Metal Detecting – Introduction
Think you might be interested in metal detecting? Here’s a quick guide to get you started on the right foot. Metal detecting in the UK can be a fun and rewarding hobby, but it’s important to do your research before buying any equipment. Learn about the different types of detectors available and find one that fits your needs. Then, get out there and start digging up some treasures!
Don’t go out and buy a detector… yet!
Do some research for your local area. I live by the coast and, for me, beach detecting is very accessible. This meant, obviously, that my choice of detector needed to suit beaches… not all do.
Find a local shop, detectorist club, or online detectorist group, such as Facebook. Find out the sort of metal detecting available where you are and use this information to narrow your search for a metal detector.
Laws and bylaws
The UK is not a difficult place to begin metal detecting but there are laws on property ownership and trespass.
Where I live in Sussex, the council is quite open to detectorists searching on beaches and in parks provided that their permission is sought and suitable insurance is in place. Essentially, this means joining an organising body, such as the National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMB) and submitting proof of membership. Often within 24 hours an email appears with written permission and a list of parks and beaches where detecting is allowed, and this permission lasts for three years.
Being a good metal detectorist
There are a few things that you can do to make the hobby more fun and the first is to learn the code of being a good detectorist. This includes things like obeying the Country Code; wearing headphones if others are in the area (oddly non-detectorists find all the bleeping annoying); Always taking any rubbish that you find and disposing of it properly (this also helps tidy up the countryside and beaches); and always, always fill in your holes. This is especially important if there is any livestock traffic and there is no excuse for not putting the spoil back into the hole.
Which is the best metal detector to buy?
Well, this is an impossible, but frequently asked question.
Firstly, do you need something waterproof for the beach or rivers? This will narrow down your search
Secondly, what budget are you working to? I would advise that until you have decided that you will stay with the hobby, you keep the budget relatively low. Maybe consider second-hand from a local club member.
Finally, don’t be lured by the gloss and displays. UK manufacturer C.Scope, for example, produce very good and very capable metal detectors with no displays at all!
In my case, I read a lot of reviews and read previously answered questions in some Facebook groups. After this, I went to a local specialist shop and spent an hour or two looking at the equipment and talking to the shop staff, all detectorists themselves. I then settled on my machine.
What I bought was a Minelab Vanquish 340 starter system for around £250 (2022 price). This included the detector, a digging tool (short spade), a pair of headphones, a finds bag to hold my finds, and a waterproof cover for the control box.
Did I choose the right metal detector?
In my case, yes. My criterea was that I wanted something with a waterproof coil, inexpensive, something that I could either sell or pass on if/when I upgraded, a ‘proper’ metal detector from a ‘proper’ brand, and under £300. Add to this the multi-Q feature that the Vanquish range includes I was assured that it is well suited to mineralised ground, such as found on wet beaches.
The Vanquish range of metal detectors is easy to use, lightweight and very capable.
Is it the right one for you? Perhaps. Do your research and ask for guidance from those in the know. Beware, though, there is a lot of ‘brand loyalty’ so canvas as many people as you can.
Where can I use a metal detector in the UK
Firstly, there is no such thing as unowned land in the UK, be it beach, common land, heathland, footpath or park, every inch of land is owned by someone and if that someone is not you, you’ll need permission. If the land is held by a tenant you need the permission of both the owner and the tenant before you can begin detecting.
How does a metal detector work?
The most straightforward answer to “how does a metal detector work?” is that the end of the detector (the coil) is a kind of ariel. A high-frequency signal is generated by the control box and emitted into the ground from the coil. This high-frequency pushes its way through the ground until it hits something metal and is reflected back to the coil. The amount of signal reflected and the time it takes to travel out and back in indicate the size and depth of the metal. The shape of the signal and its strength help the control box to identify the type of metal.
Do I need a metal detecting licence?
No. In the UK there is no licencing for metal detectors; however, you must have permission from the owner of the land and, if there is a tenant on the land, their permission too.
Can I keep whatever I find when metal detecting?
No. Under UK law, anything that you find whilst metal detecting is the property of the land owner. That said, a simple agreement between the landowner (and tenant) and yourself is all that is needed to determine ownership of any finds that you make.
What do I do if I find treasure when metal detecting?
Firstly, all finds are some kind of treasure, with things of no monetary value telling a story from the past; however, here we’re talking about pots of gold etc.!
If you find something that you believe to be really valuable, maybe some treasure or an archaeological, find do not tell everyone about it. Tell the landowner/tenant and then report it to your local Finds Liason Officer (FLO). The FLO will advise on what to do, including protecting your find from the elements. Most counties have their own FLO.
Portable Antiquities Scheme Website: https://finds.org.uk/
The Heritage Gateway: https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/gateway/chr/default.aspx
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