A MINCHINHAMPTON man has been digging up buried treasure in his back garden with the help of a gang of squirrels. David Griffiths of Ollney Road has been unearthing valuable truffles for the past six years since he spotted squirrels burrowing into his lawn. Initially he thought they were furry vandals until he investigated their excavations a little more closely. "I was going down to fill up a hole which a squirrel had dug but I could see there was something strange in the bottom," he said. "I couldn't understand what it was and dug round it thinking I had got some treasure." He took the object indoors, washed off the dirt and looked it up in a book. It was then he discovered he had struck lucky after all. The valuable fungi, The English summer truffle, is a rare delicacy sold for around £1,000 a kilo but it only grows in a tiny corner of the Minchinhampton garden. "I imported some soil years ago and we also have a beech hedge nearby which is supposed to be favourable too," said Mr Griffiths. "Every now and again the squirrels dig a hole where they've found a truffle. "I believe they can smell the scent like just like a pig or a dog would." The biggest truffles the fungus hunter and his animal helpers have sniffed out are about 6cm in diameter. They have a black, warty casing which contains the spores. Once Mr David Griffiths has peeled them he buries the skin back in the garden in the hope that it will grow more of the precious fungi. But he has never sought to profit from the natural bounty and has developed quite a taste for the truffles. "We use them for cooking, grated onto scrambled eggs or with potato cakes," he said. "The eggs soak up the flavour of the truffles. They have a very distinctive taste which is hard to describe but they are delicious." William Beeston, owner of William's Kitchen delicatessen in nearby Nailsworth, said that while truffles were not common there were probably more about than most people suspected. "There's no great tradition in this country for looking for wild mushrooms and truffles," he said. "Whereas in the pine and beech woods of Italy and France it's almost an institution. "Some are harvested locally, though. "We stock wild mushrooms collected by Italian itinerant workers who have settled around here and know where to look."