A GROWING band of prospectors are going for gold in the Lake District hills.

Traces of the precious metal have been found in Troutbeck, Dunmail Raise and pockets of Sedbergh, as well as Mungrisdale and Alston by two keen Cumbrian panners.

Despite the gold price rising from £260 an ounce in 1999 to £920 today, Alf Henderson and his friend, Ian Hewitson, both of Bowness-on-Windermere, say they’re not in it for the money.

Mr Henderson, 80, has been hunting for gold for about 40 years, and his biggest Cumbrian haul was 11 specks no bigger than grains of sand in Mungrisdale — hardly the stuff of the 1840s Californian Gold Rush.

But the former schoolmaster at the Lakes School and Windermere Grammar School said there were more than 40 gold panners in Bowness forming a close-knit community of friends.

And they put the practice they get in the Lakes into excellent use every year at the British Championships in Scotland, where the pair have been winners several times.

Mr Henderson said: “You would have an extremely difficult time making money out of it in the Lake District.

“I’m a competent gold panner and I know what to look for, and the pieces you get in places like Scotland and Wales are bigger.

“If you go out for the price of gold then you won’t be happy.

“But if you go out for the enjoyment, you’ll get good friends and that’s worth a wealth of gold for the experience.”

Mr Henderson and Mr Hewitson are searching around the southern shores of Ullswater to see if any specks of the metal exist.

Two local gold panning friends will join Mr Henderson and Mr Hewitson for the 23rd annual British championships in Wanlockhead, Scotland, this weekend.

But gold panning has taken Mr Henderson further afield than Scotland.

He once appeared on The Big Breakfast in the early 1990s, as presenter Johnny Vaughan tried to take the Mickey out of his prospecting hobby.

But he proved to be no fool when it came to gold.

He also had a claim on land in Dawson City, Alaska, for three years after finding chunks of the valuable metal, and has travelled around the world to find it.

To go gold-panning in the Lake District, a prospector would need the landowner’s permission.

An agreement would have to be drawn up between the panner and landowner as to what financial cut each person would get if a sizeable chunk of gold was found.