Metal Detecting Laws In The UK – Do I Need A Licence?

Metal Detecting Laws In The UK

As like anything else that happens on public or private land, in order to metal detect in the UK you must follow some basic rules. This is not only for your safety but also other peoples safety.

If you are unable to follow these laws or simply do not want to then this will affect your chances of finding treasure as you may be stopped before you can even start.

If you do manage to find something valuable and are discovered to not have any permission to be metal detecting on that land, then you will lose out as Michael Webb and his son did in 1980 when they discovered the Derrynaflan Hoard.]

Basic Laws

While some of the laws surrounding metal detecting in the UK are common courtesy i.e respect the Country Code, others are more specific.

If you find any live ammunition or a lethal object, you are not able to tamper with it as it is a massive health and safety risk. Instead, mark the site and report it to the local police and landowner.

While you need permission to venture onto any land that is not public, it is especially illegal for anyone to use a metal detector on a designated area without permission from authorities. This includes Site of Specific Scientific Interests, Ministry Defence Property of Scheduled Monuments.

Do I Have To Report My Findings?

The Treasure Act is a law that has been in place since 1996 and is obligational. Anything you find that falls into any of these categories must legally be reported:

  • The object is gold or silver
  • You have discovered a group of coins
  • Your item is over 300 years old
  • Any object that was found in the same place or is in the same collection as Treasure previously recorded
  • The object is of a prehistoric date and any part of it is precious metal

Any potential finds of treasure must be reported within 14 days of discovery to the Coroner in whose district they were found.

The treasure act does not apply to Scotland or the Isle of Man. Read here for the laws on Scottish Treasure.

Metal Detecting Laws For The Beaches

As a word of warning, when metal detecting on the beach do not rush and buy the cheapest metal detector available as there are different metal detects designed for different purposes.

As for consent, the entire offshore in the UK is owned by someone and therefore you need permission from the landowner to detect as metal detecting is not a public right.

You have to have a permit to metal detect on Crown Estate beaches. You are able to get this permit from the Crown Estate website. This permit is for foreshore only and does not include a permit for the sea bed, river bed or any other Crown Estate land.

Parks And Commons

For most people who have children interested in metal detecting, they will start in their gardens. However, once they have exhausted that area, the next place to go is your local park.

You do still need permission in order to detect here. However, most parks and commons are owned by their local council who are most willing to give permission, especially so if you are willing to offer a service in return such as litter picking.

Farmers Fields

It is areas like this where most hoards and great finds have been found. When farmers plough their fields they bring all the dirt up to the top, making it easier to find objects when metal detecting. This makes them good sites for beginners.

The hardest part of metal detecting here is getting permission. While there are many different ways to go about getting permission, the best way is talking to the farmer face to face.

Likewise, you could write a letter or make friends with them if you know them distantly. Either way, you do need permission from the landowner to dig up their field as it is most probably used for business reasons.

Woodlands And Footpaths

While most of these areas are ‘public’ places, that is not an open invitation to metal detect there. If you would like to detect here then you need to go directly to the owner and ask them for permission.

Metal Detecting Code Of Conduct

Since Metal Detecting is a growing hobby, there has emerged a code of conduct in order to minimalise annoyances and clashes with other groups. This code covers hunting for gold.

No Trespassing:

Just remember that all land has an owner and you need permission to do your hobby on their land.

Protected Site:

You must follow laws concerning any protected sites as discussed previously. Failure to do so could land you in hot water.

Handling and Care:

You need to learn about handling your equipment in order to get the best results and the best finds for you. You also need to learn how to properly care for your finds as to not break them.

Ground Care:

You need to ensure that you do not do damage to the land. To do this, ensure that the land is digable and make sure to fill in any holes as neatly as possible.

Make Records:

Making records of what you find where is good practice so you can keep track of where you have been as well as how successful that place was. However, do not pass on information of a place without consent from the landowner.

Respect The Country Side Code:

This has already been touched upon and the link provided will tell you everything you need to know.

Report your findings:

Not only is this part of the law but it will also provide historical organisations with more information about a certain period.

Treasure Code:

This is a legal action that you must abide by if you want to metal detect at any point. Also, be sure to revisit this often in case it is updated or changes.

30 thoughts on “Metal Detecting Laws In The UK – Do I Need A Licence?”

  1. Basically the laws are to stop people from metal detecting. But if you find gold or silver or any coins of value. You after hand them over to the the greedy law makers .Sounds about right .It’s modern day robbery. Go back in time and look at how the wealthy became wealthy.They made laws to take off people what they thought they were entitled to. Land .properties. gold silver .They robbed raped pillaged. The law makers still make laws for there own wealth and gain even now.these laws are pathetic. Get permission for safety reasons is the only sensible one made .But Your stupid to make it so hard to do our hobby .And the sad thing is there is stuff in the ground you would never find if it wasn’t for our hobby .We buy our own equipment. We use our own time to stay in a field all day we are not payed nor do we asked to be payed. But who really benefits from the finds we make .You lot and the museum’s. You don’t want or like to pay out for anything of value. But if it was handed over to you free of charge so you make a fortune out of it.I bet all laws would be changed again to benefit you all .Your laws are about what you can get or take and you can dress them up how you like we can see through the bull shit they are .So with out us most of what you know is through the metal detectorists. We find stuff in places you don’t even know about and would never ever know about .But all these petty laws stop us from doing what we love doing .And because of these laws most stuff of interest or value will disappear because of these petty laws So ask your selves this how much are you prepared to leave in the ground to rot just to stop the detectorists. And not have the chance to study it because of Your laws your stupidity your bias. Shame there’s lot to find lots to learn. This is my rant my thoughts on how we get treated. Archaeologist they hate metal detectorists that’s a well known fact. Because they think they are the only ones with the right to dig up anything .History belongs to all of us not just you lot

    1. Absolutely well said. I was just about to buy one but I thought l will have a look first to see if it’s worth it. Clearly it’s not and things will rot away. Again well said but what can we do 🙁

  2. Basically the laws are to stop people from metal detecting. But if you find gold or silver or any coins of value. You after hand them over to the greedy law makers .Sounds about right .It’s modern day robbery. Go back in time and look at how the wealthy became wealthy.They made laws to take off people what they thought they were entitled too. Land .properties. gold silver .They robbed raped pillaged. The law makers still make laws for there own wealth and gain even now.These laws are pathetic. Get permission for safety reasons is the only sensible one made .But Your stupid to make it so hard to do our hobby .And the sad thing is there is stuff in the ground you would never find if it wasn’t for our hobby .We buy our own equipment. We use our own time to stay in a field all day we are not payed nor do we asked to be payed. But who really benefits from the finds we make .You lot and the museum’s. You don’t want or like to pay out for anything of value. But if it was handed over to you free of charge so you make a fortune out of it.I bet all laws would be changed again to benefit you all .Your laws are about what you can get or take and you can dress them up how you like we can see through the bull shit they are . Most of what you know is through the metal detectorists. We find stuff in places you don’t even know about and would never ever know about .But all these petty laws are to stop us from doing what we love doing .And because of these laws most stuff of interest or value will disappear because of these petty laws So ask your selves this how much are you prepared to leave in the ground to rot just to stop the detectorists. And not have the chance to study it because of Your laws your stupidity your bias. Shame there’s lots to find lots to learn. This is my rant my thoughts on how we get treated. Archaeologist they hate metal detectorists that’s a well known fact. Because they think they are the only ones with the right to dig up anything .History belongs to all of us not just you lot

    1. You are so right. Since buying my detector 6 months z as go I have used it twice. I’ve spoken to big landowners locally who have hundreds of acres and they are not interested. I’ve spoken to my district council about a wooded area war me. Apparently it’s a no because it’s of scientific interest. We’ll surely it would be of more interest to the community if historical stuff was found.

    2. I totally agree with Kelvin. Basically, if you can’t get permissions, your only option is the beach. I have been putting in permit requests to Hampshire County Council for months. Each one has been rejected on different grounds. The authorities for some reason see a detectorist as some kind of Vandal for some reason. The New forest (Crown Property) for example and bye the way, confiscated from the peasants. Bylaw states `No Metal detecting permitted anywhere’. Why not? They permit pigs to trash the place and they don’t make the earth better than they found it unlike responsible metal detectorists. There are other options though. Kowtow to the ruling elite or just go out and enjoy yourselves.
      If I get another permit rejection, that’s what I will do.

    3. Sounds About right from what I’ve found out so far , I’ve mentioned the laws to my misses after she got me a metal detector as a present and she said I wish I never got you one now it’s blood pointless 🤷🏼‍♂️🤬

    4. You hit the nail on the head there ! Thinking of taking metal detecting up as a hobby but all this law thing it’s hard trying to find a farmer or specific person in Scotland who owns the land so I can’t just turn up and detect ?

    1. I think you need a permit to do any digging along thames embankments and these are limited numbers and last for 2 years. if I recall correctly they are labelled mudlarks.you have to join that society and can only use hand tools for digging and to a depth of 1.2M . areas are also restricted I think eg Outside houses of parliament ? but if you are serious then check out mudlarks society ,ought to be Abel to locate details on web search.

  3. Kelvin,
    Your rant is full of poor grammar.
    The people that you are complaining about will use this to reinforce their arguments regarding detectorists being nothing more than uneducated archaeologists who cause more damage than good.

    1. Why point out a person’s grammar?? Do you feel more Intelligent now? A little lighter? Slightly higher than mighty? You should feel like an right plonker now! I understood what the gentleman was saying, it makes perfect sense to me! I agree with him. You’re a buffoon!!

  4. Kevin, you are so right, I bought metal detector two weeks ago and got reading-reading-reading 300 pages of codes and rules and acts, but never yet been out even for one hour as the more I am reading the more I understand that there is no place in England to go out and practise without being scared to get in trouble, shot dead or imprisoned, sadly spent 1300£ for desired activity and there is a little chance I will dare begging permissions

  5. This is why America came into being because of the greed of the British empire. USA is what the English wanted freedoms from tyranny.

    1. Beware of that. At least in most of UK, authorities are selective about how to apply rules. The culture is different in USA. fewer rules, but much more arbitrary enforcement.

    2. Your totally right Barry, that’s why America is known as the land of the free and I wish I lived there instead, you can just go and build a house in the middle of a forest if you wanted without having to get planning permission and all that malarkey.

    3. Sadly the indigenous American people didn’t leave much worth digging for, so sure, you can keep digging. If there were treasures the US government would stop detecting pretty quickly I would imagine.

  6. Can any one advise who would I need to speak to to metal detect in inland rivers, would it be the water authorities?
    Thanks for any advice

  7. So, any actual advice for people new to the hobby? 🤔
    Anyone had success getting permission drop some hints?
    If you’re interested in detecting you’re probably already reasonably familiar with socio-political history of their region, already got some areas in mind to search, and have come here for information. 🙄

  8. Basically right. . Landowners own this country and you find that out when you ask permission to detect . Everywhere but everywhere is owned by someone unwilling usually to let you spend hours sifting their mud usually for buttons . The truth is there’s a sad lack of freedom in the UK when you look past the illusion.

    The land has minimal free access . A piddly path – that’s your lot . Detecting woke me up the reality of class riddled Britain . It’s not your land to explore pretty much anywhere . As people said the authorities prefer rot and no change . Whole ancient civilisations lie under the ground and they prefer to keep it thaa as t way. Pathetic really .

  9. i dont think kelving has poor grammer in any way he is absolutly correct in what he says, the government have always been lying cheeting thieving so and sos since the day some birk made them up, shame us britts didnt nip them idiots in the bud back then, may be the uk would of been a better place, and if they read these comments then tuff, thats how they treat us isnt it , ill leave this here before i get hung loooool.

  10. Thought Id try detecting to replace fishing as a hobby as, you know, the laws mean THERES NOWHERE TO FISH. Sooo, Guess Ill not bother with this Either, then!

  11. It is sad that the hobby is being killed off but the press hasn’t helped much. We are seen as treasure hunters as the minority of idiots that steal gold coins get huge publicity.
    It’s a catch 22 if the rules weren’t so harsh then perhaps there would be fewer nighthawks stealing from the land.
    I asked for permission from one land owner that I had bought a lamb box from and she just told me a story about a traveller that stole all her metal water troughs. We are seen as nothing but theives. I’ve never stollen in my life but I feel like a criminal even when removing sharps from our local beach.
    I’ve had to join group events just to satisfy my hobby, paying good money to give hundreds of people access to a few fields so the landowners can take all the proceeds only to find the farm had already largely been swept clean by a club for years.
    The UK is a miserable and expensive place to live, the only benefit being that it isn’t Afghanistan or Iran. If I wasn’t in the rat race I would have left years ago.

  12. Hi,

    I’m planning on metal detecting within the Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire areas in the new year as a hobby and just wanted to know if I will need a license or any permits to do this. If so would the local councils be the place to apply for these..

    Kind Regards,

    Mark

  13. I thought it was alot to begin with but its really not you just make sure you have your correct insurance which is only £8 a year or 3 years for £22 get on Google type in your location + farms youl get a list of farms with contact number be friendly and speak correct dont mention wanting to find treasure speak about liking history more than wanting money, one you have your insurance it covers for up to 10 million GBP I think or 11 but soon as you have this your local council will grant permit and give details about all locale spots parks property. I do agree with Kevin on some point it does seem like another money making scheme for those who set the rules for sure but you should always go into metal detecting as a hobby or interest not to make money that’s when you dont enjoy it as much youl fins if your enjoying your detecting no matter what you find you’ll find more. Regards to getting farmers permission to do odd jobs around the field maybe fix fences/walls make sure its always litter free and when you dig your plug remember to put it back and leave the ground as you found it. Have fun hunting everyone

  14. Hi i have been metal detecting for near on 55 years and managed to keep out of trouble but only for one incident where i did not ask the farmer if he owned the farm, or was he just a tenant that means he rents it but i think it cheeky to ask that so anyway he did not own the land Chatsworth estate did and both of us got reprimanded for being in the wrong, its a long story so i am keeping it short thanks

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