A Brummie prospector thinks he might have struck gold in a ‘secret’ Birmingham river. And now he plans to go back to see if he can find the source of the precious metal which could be worth a fortune.
In scenes reminiscent of the Wild West, Andy Brooke was panning a stream in the south of the city in January. It was a site listed in the British Geological Survey report as having signs of gold.
Lo-and-behold, after scouring the river bed, he found specks of the heavy metal raising his hopes of a serious find. The 37-year-old has been prospecting for four years though it took two before he found anything. Now Andy is eager to return to the stream, the location of which he’s keeping under wraps, to see if he can find more.
While Birmingham is renowned for its Jewellery Quarter, where craftspeople make pieces with the rare element, it has not been known as being a source of gold, until now. Andy, who grew up in Tile Cross to the east of the city and now lives in Boldmere in Sutton Coldfield, said he has got ‘gold fever’.
It started when he found gold in a stream in south Birmingham ‘near a golf course’. The coy prospector is keeping the location to himself as he keen to make the first discoveries, not to mention the fears of sparking a gold rush. Any significant finds however would belong to the crown estate as ‘mines royal’ and would have to be declared.
The 37-year-old, who has shown his find on his YouTube channel, One Man and his Pan, told BirminghamLive: “I went to the river in south Birmingham just before Christmas to check it out. I was only there for about an hour and did a couple of test pans.
“I went back and posted a video of ‘gold in the secret Birmingham stream’ four weeks ago and found more. I found a few specks of gold at the bottom of the river.
“I am going to go back again to the top of the stream. I want to see if I can locate the source, where the gold is actually coming from.”
Andy, who used to be in the army, and guarded the Queen as part of the Irish Guards, has been prospecting across the country and has found gold in Wales and Scotland. He explained it is mostly found in quartz veins, and there was a lot of quartz in the south Birmingham stream.
He said: “I am always ecstatic when I find a little speck. Even more so in south Birmingham where no one has ever found any. I have got gold fever. When I go out prospecting it’s just gold I look for, although I did find silver in the Peak District near Derby.
“If you find any, it belongs to the crown. If I was to find a big amount, a lot of gold, you’d have to report it to the landowner and the crown. Little specks are tolerated.
“I just do it as a hobby. To get out. I’m not aiming to retire early. If I did find a big nugget I don’t know what I would do though.”
Andy works as a water treatment engineer as his day job, panning rivers in his spare time. Always fond of the outdoors, he got into prospecting after watching the Gold Rush series on the Discovery Channel.
He explained: “When I started I was a novice. It took me two years to find anything. The last two years I have done quite well. I have learnt how to do it myself by reading books and watched YouTubers, many are Americans.
“I have absorbed all the information I can. Every time I go now I know my spots. I do research. When I first started I went to any river – but I got a book the UK’s Gold Prospector’s Guide. There are also mineral reconnaissance reports. In the 90s with the British Geological Survey, they went all around the streams and checked them.
“Anyone can download these for free. In one report it said they found specks of gold in a Birmingham stream in the 90s. That’s how I found the Birmingham one.
Andy at first made his own sluice – ‘like a riverbed’ – which when you put material through it the heavy gold drops into the crevices. He explained the process: “What I would do is collect a lot of gravel, either with a shovel or hand dredge. I then put it into the classifier to stratify it down to be an inch.
“Anything bigger than half an inch – check it out, then panned it out. Then collect the stratified material and run it through a sluice. Then the gold will fall to the bottom. That’s how I found the specks of gold in Birmingham.
“In Wales, I got a few nice pieces. I went to Derby the other day and found a few little silver specks. To do it all you need is a shovel and a gold pan. You can get them off eBay for £10 to start up. You could then get a sluice for £60 to £80.”
He has also done ‘urban prospecting’ in the Jewellery Quarter finding gold and diamonds on the city centre streets. “The Jewellery Quarter has the biggest collection of jewellery makers in the whole of Europe,” he said. “And you can find gold and diamonds in the streets of Birmingham.”
He said: “I go out at least once a month. I’m obsessed with it. I want to travel the UK and aim to have a vial of gold from as many places as I can. I have got a little bit of Scottish, quite a bit of Welsh and a bit from Birmingham!
“I am perhaps the only gold prospector in Birmingham. But there are lots of metal detectorists. I would say if anyone wants to get outdoors and have a bit of fun, I’d recommend anyone go and does it. It’s hard work though and you have got to be persistent with it.”