Former soldier Jim Belk has described the moment he found part of a gold Anglo Saxon sword while out hunting with his metal detector.

Mr Belk, 76, of Esmead, Chippenham, said: “I was in total disbelief.

“I was just so shocked. It is absolutely the most significant thing I have uncovered.”

He found the gold pommel – part of the hilt of the sword – last September in a field in Cricklade, which he had permission to search.

It dates from the early medieval period and was last week declared treasure trove by a coroner at an inquest in Trowbridge.

One end of the gold and copper alloy pommel is missing and one side was recently damaged by a plough, making interpretation of the decoration difficult.

It is of a type most often found in Scandinavia, but also known in East Anglia, Kent, Lincolnshire and Staffordshire. It is the furthest West that one of its type has ever been found.

The pommel is being valued at the British Museum, and Mr Belk estimates it could be between £5,000 to £10,000. It is hoped that it will eventually go to the museum in Devizes. “As it’s from Wiltshire, we think it should stay in Wiltshire,” said Mr Belk. “Now the inquest has been carried out, it would be nice for it to go to the museum in Devizes.”

Mr Belk, a grandfather-of-four who has been living in Chippenham since 1977, took up detecting after retiring from Leafield engineering in Corsham 12 years ago.

He said: “I’ve found lots of other things, artefacts from throughout the Iron Age, Celtic coins, plenty of Roman coins, flints, all sorts really.

“When I’ve made a discovery, I always record my find using a GPS and a map reference. I always report anything I’ve found as well because it’s so interesting to find out more about it. I’ve learned more since I started metal detection than I thought I would.

“You can find out about life in the area for hundreds of years based on what comes out of the ground.”

Before working with Leafield, Mr Belk was a Warrant Officer Class One in the Army for 22 years, working with ammunition and explosives.