Bottle digging , safety , hints and tips

Post Reply
User avatar
Kenleyboy
Posts: 1012
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:08 pm
Has thanked: 1986 times
Been thanked: 1628 times

Bottle digging as a hobby has grown in popularity over the past few years and there are many similarities to metal detecting , many come and go and only a few stay when the passion is realised . There is a fair turn over of participants and as the access to Victorian tips are harder to come by due to the ever increasing developments of Towns and Villages , it is no wonder that many get disillusioned and leave the hobby especially with the jealously guarded secrecy over tips .Seeking and maintaining permissions for metal detecting echoes the above sentiments , its damn hard work as land becomes increasingly more difficult to gain access to , no wonder people leave so easily .
Unlike metal detecting , bottle digging has no governing body , its a sort of maverick type passion , almost viewed as an underground pursuit and spoken of in hushed tones and it takes years to gain any form of trust between fellow diggers .
By and large as in metal detecting , the vast majority are good people , men as well as woman bottle dig and some have done with a burning passion since the 70s and those lucky souls have experienced the "Golden Era " where tips were in abundance and full of many treasures , the cream of the crop , far more than what the modern day bottle diggers experience unless they happen to chance upon an undug virgin tip , but these are rare and we have to make do with ransacked tips that throw up the odd gem now and again . Even well hammered tips will still have areas where they were untouched and some will still continue to throw up the odd nice piece .

It is a deeply interesting hobby and can be very rewarding in many ways but it is not for all , it can be very hardwork full of disappointments and I have seen many come and go mostly through the frustration of being denied instant success , sound familiar ? but I digress , if you are determined and enjoy the outdoors , good exercise and the art of detective work with some research then the rewards are there for the taking .

I hope the following will add some charm and further insight into the covert world of bottle digging but the very most important aspect is personal safety , I cannot express how important this is to anyone , no life is worth a bottle , its that simple ! Tips can be dangerous places and there are many "what ifs " and possibilities that could happen . What if I get struck by lightening or dig up an unexploded bomb while out on the field metal detecting ? What if I dig up a bottle full of nauseous chemicals or slice my main artery on a shard of glass ? All these things have happened and could happen , not an everyday occurrence but the possibilities are always there and its important not to take anything for granted .
In all my years of digging I have never had a hole or trench collapse on me but that is not saying this will not happen so always be aware , I have had cave ins where a section of overhang has dropped off and caught me across the legs and believe me when this happens it is a struggle to get your legs free . Most of the tips I have dug are not much deeper than about four feet but on one I dig its a deep dig so I never ever dig alone , far better to have someone with you just in case of an accident .
Step ladders are great , we have permission to leave them on site and are an essential part of the digging , much easier to get in and out of the hole and saves all that clambering up the slope and are also a good escape route .
On this deep dig the holes I dig are 10 feet by 8 feet wide , I want enough room to move about in just in case and the depth can vary from 6 - 8 feet .
Basic tools for digging , I have found the best place for these are car boots or markets , most are sturdy and have stood the test of time because they are made to last , buy a cheap import from one of the mega stores and it will last you one dig before going snap !
digging tools.jpg
Over hangs are basically what they mean , where the lower wall is dug from the floor up to about halfway so a little cave in a sense . Once again , never be tempted to get inside the cave , its dangerous and foolhardy . Ive seen a few do this and get their mates to take trophy shots but you really are taking a huge risk and playing with gravity , the weight can suddenly just give way . Nobody knows what lies in amongst the overhang and I have had all manner of big lumps of danger come out ranging from house bricks , big lumps of flint the size of footballs and concrete to name but a few . Get one of them smack you on the back of the head then its game over .
The length of my spade or fork is the depth I dig out the cave , any further and its time to chip away at the over hang and straighten up the walls , just another precaution .

Gloves and boots , speak for themselves , good strong pairs of each will last but more importantly gloves will save you from a nasty cut or at least reduce the risk .I have been lucky and never suffered a bad cut yet ! I did have one shard of glass slice through the finger of a very strong pair of gloves , it missed the flesh but if I had not been wearing them I could have ended up in A and E . I take a couple of pairs of gloves with me at all times just in case of loss or them getting wet .
Wear jeans , even in the summer , its hot and will be uncomfortable but bare legs are asking for trouble , if its too hot then just don't go , you want to be enjoying the day not sweating buckets and being all hot and itchy !

First aid , food and drink . My kit bag comprises of the bare essentials that I feel that I need for a days digging and in the summer months water has to rank as the most important items , for an average dig spread over a five hour period I take six pints of water , one flask of tea and a soft drink . The last thing you want is to dehydrate so refreshments are top of my list . Food is up to the individual a light snack such as sandwiches , fruit , and an energy bar or two . I avoid salty or sugary foods , both dry me out so chocolate or crisps are not my choice of foodstuffs but each to their own . What I would advise is a hand sanitiser or similar product , eating food with grubby hands is not advisable .
I also take plenty of plasters or bandages just in case of an accidental cut that needs dressing as well as mosquito spray .

This is my own personal take on things , there will be other ways or means of doing things and of course those with much more experience could add their personal preferences . It really just boils down to being safe and sensible and nothing is more worth than your own well being but just as important , enjoy the day . That is what its all about and the rewards will come , maybe not straight away but half the fun is reaching that goal and achieving the bucket list items .
Forget making any money out of it , if that is your goal then best do the lottery , you got more chance of winning than finding a super rare bottle worth thousands . I know a few diggers who did this full time and earned a good living from it but this was back in the hey day when tips were more available , nowadays things are very different , those days are gone , my advice is to just enjoy what you have , save some history because soon it will all be tarmaced over and gone for good !

These are some of the rewards that can be found without setting your sights too high and proof there is still stuff out there to be had , it may take a little longer but above all its the thrill of the hunt .
Clay pipes are typical finds from victorian tips , throw away items disregarded with the same mindset of flicking a fag butt away , but these are little works of art and are always a joy to find in amongst the ash .
digging pipes.jpg
Raking the soil is also an essential part of the dig and you will be amazed at how much stuff can come out on a shovel full of dirt . My Daughter usually does the raking so anything that gets missed from chucking out usually gets spotted by the person doing the raking or better known as the "watcher ". All these items were in amongst what had been shovelled out and shows that it is always worth checking in case of aa missed gem .
digging smalls.jpg
Finally , the epitaph of a few years digging , all have wonderful memories of different days and experiences that make the hobby of bottle digging very rewarding . Anyone possibly thinking of taking it up as a hobby or even having an exploratory dig , be safe but enjoy .
digging gems.jpg
Blackadder43
Posts: 3677
Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2020 4:08 pm
Has thanked: 2538 times
Been thanked: 2174 times

Paul
Many many thanks for writing this up, it is extremely helpful for anyone looking at getting into bottle digging
The insight and knowledge you have shared has been enlightening and fun to read

I sense a "confessions of a bottle digger" book coming up? :thumbsup:

Thanks fella
User avatar
DaveP
Posts: 1774
Joined: Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:40 pm
Location: Spread in England
Has thanked: 663 times
Been thanked: 1932 times

Great write-up, thanks.

We used to ride scramble bikes on a huge tip at Molesey in Surrey, that rose to about 30' high. You had to be really careful as you would come over a jump that was fine the day before only to find a bottle digger had opened up a huge hole! The speed at which some of that lot could move earth was amazing. They should put bottle-diggers on HS2 - would probably be finished early :lol:

I did wonder about the young lass they showed recently with her bottle collection. It was great to see her enjoying the hobby with her dad but pictured deep in a hole probably raised some safety eyebrows. Do you get problems with the sides of your holes after heavy rain? (are there a load of digger 'hole' jokes :lol: ) One of the recent TV 999 programmes featured a digger stuck down a collapsed hole - mind you, it was more like a deep burrow than a properly dug hole.
User avatar
Steve_JT
Posts: 763
Joined: Sun Jul 19, 2020 8:10 am
Location: Salisbury
Has thanked: 587 times
Been thanked: 1044 times

Anything over 1.2 metres should have shuttering in the commercial working world or graded back to prevent collapse, but common sense and knowing what you are doing overrides that in the scenario you are bottle digging, if your aware what could happen you've cracked it :thumbsup:

I'm sure you check the sides well and can see any potential dangers and keep a wary eye on the sides as you go :thumbsup:

Regards Steve
A foolish faith in authority, is the worst enemy of truth." Albert Einstein
User avatar
Oxgirl
Posts: 10925
Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2020 4:21 pm
Location: Oxfordshire
Has thanked: 8021 times
Been thanked: 9129 times

Thank you Paul :thumbsup: As usual your guides are informative and fun to read :Star:
Yes I really don’t like Roman coins, I’m not joking
User avatar
Kenleyboy
Posts: 1012
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:08 pm
Has thanked: 1986 times
Been thanked: 1628 times

Steve_JT wrote: Mon Aug 17, 2020 7:17 pm Anything over 1.2 metres should have shuttering in the commercial working world or graded back to prevent collapse, but common sense and knowing what you are doing overrides that in the scenario you are bottle digging, if your aware what could happen you've cracked it :thumbsup:

I'm sure you check the sides well and can see any potential dangers and keep a wary eye on the sides as you go :thumbsup:

Regards Steve
A very good point and one that is the very reason to have two rather than one digging out a large hole . I prefer to dig wide and I know on this tip 8 feet summertime is maximum due to the water table . In winter it can be half this when the rains come .
The area I am in is very hard and compact , if it is too ashy then it becomes dangerous as its loose and to be honest after a couple of feet digging the walls collapse which is frustrating and really not much fun .
Gradiating the walls is another good tactic but I have never heard of anyone shuttering other than the privy diggers in the USA . My days of digging really deep holes are long gone but I have done in the past but was a little more reckless back then .
As I say , safety first and never take anything for granted and take every precaution possible .
User avatar
Kenleyboy
Posts: 1012
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:08 pm
Has thanked: 1986 times
Been thanked: 1628 times

DaveP wrote: Mon Aug 17, 2020 6:38 pm Great write-up, thanks.

We used to ride scramble bikes on a huge tip at Molesey in Surrey, that rose to about 30' high. You had to be really careful as you would come over a jump that was fine the day before only to find a bottle digger had opened up a huge hole! The speed at which some of that lot could move earth was amazing. They should put bottle-diggers on HS2 - would probably be finished early :lol:

I did wonder about the young lass they showed recently with her bottle collection. It was great to see her enjoying the hobby with her dad but pictured deep in a hole probably raised some safety eyebrows. Do you get problems with the sides of your holes after heavy rain? (are there a load of digger 'hole' jokes :lol: ) One of the recent TV 999 programmes featured a digger stuck down a collapsed hole - mind you, it was more like a deep burrow than a properly dug hole.
Many tales of bottle diggers undermining peoples back gardens and sheds disappearing ! Gardens backing onto parkland where tipping occurred are primes spots . There is no governing body in this hobby so its down to the individual person or group to be mindful and show some common sense and respect but we do have those who flout the rules :thumbdown:

I see your point with regards to the rain , another good point and I am only speaking on my behalf / I never leave my holes empty after digging , they are always caved in and refilled for a number of reasons . Other diggers jumping in and benefitting from your hard work but here its a remote tip and chances of that happening are low .Wildlife , especially deer falling in and maybe struggling to get out etc and the public . Once again , nobody goes here at all , but there is always a chance and the last thing you want is some poor soul falling in your pit ! I never dig in the rain but do have a large fishing brolly which I use if it does rain , but will never set out to dig if its pouring down . Walls could be undermined especially if its loose ash and soil but here its very compact so less chance but never say never .
I haven't seen the photograph of the little girl in the hole but have seen similar and it has been met with a raised eyebrow or two from various quarters . It is not something I would choose to do with my children but each to their own .
Some very good points :thumbsup:
User avatar
Kenleyboy
Posts: 1012
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:08 pm
Has thanked: 1986 times
Been thanked: 1628 times

Blackadder43 wrote: Mon Aug 17, 2020 6:26 pm Paul
Many many thanks for writing this up, it is extremely helpful for anyone looking at getting into bottle digging
The insight and knowledge you have shared has been enlightening and fun to read

I sense a "confessions of a bottle digger" book coming up? :thumbsup:

Thanks fella
No worries , did have a brief chat with Oxgirl , more about the safety aspect of the hobby .

There is a book called "confessions of a carp fisher" , so maybe room for bottle digging :thumbsup:
User avatar
Mucky
Posts: 205
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2020 10:30 pm
Location: Somerset
Has thanked: 75 times
Been thanked: 154 times

Love the pipes! A lot of your digging advice makes perfect sense to me. It's as safe as you make it.
Well done again on some lovely bottles. :thumbsup:
Dave The Slave
Posts: 3034
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2020 6:36 pm
Has thanked: 8812 times
Been thanked: 3131 times

Quality post, Paul. :thumbsup:
For anyone not being a bottle digger, really informative.
Just had a flashback as i do every so often.
Classic scene from the Vicar of Dibley, where Geraldine disappears into an unfilled hole hidden by water. I reckon Owen was a Bottle digger and i suspect Hugo was a Detectorist and Jim Trott was a retired Poacher, although he would deny that, " no,no,no,no,no,no,no, yes! "
Keep up your accounts of bottle hunting, Paul, thoroughly enjoy them.
Shame i don`t live closer, would be great to participate and learn from an expert, although all your posts are giving a great insight into a parallel hobby.
Cheers, :thumbsup:
Dave.
User avatar
Kenleyboy
Posts: 1012
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2020 3:08 pm
Has thanked: 1986 times
Been thanked: 1628 times

Dave The Slave wrote: Tue Aug 18, 2020 3:04 pm Quality post, Paul. :thumbsup:
For anyone not being a bottle digger, really informative.
Just had a flashback as i do every so often.
Classic scene from the Vicar of Dibley, where Geraldine disappears into an unfilled hole hidden by water. I reckon Owen was a Bottle digger and i suspect Hugo was a Detectorist and Jim Trott was a retired Poacher, although he would deny that, " no,no,no,no,no,no,no, yes! "
Keep up your accounts of bottle hunting, Paul, thoroughly enjoy them.
Shame i don`t live closer, would be great to participate and learn from an expert, although all your posts are giving a great insight into a parallel hobby.
Cheers, :thumbsup:
Dave.
Great scene that one and I heard some time back that it was an idea pinched from Apocolypse Now where her head is half submerged in the water like Martin Sheen staring at the camera with a look to kill !

I am no expert , just an overall enthusiastic amateur :lol: If ever this way , I will oblige you a days digging , not a problem :thumbsup:
Post Reply