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As you may know, if you allow metal detecting on your land you should follow the official Guidance for Landowners: “Ask to see all finds and ask that all archaeological finds are recorded with the PAS.”

But have you ever wondered if you (and PAS) are being shown everything the detectorists are taking home? The limited number of finds PAS records each year scream loudly that a vast number are going walkies. So YOU may be losing out, big time. Fortunately, it’s very easily checked:

You could buy something on EBay like this “Rare Old Collection of Small Coins” for £19.99, put a distinctive mark on them and bury them 3 inches down, next to a distinctive boulder. If they’re brought back to you, fine. If not, and they’re no longer in the ground, well, it means you’re losing far more than £19.99, and maybe many thousands.


UPDATE: here’s a relevant discussion from the largest metal detecting forum implying metal detecting rallies and commercial events pose the greatest risk of dishonesty. Swany wrote: Wed Nov 13, 2019 8:17 pm Not good, just wondering if these paying peeps will be declaring finds to the landowner and Flo’s. I know where my bet will be going. A good Few £££’s to detect, so finds most likely will go under the radar.
That’s what I think also. If people have paid a lot to detect then there maybe less incentive to declare anything of value they find. Farmers / landowners need to get wise to this, they could be losing out big time in the long run. [Topic speedily deleted, as always!]

More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

From a recent Oxford County Council meeting:

  • Transport cabinet member Yvonne Constance said councillor Mike Tysoe’s proposal to divert traffic past the ancient site was “doable”.
  • Speaking after the meeting, Mr Tysoe said: “Would our Neolithic ancestors mind too much if we save future generations? I don’t think it will basically damage the site. I’ve been told it probably won’t or there are ways of ensuring that any damage doesn’t happen.”
  • George Lambrick, chairman of the Rollright Trust, said such a scheme would be “bonkers” and would “trash” a “key landmark”.

Mr Tysoe’s suggestion that our Neolithic ancestors wouldn’t mind too much is factually true since they are indeed dead, but morally vacuous for the implication is that nothing from the past needs preserving as the people from the past are all dead!

His remark has the saving grace that it was spoken out of pure ignorance. There is no such excuse for English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust who are campaigning to wreck the Stonehenge landscape for a road scheme.


” Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me, those have always
been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

Beware of letting someone else cast your vote! 6,700 people did just that at the 2017 National Trust AGM and surprise, surprise the Chairman used their votes to support the short tunnel scheme. He did much the same that day to oppose a ban on Trail Hunting on Trust land.

Now it has happened a third time! At the recent 2019 AGM he used 4,327 discretionary votes to support a continuation of the Trust’s partnership with Cadburys – despite the Cadbury’s Easter Egg scandal – which @NatTrustArch described as “Utterly appalling.” So there’s a clear pattern: like trail hunting and the short tunnel, Cadbury’s has been given undeserved support by the Trust management’s deployment of discretionary votes.

Of such murkiness is the continued existence of the short tunnel project built. The Government has said the Trust’s support for the short tunnel was “pivotal” so if the destruction does go ahead, in the teeth of opposition from UNESCO, it will certainly have been built upon the less than praiseworthy actions of the National Trust management.

With so few days excavating on site every year, seeing an ever richer but changing picture emerge of Blick Mead, it is unsurprising that media reporting of this community project as news can tie itself in knots. This doesn’t, however, explain why the media do not trouble to straighten out knots of their making.
Just over a week ago the Sunday Telegraph posted an article online suggesting Blick Mead was a ‘city’. It turns out none of the archaeologists involved came up with this fantastic claim, the ‘city’ was the projection of a TV series titled ‘Lost Cities’ about to air on the National Geographic channel.
Having initially followed the rest of the media flock in regurgitating the Telegraph’s ‘city’ hype, the Salisbury Journal deleted its first account and replaced it without mention of a ‘city’. Well done William Rimell of the Salisbury Journal. Now, why can’t the Telegraph and all the other ‘city’ types do that?

We have held very many gatherings at Avebury, frequently in front of the old chapel now owned by the National Trust, where we’ve often discussed how those who did most for Avebury are not commemorated at Avebury. So here’s our suggestion for doing so, at a point overlooking the South Circle and what is probably the most significant part of the monument.

William Stukeley recorded the position of the stones in the face of the monument’s destruction and without Lord Avebury purchasing land in order to save the monuments, we may wonder how much of Avebury would have survived.




It may well be that PAS will soon be swept away (or replaced with a decorative “shell” of itself.) Not what Sir Anthony Grant hoped for in the Commons in 2001: “I trust that we will now join the great majority of other civilised countries in passing a law to protect our rich and important heritage of portable antiquities” nor what Baroness Blackstone hoped for in the PAS Annual Report:It is the long term aim of the Scheme to change public attitudes to recording archaeological discoveries so that it becomes normal practice for finders to report them

20 years later there is no “law to protect heritage” and no major change in “public attitudes to recording archaeological discoveries”. All must agree that what was a great and generous offer to detectorists has failed. Soon they won’t have PAS to use as their figleaf but they’ll have another, equally effective one: the widespread belief held by the public (put around for 20 years by PAS to get their annual funding) that most detectorists are responsible and metal detecting is mostly fine.

The public belief that detecting is mostly “a good thing” has caused incalculable damage yet will survive long after PAS has gone, like cockroaches after a nuclear war. It’s not a good legacy. Will the PAS employees, free of their employment, start saying it’s wrong? We’ll soon see.




More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting




It’s amazing how many detectorists quarrel over money yet are only in it for the history. The latest is a man in dispute with the Church of Scotland, would you believe! Then there’s this and this and in 2010 this quarrelsome pair …


But for me the worst was 2015. Two pensioners argued in Court: “I found it and he said ‘it’s mine, it’s mine’. He can’t dispute it, I found the third coin…. I dug the hole … he may have heard me say I can’t find it but I did. It was my hand that found it…. Surely possession is nine-tenths of the law?” And so on. All it needed was one to mutter “my precious!”

Why I resent them so much is that the Shropshire field they had searched was the very one I used to play in! Things were different then though – my friend  Jim found an artefact and we all proudly processed, Cider-with Rosie style, to our headmaster’s house to present it to him “for the museum”. We had no thought it was “ours”. Now those fields are travelled to by very different people.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


The Government has announced “the most ambitious heritage preservation campaign for 40 years“! Hurrah!

But it’s significant that its previous strategy has meant mainly big houses and loss of green belt and consequently massive profits for the big national builders. (Guess who sat on the committee advising the Government on the strategy?!)

Now, the Minister (Robert Jenrick) has announced more of the same but better (who advised him?). ) What matters now it seems is “Not, how many homes. Not, where do we build the homes. Or even, for whom are we building homes. But, what do those houses actually look like.”  This means even bigger profits for developers: lots of houses, big ones, on the Green Belt, for rich people,  and now with a further premium on looking good.

Ker-ching! It pays to sit on an Advisory Committee!

Gone in Kempsey, Worcestershire:  another piece of the Green Belt, plus all hope for first-time buyers and all trace of the Saxons (except the name)


The Government has also accepted Archaeology as a ‘Shortage Occupation’ with regards to Tier 2 working visas. Hurrah again!

No need for such concessions for metal detectorists though. Any number of Americans can come on paid detecting holidays and any number of French people can come on detecting rallies without any let or hindrance.

So the Government’s position is: Digging to Study needs carefully controlling, Digging for Grabbing doesn’t.

Never coy about making an ironic mistake, Highways England has sent its entire A303 Stonehenge Project team to Devenish Nature Reserve to spend a day helping to protect Wiltshire’s wildlife. What a jolly change from planning to damage Wiltshire’s most important archaeology!

A spokesperson said: “The team of 12 had a fantastic time burning off excess energy with saws, loppers, and hand knives….. we really made a huge difference to the woodland.” Perhaps the most memorable thing was that “as part of their work they managed to “fence off” 7 tree stumps, to help protect new growths from being eaten by deer.”

A passing cynic was heard to say “Great. Will they also be fencing off all the archaeological sites in the path of their bloody road to stop them being destroyed?


It was quite a coincidence that two weeks after we criticised English Heritage’s unseemly new bridge at Tintagel an article popped up in America praising them to the skies for providing disabled access there and elsewhere.

To be clear, we support enhanced disabled access where possible but NOT where the solution damages the sense of place of a monument. Furthermore. we’re pretty sure that the £4 million spent on the new bridge at Tintagel was primarily to increase ticket sales not to accommodate disabled people.

Why do we think that? Well, if the welfare of wheelchair users was uppermost in their minds why would they have left this gimmicky gap in the middle?!





My understanding is that the bridge gives wheelchair users access *to* the island. Once there, you’re pretty much on your own amongst the lumps and bumps (apart from the crowds). So good luck with that!


December 2019
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