On 2 May 2006 a Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting was launched at the British Museum.
It is a pretty innocuous sort of document – you mustn’t trespass, you must adhere to the law, and ‘minimise any ground disturbance through the use of suitable tools’.
All in all, it is a triumph for the National Council for Metal Detecting, which once again has proved itself to be the most effective lobbying body in the field. As always, there is a quid pro quo, and I gather they are very pleased with their latest success over the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. This scheme is the latest step towards the nationalisation of all agricultural land, but under the scheme, many properties were placed out of bounds to metal detecting. It seems that this has now been reversed, and thanks to their lobbying, metal detectorists will have greatly increased access to land that has been ‘set aside’. Whether this is a good thing from the archaeological point of view seems doubtful: it would seem that the Council has as usual got a very good bargain.
But if the government’s desire for Codes of Practice should ever fall upon the hapless amateurs, then the local societies should see that firstly, the teeth are drawn and that it is wholly innocuous; and secondly they should look to see what they should get in return – a proper recognition by the ‘Curators’ and other heritage managers as to the sort of contribution they should be allowed to make towards exploring our past.
This opinion comes from CA issue 204