From 1st January many farmers will be forbidden to allow metal detecting on ploughed land if there are known archaeological sites on it, not just on grassland containing them. This is due to the new Countrywide Stewardship Scheme starting on that date. A detectorist has said: “It would seem that this move is nothing more than a way to restrict and control metal detecting access to known archaeological sites…” Damn right it is! What’s wrong with wanting rules preventing people from damaging or sometimes destroying any archaeological sites purely for personal amusement or profit? You won’t find a single archaeologist outside Britain who thinks that should be allowed.

However, there are ominous clouds on the horizon. The usual suspects, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, may be trying to get it reversed. As one detectorist says: Have just come out from meeting FLO and he says ….. PAS are also concerned about this and will be issuing a statement early in the New Year” and he gives a direct and profoundly anti-conservation quote from the FLO: “its no good for you and its no good for us”. Is that right, Mr FLO?! Well it’s good for archaeology and that’s all that matters!

So watch this space just after Christmas. Will “New PAS” get English Nature to delete the words “ploughed land” and thereby fail its first big litmus test by flouting CBA’s vision of archaeology “for all” in favour of  archaeology “freely available for damaging by an acquisitive few”? If the latter, why are they receiving salaries?

Update 22/12/2015: Unsurprisingly, the National Council for Metal Detecting have complained they “have not been consulted” and one “Muddy Fingers” laments that “Nowadays, it seems that things get presented to us as a fait accompli of which we had no prior knowledge or opportunity to state our case”. And what would be your “case” Muddy? That detecting on archaeological sites does no damage and you want to be allowed to continue?

That’s the choice PAS must make. Support thousands of Muddys. Or archaeology. Get in line with the rest of the world or pretend they’re wrong. PS, detectorists are saying to a man they should support THEM against the archaeology – look at this classic from Muddy: ” The PAS has really got to fight for our cause a lot more than they have done. ” Er, really? Is that what he thinks they’re there for?

Update 29/12/2015  Interestingly, there’s an early test for PAS in a few days. There’s (another!) rally at Lenborough on 3rd January and the organiser says “The Deserted Medieval Village is not scheduled but I promised the FLO that we would forego searching there in consideration of the underlying archaeology.” Very good. Usually detectorists target such places with relish (“well it’s legal, innit?”) so agreeing not to is a rare treat for archaeology. But what of PAS? No lickspittling on this occasion, but what about all the other unscheduled sites? Will they say those are fair game if ploughed and the new Countrywide Stewardship Scheme should be rejected so their “partners” can have their way?