A MUDLARKER has told of the treasures she has found at the bottom of Hampshire's rivers - which even include a stone age blade and an 18-carat gold watch.

Jane Eastman, from Whitchurch, has been mudlarking - scavenging in rivers for items of value - for about five years.

Locally, Jane has had to adapt the tradition, getting in the river in her waders and using a washing up bowl with a clear Perspex bottom to discover the river’s lost treasures.

Jane said: “The surface of the water, the reflections and the movement of water blurs everything. The water can be less than knee deep and it will still be hard to see what’s on the bed if the water is flowing.

“But as soon as you put that bucket there you can get a good view and I just have a little scoop and see what’s there.

“It’s incredible what’s been thrown in and how even our pristine rivers have been used as dumps since Roman times.”

As a Roman area, Jane has been able to find 2000-year-old Roman items in Whitchurch, such as beads and pottery.

The mother of two is a jeweller by trade but has found her occupation has taken a back seat to this newfound passion.

Reflecting on how it all began, Jane continued: “I did a bit of bottle digging when I was younger, but I didn’t know it was a thing. I remember finding a Victorian jam jar sticking out of a bank on a country lane and hooking it out. Accidentally happening upon an old Victorian bottle dump is where this sort of interest began.”

“I was turned off by history when I studied it at A-level but now I’m completely obsessed.

“It’s personal, it’s the real people, it’s the average person- it’s not the kings and the queens and it is lovely to find gold coins and that sort of thing but it’s the things that people used in their lives that’s most meaningful to me.”

“I found a first world war brodie helmet, refurbished for the second world war. I imagine that at the end of the war somebody chucked that in and wanted to say goodbye to that whole experience and you can only imagine what they went through.”

Some of the jeweller’s favourite finds include a 18-carat gold watch which she now wears. Posting the 100 year old Garrard watch on Instagram, Jane was contacted by a watch maker who restored the watch to working condition after many decades spent at the bottom of the river.

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The oldest item the mudlarker has found is a neolithic stone age worked flint blade, suspected to be used for fishing.

Jane now writes for Beachcombing Magazine and can often be found hunting for treasure in local rivers. The mudlarker posts a diary of her finds on Instagram and TikTok as @myordinarytreasure.

Whitchurch Silk Mill recently hosted Jane’s first ever river exploration day, for people to try their hand at mudlarking and see what’s been found in the river that powers the silk mill.

Moving forward, Jane hopes to host more river exploration days, share her passion and showcase treasures with local connections.

Details of the event can be found at: whitchurchsilkmill.org.uk/event/river-exploration/.

For anyone wanting to start mudlarking, Jane recommends beachcombing, staying shallow and always being accompanied at first. Permission must be sought from the river landowners.

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