Become a detectorist – find buried treasure!
Metal detecting will, for some people, always be viewed as the beach equivalent of trainspotting or twitching; an activity associated with social misfits. But since the runaway success of the TV series ‘Detectorists’, satarring Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook, it has soared in popularity
The hobby of metal detecting is now firmly established in Britain, the USA, Australia and many European countries. The many thousands of metal detectorists (one website calls them ‘tekkies’) who enjoy this pastime reap benefits in a variety of ways; relaxation away from the pressures of work or domestic life, fresh air and exercise, and making new friends and meeting other enthusiasts. But these are common to many other hobbies and there are more particular benefits which set metal detecting apart; the coins and artefacts recovered, the excitement and pleasure one feels when handling them for the first time, and the inevitable gain in knowledge of our past
While countless small, low-value items such as copper coins and belt buckles have been unearthed over the decades, sometimes there’s something much more significant
Treasure hunters equipped with metal detectors began to call on Staffordshire farmer Fred Johnson, asking permission to walk his field. “I told one I’d lost a wrench and asked him to find that,” Johnson says. Instead, on July 5, 2009, Terry Herbert came to the farmhouse door and announced to Johnson that he had found Anglo-Saxon treasure
The Staffordshire Hoard, as it was quickly dubbed, was a 3,500 piece cache of gold, silver, and garnet objects from early Anglo-Saxon times and from one of the most important kingdoms of the era. Moreover, the quality and style of the intricate filigree and cloisonné decorating the objects were extraordinary, inviting heady comparisons to such legendary treasures as the Lindisfarne Gospels or the Book of Kells. The hoard was valued at £3.3 million, which was split between Johnson and Herbert. It remains the most valuable discovery by detctorists
Then again, it was Herbert’s first find of real worth in 18 years … so don’t get your hopes up too much.According to the British Museum there were around 67,000 finds of archaeological interest by the public last year; 78% were uncovered by people using metal detectors
To get started, all you need is the key component; the metal detector. Nowadays, metal detectors are extremely complex electronic machines with a variety of capabilities dependant on price. Then all you’ll need is headphones, a trowel, infinite amounts of patience and a large helping of luck
Detecting clubs, on the National Council for Metal Detecting website, www.ncmd.co.uk, can help you find the best places to buy what you need. Before setting out, visit www.finds.org.uk, the website of the British Museum Portable Antiquities Scheme. It maps and catalogues finds in England and Wales, to give you an idea of what you could find and inspire your search. If you’re serious about unearthing something of value, research a site first. “Find out what, if anything, happened, such as battles, skirmishes, who lived there and where they could have worked to give you an idea of what might be found – and remember to gain permission to search,” says Julian Evan-Hart, co-author of Beginner’s Guide to Metal Detecting.
Seeking good advice can save the beginner a lot of wasted money and time. Joining the UK Detector Net Forum will be beneficial as the newcomer can ask all the questions he or she feels and get answers to them all
If you find yourself getting really into it, consider joining a club. They have organised outings, and enthusiasts claim you can find something on any ploughed field in the country.
“Many great finds have been in random locations, as big hoards were deliberately buried in odd places for people to go back and collect them,” says Harry Bain, editor of The Searcher, a specialist magazine for keen detectorists.
It could also be worth your while tracking down an affable farmer. Many are quite happy for you to go metal-detecting on their fields – so long as you split any profits 50-50. If you would rather search beaches than fields, don’t expect to make your millions. You’re more likely to come across modern finds, though occasionally old items do turn up especially if there’s been a ship wreck or two in the vicinity
If you do strike lucky on your holiday, don’t assume you can just pocket your treasure. There are all sorts of regulations governing what you must do with significant finds; so if you do discover treasure you should report it. Visit www.finds.org.uk for further details and laws covering Scotland.
Be very careful to follow the law at all times. For example, you’re breaking the laws of trespass if, in England and Wales, you search on land without permission. On parkland you run the risk of prosecution for wilful damage if you dig huge holes. Follow the Code of Practice and use a small trowel and replace divots neatly
The other law of importance to metal detector users is that concerning scheduled ancient monuments. It’s an offence to use a detector on a protected scheduled ancient monument unless permission has been obtained from the Secretary of State for the Environment. When seeking permission from the landowner ensure that you ask if there are any protected sites on his land