Robert and Michael are at a crossroads in their lives - Michael alienated by his father's death, and profoundly disaffected at school, Robert worried about his friend and the impending failure of his father's business. When they retrieve a tankard - once belonging to the nineteenth-century poet John Clare - from a heath pond, their find becomes national news. But the heath is designated for housing development - and the contractor is the one responsible for the death of Michael's father. Following public protests over the future of the heath, the contractor bribes Robert's father - financial help for his ailing magazine, if he will persuade the boys to help end the protests. But Robert and Michael withstand the blackmail and the defence of the heath is ultimately successful. They are all profoundly altered by these events: for Michael it is the beginning of a process of rehabilitation. And Robert's family begin to deal with their debts and family relationships in a different way.