It’s a good question. You don’t get charity birdwatching events even though vast numbers of people do that. Yet the 18th Rotary Spring Detecting Rally took place last Sunday near Swindon and that’s just one local Rotary club. Scores of them run rallies and lots of other charities too. Why? It’s simple. Detectorists massively increase their chances of getting permission if they dress up their events as for charity.

Trouble is, only the entry fee goes to the charity and what’s  found goes to the detectorists alone. It’s a misdescribed racket, yet PAS legitimises it by attending them. Back in 2011 we suggested what ought to be said:

“If communities are dead set on allowing the digging up of their local archaeological record to raise charity money (and they shouldn’t be – let them ask PAS or any archaeologist in private what they think) they’d be vastly better off hiring a few detecting machines for their local amateur archaeology society to do it (although their ethics would hopefully preclude it). That way, 100% of any government Treasure rewards could go to the charity, 100% of all the other finds could go to the charity and 100% of the finds would be willingly and accurately reported to PAS (making the exercise less damaging than any metal detecting rally in history!)

Instead, the “charity rally” concept has ballooned since then. The latest even bills itself as not just for charity but also “to prevent so-called “nighthawk” metal detectorists getting there first and stripping the field of any finds.” What heroes, grabbing the loot for themselves before others loot it! They say it’s an open event, “free for all”…. So of the 100 attendees XX will be nighthawks, YY will pocket finds and not report them to PAS and all 100 of them will keep the finds and not give them to the charity or the farmer! So here’s a rational thought:

Since rallies damage the archaeological record how about these charity minded people stay at home, donate £10 each to the charity and donate the cost of the petrol too!