The Metal Detecting Code of Conduct

Nothing beats finding a hidden piece of treasure when out with your metal detector. And whether you get out in nature as a part-time hobby or it’s a passion that you can’t live without, there are a lot of things that make metal detecting a wonderful activity. Of course, with great fun comes great responsibility! Although it is voluntary and not law, it’s important to keep in mind the code of conduct for metal detecting as you are out and about. This will ensure that the hobby stays pleasurable for all involved. Read on for a brief lowdown of the code of conduct.

Before You Embark

Do not trespass.
Found your ideal metal detecting site? You’ll need to make sure that you have full permission to detect there. Unless you’re heading to a public area (beaches, a local park or even your own back garden…), you’ll need to get in touch with the landowner to obtain their permission. If you want to go one step further to avoid disputes, get this permission in writing.

Avoid protected areas.
Did you know that it’s technically illegal for anyone to use a metal detector on a protected site without permission from the appropriate authority? This might be a scheduled archaeological site, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), or Ministry of Defence property. 

Learn about handling & care.
Familiarise yourself with advice on the handling, care and storage of archaeological objects that you might come across while out metal detecting. You can find information about this at

During Your Hunt

Respect the Country Code.
Of all the things we’re taught in school, after a few years a lot of it goes in one ear and out the other. But the Country Code is important to remember as the years go by so that we can all enjoy nature the way it was intended. Take the time to refresh your memory on the Countryside Code and make sure to respect it when you’re out enjoying the views.

Dig with care.
With the right equipment and a little bit of care, digging up any small treasures just a few inches below the surface can be easy, tidy work. It’s important to remember that plenty of people will follow in your footsteps, so avoid leaving a mess in your wake. Fill holes back in as neatly as possible. By simply cutting a neat incision in the ground, extracting your object and laying it back down again, you ensure no uneven (and unsafe) surfaces are remaining.

Be aware.
If you happen to uncover any live ammunition or lethal objects such as an unexploded bomb or mine, make sure that you don’t disturb it. You will need to mark the site carefully before reporting the discovery to the landowner or the local authorities.

Record archaeological finds.
Take the time to record your findspots as accurately as possible for any archaeological discoveries. Bagging them individually and recording their National Grid Reference on the bag will greatly assist any archaeologists who are interested in that particular find.

Represent the hobby well.
As soon as you head out to enjoy your metal detecting adventure, you become an ambassador for the hobby. With this in mind, make sure that you do nothing that might give it a bad reputation. Aside from just metal detecting, we all have a responsibility to help keep Britain tidy, so safely disposing of any rubbish you come across, whether your own or not, is always a good idea.

When You Return

Report your finds.
Any unusual historical finds that you come across will need to be reported to the land owner and, with their agreement, report them also to the Portable Antiquities Scheme so that the information can be passed on to the Local Historic Environment Record.

Get expert advice.
Seek expert advice when you have discovered something large beneath the ground - be it an unusual material or a concentration of finds and wreck remains. A local finds liaison officer will point you in the right direction for who to contact. If you suspect you have uncovered something suspicious, such as human remains, contact the police immediately.

Spread the joy

These guidelines, although not laws, exist for an important reason. Together they enable full enjoyment of the metal detecting hobby for all involved, now and in the future. They enable us to learn more, respect the world around us, and to simply have a great time. If we could add just one more to the list, it would be to tell your friends, to get them to come along and to spread the joy of metal detecting to all around you!