“The vilest deeds like poison-weeds – Bloom well in open air”  

The Keyston Metal detecting Rally took place a week ago adjacent to the busy A14 dual carriageway in Cambridgeshire and in full view of umpteen thousand passing motorists. It was on 200 acres of ridge and furrow pasture, the fourth time in a year Central Searchers have targeted such land, flouting the Code of Responsible Detecting, the official Guidance on Metal Detecting Rallies, the wishes of many decent detectorists and all archaeologists bar none. Worse, these particular ridge and furrow fields were identified in The Midland Open Fields Survey as “of regional or national significance and perhaps, according to English Heritage, “of international significance”. 



As usual, there has been no official public comment about it. Leaving the complaining to the likes of us is hardly an effective conservation strategy on the part of the Establishment since anything we say gets dismissed by those who find it convenient or profitable to do so.  It’s also unfair to leave us looking like the only ones opposed since who can even pretend to deny that the most unprincipled events, by their very nature, attract the most unprincipled detectorists  so we are left as the focus for anger and threats from the likes of Central Searchers customer “Big Mick” who has left us the message “A word of friendly advise! we know who and where you are”.

Only two rally organisers agreed to the official guidelines. Central Searchers wasn’t one of them (and one of the two has pulled out). We can’t help thinking that if this landowner had been given a full official account of the implications this event might not have taken place. So all in all it seems high time (and a duty owed) for PAS, CBA, EH and DEFRA to make it crystal clear to landowners, detectorists and the tens of thousands of people that travelled along the A14 last Saturday that what was going on was damaging and that such rallies are against all professional advice and wishes. After all, those thousands of landowners and motorists may well think that since rallies are obviously not nighthawking (and are often dressed up as “for charity”) they must be beneficial – for that is the broad message that has been constantly delivered to them for years!


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting