South Hams Gold Hunt
Well, call me a liar if you want, but we didn't end up at the stream I mentioned last week, because we once again failed to get permission to go on the land. Another change was the inclusion of Mark's friend Roger, another experienced local prospector and metal detector (Mark and Roger both do quite a lot of metal detecting) on the team.
So instead of the Crediton trough we decided to visit the South Hams region. Much like the Crediton area, there has been a considerable amount of mineral reconnaissance in this region, with numerous British Geological Survey studies published on the subject.
As detailed in the BGS reports and Simon Camm's excellent book there are many streams in the area between the rivers Erme and Avon, and we decided upon a specific stream to investigate, and met up at Modbury for a Strategy Meeting... in a lay-by in the back of my car.
As with all such trips, permission to gain access to the land is vital before getting down to any prospecting, and so having perused an OS map of the area and identified a likely farm we made our way there in a convoy (of 2).
As we've seen, there are times when a request for access is either declined or so complicated as to be pointless. However, the landowner in this case was very friendly, chatty and genuinely interested in what we were up to. We chatted about the original surveys performed on his land by the BGS, and he even showed us the location where the detailed surveys were performed.
So, armed with our kit we strolled down the hill to start our hunt for Gold. We were told that the place to look was where 2 specific streams join, and that's where we started. Mark and I found likely spots near the confluence and tried a few sample pans, whilst Roger went off to survey downstream. A Panoramic View of the Valley.... with streams coming from the left and behind to the right
I found my first small piece of gold in a test pan not long after, from a surface deposit in as little eddy area at the side of the stream, up against the low bank, and Mark had some success in another area. We decided to setup a sluice each and start to process some material.
Whilst we were doing this Roger returned from a relatively fruitless trip downstream and headed up one of the 2 streams to have a look.
Roger Off in Search of Gold
Our sluice concentrates didn't turn up a great deal (maybe 6 or 7 very small pieces), plus a fair few lead shot.
However, Roger had found a very nice spot and even though the gold he was finding was never going to make him rich, he was getting some attractive pieces up to a couple of millimetres across. Another interesting point was that a couple of Roger's pieces were silver in colour which would indicate that they were high in other metals; anything from Silver to Palladium or the rare Poterite, all of which have been noted in the area (in this area we can almost certainly discount Mercury as a cause as gold has not been commercially exploited in the area).
The Sluice in Action
Mark in the Stream
Mark and I quickly moved up to near Roger's spot, and from then on we were consistently finding small gold in the surface sediments, but never at a high concentration. Overall, we didn't find much, which is shown in the close up photos of my gold below, which also show that the largest piece I found was less than 1mm across.
My small but perfectly formed Gold - magnified
As I said before, I don't do this hobby to generate an income!
Before we left we each contributed a couple of pieces of gold, which we put in a small water filled glass vial and gave it to the landowners, after all we might want to go back there one day; and it's never a bad thing to build a friendship with the landowner.
We finished the day with a quick trip to a favourite spot on the river Dart near Buckfastleigh, which proved pretty unsuccessful, mainly because the river level was too high to allow access to large parts of the usually dry flood channel.
A panoramic shot of Mark and Roger on the Dart.
Roger Furiously Pumping Mark Inspecting for Cracks
So, what did we learn? Well, I personally got another gold bearing stream, in another part of Devon, and equally importantly, on completely different Geology. Also, and most importantly, we all had a great day, met some new and interesting people, and got some exercise.
As the BGS reports make clear, many of the streams in the area are auriferous, so there are many years of trips possible in the area between The Rivers Yealm and Avon.
I hope you enjoyed this report. With Spring approaching, I hope to get out more frequently , so there should be more reports to enjoy.