I've come to a sleepy village near Chipping Norton on the edge of the Cotswolds, where it is alleged that Nighthawkers regularly meet up under the cover of darkness. I was given the map reference and times by a contact I only know as 'Baz' who posts Nighthawking locations on his website.
I parked my car at a lay-by a little distance away from the Nighthawking site and I'm now making my way towards the area, trying to keep as quiet as possible. I can hear people talking quietly and some heavy breathing as I approach what appears to be a group of five or six people huddled around the back of a Range Rover. Whatever nefarious activity they are engaged in, I cannot yet tell.
As I creep forwards, I can see quite a few more people out in the open fields to my right. Now I am closer I can detect their urgent rhythmic activity, and there is no doubt that they are engaging in Nighthawking of some description.
The group at the car have become aware of my presence. A woman stops rubbing her antiquities. There is hesitation as they try to determine whether I am a threat, if I'm happy to observe, or if I want to join in. I keep my distance and they seem to relax.
From my vantage point I can see a woman cupping one chap's artefacts. Two men are huddled together and seem to be comparing their equipment. Another man, slightly further away, is busy dusting off.
Suddenly the air is split by the sound of a police siren. A distorted voice shouts for everyone to stand still. In front of me pandemonium ensues as the Nighthawkers scrabble to get away, hastily tucking their treasures into their clothing. I can hear cars started from all around, and engines screaming as they hurry away. Uniformed police officers are running around the area, but most of the Nighthawkers have escaped. I show my press credentials to approaching officers and I'm told to "get off home and don't encourage them."
Well I am back in my car now, and heading away. But I can't help but wonder how much Nighthawking goes on up and down the country and about the kind of people who may be involved.