Gold rush: How hundreds have turned to prospecting to beat the crunch
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 3:01 PM on 27th May 2009
Britain is experiencing a gold rush with record numbers turning to prospecting to beat the credit crunch.
Full-time gold-panner Vince Thurkettle said more people than ever before are heading to the UK's rivers in search of precious nuggets and flakes.
Demand for his gold-panning courses has more than trebled in the last year driven by the deepening recession and the high price of gold.
'In the last 12 months people have suddenly shown much more interest in buying, selling and finding gold,' he said.
'Before a lot of people didn't seem to believe there was gold to be found in Britain's rivers.
'But now everyone knows the price of gold has gone up and suddenly due to the credit crunch more people are trying their hand at gold-panning.'
The UK's last gold rush was in Kidonnan in Scotland in 1869 when a gold-panner struck lucky in the River Helmsdale.
Within months hundreds of hopefuls had descended on the normally deserted Scottish Glen.
But the prospectors left within three years and for decades gold-panning in Britain was seen by most as merely a hobby.
Now adventurers in need of extra cash are once more heading to the hills of Scotland and Wales in search of treasure.
'Everyone has heard of the 1849 gold rush in California, but we've had some wonderful gold rushes here too,' added Mr Thurkettle, from Norfolk, who has been panning for 32 years.
'Unfortunately they all happened so long ago that most people have forgotten about them.
'Now suddenly there is a renewed interest in gold panning again and anyone who has been vaguely interested in prospecting feels now is the time to give it a go.
'No one thinks they are going to make a fortune but the price of gold has increased and they want to try their luck.' Mr Thurkettle, 54, gave up work as an assistant manager with the Forestry Commission four years ago to become Britain's only full-time gold prospector.
He has now won the British Gold-panning Championships seven times and is an expert in finding rare flakes and nuggets.
'Britain is rich with gold and the price of gold has more than doubled since I left work,' he said.
'I tend to work in Welsh and Scottish gold which has a huge premium because of the Royal Family's preference for it.
'Finding a little bit of gold in Britain is actually very easy, but finding a lot is much harder.' He said his gold-panning courses, which teach basic techniques, were attracting all types of people.
'I think people have generally begun to tire of computer games and want to try more adventurous activities again,' he added.
'I get young couples, retired people and men who just like pottering around in the river and getting their boyhood back.
'They are all people who dream of finding their own gold and going on a treasure hunt with nature.'