If you’re like many people right now, going hiking is your source of freedom and liberty from self-isolation. Combining your hike with metal detecting could offer you some extra excitement and you may find a thing or two.
Guest Post by Richard Kennedy
Over the years there have been some spectacular finds made using a metal detector. The Mojave nugget was discovered in California in 1977 by Ty Paulson, and the nugget was solid gold and weighing 10.8 lbs (4.9 kg)! In 2009, someone with their metal detector in hand was walking across a Staffordshire field, when they discovered the largest treasure trove of gold and silver Anglo Saxon jewelry in history!
If you are doing some outdoor activities for your mental and or physical health, you might want to consider combining a lovely hike with the thrill of metal detecting. Aside from being able to add some extra thrill to your own hike, metal detecting is an activity you can do with your whole family, which given the current circumstances, is quite the gift all on its own. Children and grandchildren, in particular, tend to find real excitement from the thrill of discovering something special! It’s something to do during social distancing.
To be successful at metal detecting, you need the right kit, some skill and lots of luck! If you do find something special and, after investigation, you are able to keep it, that feels like a great reward.
Getting Started – You Need a Metal Detector!
Before you can head out and enjoy the treasure hunt, you will need a quality metal detector, and boy, do you have a confusing selection to choose from! There are so many models on the market, ranging from very cheap to ridiculously expensive! Some are made specifically for finding gold, others money and a third group is designed to detect coins. If you’re specifically looking for some old coins, some metal detectors feature a coin depth detector whilst others have a high 10kHz frequency, which is particularly good for finding gold. Some models are made to work well on sandy beaches and others on various other terrains.
At this stage, it is best to think about what type of metal detecting you plan to do and unless you have something specific in mind, go for a good quality general-purpose model. There are a number of popular makes, and it is best to buy a model that is straight forward and good for beginners. Read reviews on the various models you like and if you have a metal detecting friend, ask for their advice.
Additional Metal Detecting Kit Items Needed
There are only three other essential pieces of kit that you will need for metal detecting. The last two items are useful, but not essential. However, I do recommend having them.
- A hand digger – a small trowel is perfect as you will need to dig a small, neat hole to reach your treasure.
- A pinpointer – this is a really useful piece of gear that will help precisely locate your treasure so you can start digging!
- A bag – for carrying your treasures. A bag with individual compartments is best and a supply of soft rags for wrapping anything you find will be useful. A fishing tackle box or similar works really well.
- A protective carry bag – this item is for your metal detector, and it’s pretty important. If you’re hiking, this could well be just your rucksack/hiking pack as that would be the easiest solution. But the downside to that is that your metal detector would have to be dismantled each time you pack it away.
- Extra coils – these are useful accessories for your metal detector as they come in a variety of sizes, each good for a different type of terrain. Keep a varying selection on you, and buy some inexpensive coil protectors to keep your coils from getting scratched.
Now, You’re Ready for a Metal Detecting Hike
Once you have your kit, you need to plan a good hiking route that will incorporate some interesting metal detecting opportunities. Some good homework in advance reaps benefits! Look at some old maps in the local library or online to determine the location of old communities and buildings; these are rich treasure grounds. Chatting with people who have lived in the locality for many years is beneficial too. If you are planning a coastal walk, check out some old maps. The coast may well have shifted over the years.
Consider Public Liability Insurance
Having public liability insurance is well worth considering. It helps offer you some peace of mind if you are going to be asking for access to private lands. Imagine the scenario of you having been given the chance to go on private farmland, and you accidentally leave the farmer’s gate open – there’s a good chance you won’t be able to cover their losses.
Permission, Permits, Reporting and Regulations
Filled with excitement, you will be keen to get going on your forage into metal detecting, but before you do, it is important that you are aware of the laws and regulations for metal detecting in specific areas and on certain properties, such as historical sites. It is technically an illegal pursuit if you don’t have prior permission.
For example, let’s say you are in the UK and planning to go metal detecting on a beach, they are owned by British Crown Estate, and it is essential that you check whether you need to apply for a permit first. And, the type of permit matters too. A beach permit applies only to the beach. There are other types of permits that cover underwater metal detecting.
But what if you’re in the US? The same rules apply, specific locations require prior permission and some even require permits, this is the case for state-owned property, private property, historical sites and some outdoor parks. For example, it’s illegal to remove anything from a national park in the United States, not even a rock. So, find out where you can go first before you make a big mistake.
Once you find something, you’re legally obligated to report it as well. In 2015, four men discovered a Viking treasure trove worth millions. Unfortunately, they didn’t report it and instead kept the find secret. In 2019, they were sentenced to years in prison. So, keep this in mind before you think about not reporting your finds, see the Metal Detecting Code of Conduct below for more on this.
Places to Search
Gardens (particularly those of older houses) can be rich hunting grounds for metal detectors, but it is essential to get the written permission of the owners first. If you want to try out your metal detector in parks and on common land, these both belong to the local authorities, and again, written permission needs to be sought.
Open fields have long been a wonderful place for success with metal detecting. If you see some fields that you would like to explore, go, and meet the farmer for a face to face discussion.
Whether you’re in the US or the UK, old battlegrounds offer some great historical finds. Today, these are scattered about and are usually under vast fields, either privately or publically owned. Similarly, if you start near old Roman roads or, if in the US, near old migration routes like the Oregon Trail, you might find some historical finds.
Again, written permission is essential and it needs to include an agreement on what happens if you find any precious items. If you are hoping to do some metal detecting in the woods, you will need to conduct some good research to establish who is the owner, so you can seek permission. Just because a forest has a ‘public right of way’ doesn’t mean it is public land. Also, if searching in historical lands, whatever you find may have to be donated to the province or a local museum. In rare cases, you may get a reward for the find. If nothing else, you’ll get some recognition.
It is important that you are always polite and courteous when seeking permission to use your metal detector.
The Metal Detecting Code of Conduct
The Metal Detecting Code of Conduct is a voluntary practice, but is one that should be followed at all times:
- DON’T TRESPASS: All pieces of land have an owner, and before you start metal detecting you must obtain permission in writing from the owner or tenant.
- RESPECT PROTECTED SITES: You should always follow laws about any protected sites. Always seek permission to explore these sites and be sure you know their boundaries.
- HANDLE YOUR FINDS WITH CARE: You must handle any archaeological finds in a particular way to ensure that you do not damage them. Some webpages are offer advice to help with this.
- CARE FOR THE GROUND: Disturb anywhere that you explore as little as possible, especially if the land is valuable historically. Always use the right tools to extract anything you discover and cover the hole again perfectly afterward.
- KEEP ACCURATE RECORDS: If you do find something, keep a record of the grid reference of the spot using Ordnance Survey or GPS. Package your finds really carefully. Notify other parties (such as the landowner) immediately.
- REPORT YOUR FINDS: If you find any archaeological or historical items, tell the landowner immediately, and with their agreement, notify the Portable Antiquities Scheme so that the find can be recorded by the local Historic Environment Record. If you’re in the US, contact your local municipality or department of conservation and natural resources if you’re searching in public parks.
- TREASURE CODE: You must abide by the provisions of the Treasure Act Code of Practice. If you have any concerns, your local liaison officer will be able to advise you.
- SEEK HELP: You should always seek expert help if you discover something sizeable, valuable or made of an unusual material. Contact the landowner immediately and also contact the local liaison officer. If you find what could be human remains, contact the police immediately. If you think you have found an old explosive, switch your equipment off immediately, do not touch the device and contact HM Coastguard right away. In the US, contact the local fire department and police authority so that a bomb squad can be dispatched. Move to a safe distance.
- FOLLOW THE COUNTRY CODE: Always leave gates, fields and property exactly as you find them. Do not damage crops, scare farm animals or disturb wildlife. Always take your litter home and use Leave No Trace practices.
Well, there you have it, a very basic guide to metal detecting, which could enrich your hikes and activities during and after self-isolation. Hopefully, this has fired you with enthusiasm to research the subject more and embark on a great new hobby.
About Richard Kennedy
Richard is an avid metal detectorist, he runs a blog where he helps people to not only get into metal detecting but also find more on their treasure hunts.