soon replaced by serious "find envy", when a fellow volunteer only feet away from me let out a yelp as he unearthed something shiny and round.

What he'd found was a silver coin from the reign of Edward I. That much was evident as soon as the mud was cleared away because the coin was in fantastic condition.

With a bit of investigation it was narrowed down to having been minted in Durham between 1280 and 1281.

Such a great discovery helps date that part of the site and it fits in perfectly with the general feeling that this was a fulling mill from this particular period.

Sadly this dig came right at the end of my leave and now I am back in the office preparing for the next series of Inside Out which starts in October.

Arachaeology site in the glorious hills of Coquetdale

Digging in Coquetdale

As I look out over the urban skyline I ponder one of the best things about my new found hobby.

Archaeology gets you outdoors into some spectacular scenery and you can't do much better than digging amongst the sheep in Coquetdale.

As much as I love my job, it's hard to beat getting your hands dirty amongst the clarts, even in a British summer!



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