Guides for responsible metal detecting
This guide is copied from the official www.finds.org.uk web site and it is relative
to England and Wales. We propose it, with some modifications, as a guide for all other countries.
Before you go metal-detecting
1. Not trespassing; before you start detecting obtain permission to search from the
landowner/occupier, regardless of the status, or perceived status, of the land. Remember
that all land has an owner. To avoid subsequent disputes it is always advisable to get permission
and agreement in writing first regarding the ownership of any finds subsequently
discovered (see www.cla.org.uk / www.nfuonline.com1).
2. Adhering to the laws concerning protected sites (e.g. those defined as Scheduled
Monuments or Sites of Special Scientific Interest: you can obtain details of these from
the landowner/occupier, Finds Liaison Officer, Historic Environment Record or at www.magic.gov.uk 1).
Take extra care when detecting near protected sites: for example, it is not
always clear where the boundaries lie on the ground.
3. You are strongly recommended to join a metal detecting club or association that encourages
co-operation and responsive exchanges with other responsible heritage groups.
Details of metal detecting organisations can be found at www.ncmd.co.uk / www.fid.newbury.net.
4. Familiarising yourself with and following current conservation advice on the handling,
care and storage of archaeological objects (see www.finds.org.uk).
While you are metal-detecting
5. Wherever possible working on ground that has already been disturbed (such as
ploughed land or that which has formerly been ploughed), and only within the depth of
ploughing. If detecting takes place on undisturbed pasture, be careful to ensure that no
damage is done to the archaeological value of the land, including earthworks.
6. Minimising any ground disturbance through the use of suitable tools and by reinstating
any excavated material as neatly as possible. Endeavour not to damage stratified
7. Recording findspots as accurately as possible for all finds (i.e. to at least a one hundred
metre square, using an Ordnance Survey map or hand-held Global Positioning Systems
(GPS) device) whilst in the field. Bag finds individually and record the National Grid Reference
(NGR)1 on the bag. Findspot information should not be passed on to other parties
without the agreement of the landowner/occupier (see also clause 9).
8. Respecting the Country Code (leave gates and property as you find them and do not
damage crops, frighten animals, or disturb ground nesting birds, and dispose properly of
litter: see www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk1).
After you have been metal-detecting
9. Reporting any finds to the relevant landowner/occupier; and (with the agreement of
the landowner/occupier) to the Portable Antiquities Scheme1, so the information can pass
into the local Historic Environment Record1. Both the Country Land and Business Association
(www.cla.org.uk) and the National Farmers Union (www.nfuonline.com) support the
reporting of finds. Details of your local Finds Liaison Officer can be found at www.finds.org.uk1,
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7323 8611.
10. Abiding by the provisions of the Treasure Act and Treasure Act Code of Practice (www.finds.org.uk),
wreck law1 (www.mcga.gov.uk) and export licensing1 (www.mla.gov.uk). If you
need advice your local Finds Liaison Officer1 will be able to help you.
11. Seeking expert help if you discover something large below the ploughsoil, or a concentration
of finds or unusual material, or wreck remains, and ensuring that the landowner/occupier’s
permission is obtained to do so. Your local Finds Liaison Officer may be
able to help or will be able to advise of an appropriate person. Reporting the find does not
change your rights of discovery, but will result in far more archaeological evidence being
12. Calling the Police, and notifying the landowner/occupier, if you find any traces of human
13. Calling the Police or HM Coastguard, and notifying the landowner/occupier, if you
find anything that may be a live explosive: do not use a metal-detector or mobile phone
nearby as this might trigger an explosion. Do not attempt to move or interfere with any
Finding out more about archaeology in Great Britain
You can find out more about the archaeology of your own area from the Historic
Environment Records maintained by local authority archaeology services (in England) and
the Welsh archaeological trusts (see contact lists at www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.1549 and www.ggat.org.uk/fourwelshtrusts.htm).
For further information contact the Council for British Archaeology (tel 01904 71417 / www.britarch.ac.uk) who can also supply details of local archaeology societies.
1For England and Wales. For for different countries please refer to your country equivalent laws/officiers.