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Metal detecting and the law

This information is taken from the Portable Antiquities Scheme's leaflet Advice for Finders of Archaeological Objects, including Treasure.

Where can I metal detect?

Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs)

It is an offence to metal detect without the written permission of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on a Scheduled Ancient Monument or on land within zones designated as Areas of Archaeological Importance (i.e. those in Hereford, York, Chester, Exeter and Canterbury). Some local authorities also have byelaws prohibiting the use of metal detectors on their land. It is against the law of trespass to metal detect without the landowner's permission. If you see anyone using a metal detector on such a site, please remind them of the law, as their actions reflect badly on the hobby of metal detecting.

Land under the Environmental Stewardship Scheme

The Environmental Stewardship Scheme is operated in England by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It is a scheme in which farmers and land managers enter into ten-year land management agreements to achieve specific environmental objectives. In Environmental Stewardship agreements, two conditions specifically relate to the use of metal detectors.

  • On agreement land, metal detecting is not permitted on sites of archaeological interest without the written consent of Defra and, where legally-protected sites are concerned, English Heritage. It may be possible to obtain this permission, if you agree to certain recording conditions. Neither your nor the landowner's rights will be affected.
  • The agreement holder is required to protect and maintain archaeological sites and other landscape features on the farm, including those on land that is not under the land management agreement, and you are expected to agree to these conditions too.

Private land

Remember: It is against the law of trespass to metal detect on private land without the owner's permission. Any finds that you may make on private land without permission belong to the landowner, and you may be prosecuted for trespass.

Public land

You must have the permission of the owner or authority responsible for the land before you begin metal detecting.