A metal detecting rally in the heart of the village of Foxham, Wiltshire will be in aid of the local church and village hall. So a good thing? The villagers think so evidently – the participants are even being allowed to camp on the village green. But do they fully understand the nature of the event? I’m betting not.
First, the organiser openly admits – indeed boasts – “In the heart of this delightful quaint rural Wiltshire village, I have for you 136 acres of undetected rich pasture land, which has been pasture and undisturbed for approximately one hundred years” and doesn’t mention that this totally flouts the official Code of Practice for Responsible Detecting and the Guidance on Metal-detecting Rallies which requires activity to be confined to disturbed ground that has been ploughed within the last five years. Do the landowners and locals realise?
Second, do the locals understand why the organisers say this: “Only finds that are subject to treasure trove are to be divided fifty/fifty with the land owner”? It means the 99.9% of finds that are not treasure (and which legally belong entirely to the landowners!) are to become the sole property of the finders – the 150 people from goodness knows where who are first to offer £28 each for a weekend’s prospecting rights in order to be free to take the items home or sell them on EBay. No question of donating all finds to the village as a permanent record of its history. No question of sparing that history on the grounds that the venue is highly inappropriate. (NB, the fact it is a “good cause” changes nothing. The guidelines are clear on the point: “These considerations apply equally to events held for charitable purposes.”)
We have little doubt the locals will have been told that the participants are doing it purely for the love of history. Fine, let them be requested to leave any bits of Foxham’s history with the people of Foxham then! No greater love of history could anyone have! Failing a positive response to that, perhaps the landowners and villagers and church officials should discuss this rally with some professional archaeologists to see if they regard the venue as appropriate. Extra finance for Foxham’s church and village hall would be very nice but raising it by selling Foxham’s history to random people like pick-your-own strawberries? And in a way that the professionals see as damaging……..?