FORTUNE-HUNTERS digging for buried Victorian treasure have left a North East golf club with expensive repairs after burrowing deep into the course fairway.
Officials at Tynedale Golf Club at Hexham discovered three 4ft deep holes on the sixth fairway of the riverside course.
It is believed a gang of raiders was searching for valuable bottles dumped there when the land was used as Hexham tip as far back as the 1890s.
Now the golf club, facing expensive repairs, has had enough, and plans to introduce private security patrols after a series of similar raids over several years.
Old and rare bottles can fetch large sums of money and “bottle diggers” around the country have pinpointed sites where bottles are believed to be buried.
After surveying the damage Tynedale Golf Club chairman Brendan Murphy said: “Unfortunately for us, one of those sites seems to be our sixth fairway.
“The problem is that before the golf club was built on the land and opened in 1908, this land was the tip for Hexham and lots of bottles were dumped there.
“The bottles were never removed. The course was built over the top of it and therefore these people believe the bottles are still there.
“For me, why on earth anyone would want antiquated bottles I don’t know. But apparently some of them are quite valuable. It’s a nightmare for us, though. Not only had we just re-seeded that part of the course and not only do we now have the expense of repairing it, but we could also lose members who don’t want to play on a course where this sort of thing is happening.”
The raiders are believed to have got on to the isolated course under cover of darkness and spent around five hours digging the site before slipping away undetected prior to daybreak.
Insp Dave Thornhill of Hexham Police said: “Some of the old bottles can be worth £100 each and these people go looking for particular ones.
“We’ve been looking at this bottle-digging problem for five or six years since it first happened here.
“It’s where the old tip is, and because it goes back to the 19th Century there are believed to be Victorian bottles in there, which are quite valuable.”
One man from Nottingham is facing a criminal damage charge in connection with the picturesque Tynedale course after being traced earlier this year.
The club is now determined to prevent any further repeat.
Mr Murphy said: “We were scheduled to have security patrols in place by the end of this month, but we will probably bring that forward now.
“There is going to be proper private security that we will have to pay for along with Northumberland County Council, as we are jointly-funded.
“It is an expense that we could have done without.”
Mr Murphy added ruefully: “It beats me. A bottle is just a bottle as far as I’m concerned.
“But these particular bottles are causing us a heck of a lot of problems.”