A PAIR of metal detectorists stumbled across a fabulous hoard of Viking treasure as they scanned a field in North Yorkshire.

Stuart Campbell and Steve Caswell, who both work in the animal feed business, were checking farmland near Bedale when they came across a stash of gold and silver metalwork dating from the Viking age.

The hoard included an iron sword pommel inlaid with gold foil plaques, four gold hoops from the hilt of the sword and six small gold rivets.

There were also four silver collars and neck-rings, a silver arm-ring, a silver ring fragment, a silver brooch, and 29 silver ingots.

The hoard is thought to be Viking bullion, obtained in trade or plundered from enemies, and whoever originally buried it is likely to have intended to come back for it, to exchange or melt it down and reuse for jewellery.

The find was one of several announced at the launch of the Portable Antiquities and Treasure annual reports at the British Museum.

Others included a boar mount which could have belonged to Richard III that was found on the Thames foreshore near the Tower of London in October, and an Iron Age helmet, used as a vessel to hold human remains following a cremation, which was unearthed by a metal-detectorist near Canterbury last month.

Some 97,509 finds were recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme in 2011, an eight per cent rise on the previous year.