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by Alan S.

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to commit some of my site visits to video. Since moving to Cornwall earlier this year I’ve had limited time to get out and about, but am slowly putting together short films of some of the sites I’ve had the opportunity to visit.

So without further ado, here’s the first in the series, featuring the Men an Tol. Enjoy!

Look for more videos, coming soon!

It’s a fact that the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Registrar always publicise the times when detectorists indicate they don’t want a reward (almost invariably a footling amount so why even mention it?) whereas they don’t make it clear that the vast majority of detectorists grab the money however large or small (and even appeal in the hope of getting the “ransom” increased.)

The reason, presumably, is that they want to give people the idea that detectorists are fine fellows. Goodness knows why, when most finds aren’t reported and are lost to science, so they can’t be fine fellows they must be acquisitive and damaging. Or is logic not allowed when discussing the effect of the great majority of the 24,000 British artefact hunters? Now the Treasure Registrar’s mania for whitewashing (at taxpayers’ expense remember) has broken the bounds of factual accuracy (to put it gently). Look at this tweet:

‘Tis the season for giving: thank you to finder for waiving his right to a reward for this Roman silver ring, now in the collection of

The season for giving? What, the season to give Britain what Britain already owns? Waiving his right to a reward? Yet there is no right to a reward. It’s purely discretionary. Why go beyond praising some of Britain’s most acquisitive  people and give the public the impression they have a right to act like they do?





Paying farmers £1,000 for access isn’t the only new metal detecting innovation. In Essex the “charity rally” wheeze has been improved. Local freemasons have been persuaded to approach farmers instead of the detectorists (presumably to lend a greater air respectability to the proposal). However, let no-one doubt who the intended winners of the proposal are: “Finds with a potential value of under £500 would remain the sole property of the finder”.

It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if all the conservation bodies warned farmers that those nice, charitable freemasons are unaware that:

1.) Rallies, whatever their form and whoever proposes them and whether for charity or not, are likely to damage heritage.

2.) The vast majority of finds found will be worth under £500 so almost everything that is ever found, despite belonging to the farmer and totalling millions of pounds a year, will go to neither the farmer nor the charity but will be pocketed by the detectorists.





Will The National Trust’s management soon see that supporting trail hunting when most people oppose it makes for awful PR? Maybe the release of this Countryside Alliance Christmas card will finally convince them :


Amusing, yes, but there’s a subliminal message which is very clear, given who is publishing it and sending it and receiving it at the height of the hunting season: foxes are carnivores and hence deserve to be hunted. No-one hunts without believing that foolish logic surely?

On the other hand, maybe nastiness needs no justification. It seems so this week, for in Britain the Tories have just voted that animals don’t have emotions or feelings and in Alaska they just made it legal for hunters to shoot hibernating bears.

The National Trust is a great organisation but it really ought to decide whether nastiness of any sort, including so-called “accidents” during trail hunting, should ever take place on its land.

Back in September,  Hands off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOOH) pointed out that the news that Shropshire has a 5 + year surplus of housing land destroys the case for building new houses on the setting of Oswestry Hillfort.

So far, unsurprisingly, Shropshire Council hasn’t embraced that logic. However, Oswestry Town Council has now resolved to write to Shropshire Council making that very point – see their minutes, below:


Shropshire Council’s reaction will be instructive. Some have long suspected an agenda to build houses there irrespective of the 5 year housing supply. Soon we may know. Will the hillfort’s setting be spared or will brand new reasons for not sparing it pop up?

Against the endless Portable Antiquities Scheme efforts to show how successful it is, the reality of its two main failures ought to be examined. The first is the failure over 20 long years to persuade most detectorists to report their finds. The second is more recent: the failure to publicly oppose the rise of industrialised metal detecting and the mass archaeological depletion to individual farms that goes with it.

It’s not as if it’s hard to ensure that every landowner knows that if he accepts an offer of £1,000 to allow one-off commercial exploitation of the history on his fields he may do irreversible harm to the heritage of the rest of us. Just write an article in the farming press saying that, for God’s sake!

Instead, the likes of Lets Go Digging are free to make their propositions to 50 farmers a year unopposed even though their agenda for more of the same in future is on clear display in this article on their website:


“With every day that passes, we are seeing a substantial increase in the amount of people taking up metal detecting. Whilst the interest in the hobby and unearthing more of our lost heritage is inspiring, it is in itself creating an obstacle……We came to a decision that to acquire a permission, we had to make it worth the landowners time, so by pricing a dig at £15 for our full members, we could pay him £10 per head, in most cases a minimum of £400 and in some cases, over £1000. “




Not a prehistoric issue but it’s such a a fantastic monument we can’t ignore it! English Heritage is running  a crowdfunding project to repair The Iron Bridge, possibly the most significant bridge in the world.


Bravo for them. Already they’re well on their way to their target of £3.6million. Please help.

(Maybe they could then consider running another crowdfunding project 30 miles away at Oswestry Hill Fort, to buy off those who want to build a speculative housing estate on its setting?)

Having lost all the arguments (and been told so by UNESCO), Highways England is now resorting to the fall-back fiction that £1.6bn is all Britain can afford to spend on the Stonehenge tunnel. It’s a wicked lie, and here’s the proof:



The public is entitled to ask: why haven’t English Heritage, Historic England and the hapless National Trust not made that same point? Surely it’s because all three see a financial or other advantage to themselves in not doing so. So much for, respectively, “standing on the spot where history happened”, “championing and protecting historic places” and “preserving and protecting the heritage at our places and spaces for ever, for everyone”!



To The National Association of Local Councils
109 Great Russell Street
Rescue – The British Archaeological Trust
The Council for British Archaeology
The National Council for Metal Detecting
The Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers
The All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group/ The archaeology forum


Dear Sirs,

We should be grateful if you would forward this message to each of your 10,000 members.

They will all have received many requests over the years for “metal detecting permission” (and we understand a more concerted application on behalf of detectorists may now be being considered). Mostly permission is withheld, for a variety of individual reasons, although some Councils agree to it albeit under specific conditions on the grounds that Central Government considers it reasonable for them to do so.

However, we hope your Members will accept that although a variety of non-damaging recreational uses of public land ought to be permitted, anything found within publicly owned land belongs to the public authority and it is not at liberty to allow private individuals to claim it as their own. That principle also applies, for instance, to harvesting flowers and the removal of fish, birds and mammals. In the case of archaeological artefacts the principle is of particular importance since objects may not only have monetary value but also historical value.

Accordingly, we should like to offer two suggestions under which permission for metal detecting on public land could be considered:

The Deefholts-Billingshurst method. See Item 064/09 of the Deerhurst Parish Council, Gloucestershire, in 2009 []
“Mr Ray Deefholts wished to speak about agenda item 9 on metal detecting. Mr Deefholts stated that he is a member of the Federation of Independent Detectorists and is seeking permission from the Council for himself and two friends to use metal detectors on Parish Council land. Smaller items found will remain in the possession of the land owner i.e. the Parish Council, but Horsham Museum may be interested in these finds. Other finds may fall under the Treasure Act….” (In other words, nothing found during metal detecting would be claimed by Mr Deefholts or his two companions).

Gleaning. In 2015 the following poster was displayed on the parish council noticeboard in Wichenford, Worcestershire. It was aimed at persuading the 200 residents to do some “gleaning” – the 18th century right of cottagers to gather left-over produce from the local fields so it can be given to needy people. It would seem to us that permission to metal detect on public land could validly be given as permission to “glean” on behalf of the needy and/or the local museum.

In my view those are the only two means by which the interests of the wider public can be protected but I am happy to be corrected.

Kind regards,
Nigel Swift
The Heritage Journal



You just said on the Metal Detecting FB page: “I thought you would like to see this its called a charging boar folding knife handle its Roman it has been to the museum they wanted to keep it, I love it to [sic] much to part with it.”


Wow! So the museum can’t have it because you love it too much! And the farmer can’t have it because (presumably) you got him to sign his rights away in your favour! In which universe does that make you an amateur archaeologist and a heritage hero?

Incidentally, here’s a wild guess. The farmer is unaware the museum wants it and that you’ve refused to donate it to them! Please send us his name and address so we can tell him. Maybe he’ll then demand it back from you saying “I love it too much to part with it” and then HE can give it to the museum.  The chances of him being an avaricious anti-social self-seeking little oik are pretty remote, don’t you think?





November 2017

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