Building a great relationship with your permission land owners is incredibly important. To illustrate this I will go back about 18 months when I was desperate to find some new land to detect on. I wanted somewhere fairly close to home, no more than 15 minutes drive, but somewhere with potential.

I started out by looking at old maps of the area and comparing them to Google satellite views and after a while I established the rough area that I was going to focus on. It was a semi rural area with a main A road running through it with farmland on either side. The maps showed a couple of interesting features in the area, including a bronze age burial mound, a Victorian church that was built on the site of an earlier medieval church and the remains of a medieval moat, so I knew that that had been activity here for a long time.

I then went out to drive around this area looking for possible permissions. It was a busy A road and the farmland was very visible so I assumed that these farms had been asked before and probably many times so the chances of getting permission might be minimal. I spotted a large field on the corner of a busy traffic light controlled junction with a large petrol station on one corner of the junction. The field had obviously been harvested some time ago and was covered in light aged stubble with a few weeds growing on the surface. This was the most visible and obvious field in the area so had probably been targeted before. It had no gates on, and one side was bordered by a quiet lane with a layby next to a large entrance into the field. A nighthawkers dream, but it looked perfect, it was about 20 acres in size and there was just something about it that drew me to it.

On this quiet lane was an entrance into a farm that was set back from the road, with no other obvious farmhouses nearby so I presumed that this field belonged to this farm, so decided that I better drive in and ask. I drove down the long entrance driveway into a small parking area alongside some cowsheds, a dog inside the house started barking as soon as I got out of my car. I’m not the most confident person when it comes to knocking on strangers doors, but I braced myself and knocked on the door. A young man in his early 20’s answered the door, I doubted that he was the landowner, so just apologised for intruding and asked if the owner of the farm was about.

He said that was his father and he was away at the moment but would be around on the following Saturday. I thanked him and asked for his fathers name and said I would come back then. There was no point in explaining my reasons for calling and got into my car and left.

On the following Saturday I returned and there was an older man coming out of the cowshed. Again I apologised for intruding and asked if he was Robert, the name the son had given me. He said yes and asked how he could help. I told him who I was and that I was very interested in the history of the area and told him a few things to back that up. I then mentioned the large field opposite the entrance to his farm and asked if he would mind me wandering around it with my metal detector to see if I could find any evidence of previous activity on there.

To my surprise he said that it wasn’t his field and that it belonged to the next farm along the busy road, on the other side of his farm. I then asked if he had a field that I could detect on? He said that he already has someone who he had given permission to detect on his land so no, he didn’t think it would be right to let someone else on as well. However he asked me to leave his contact details with him as he liked my knowledge of the local history and if anything changed he would be in touch. He then proceeded to tell me about a medieval pond in one of his fields that still had stone steps down into it from the time when it was used to baptise children. I would have really loved to have had a go in that field but couldn’t push it any further.

We were getting on very well and although I couldn’t detect on his land I thought he would be a useful contact to stay in touch with. I then confirmed which farm owned the large and asked for the farmers name, he said it was Alan and he was a nice guy and well worth calling by and asking. Alan’s farm was the one with the medieval moat in it, so I was very keen to speak to him, so drove right there.

Alan’s farm was a big sprawling property at the end of a long private road. It was a bit intimidating because this private road had farm workers house along it and then a gate into a large courtyard containing various farm outbuildings. I parked up in the courtyard and walked along the driveway, just around the corner was a large 18th century farmhouse with walled private gardens. Just then a tall man came out of a doorway of one of the farm buildings. I apologised for intruding and asked if he was Alan, he said yes he was. I again explained who I was, where I was from, and my interest in the history of the area. I said that Robert his neighbour at the next farm had suggested calling by. I explained that I would love to spend some time metal detecting in that one large field and would that be alright.

He was a little hesitant, he was a quiet man, a man of few words, and he took a moment to think it through and I could see the uncertainty on his face, after all I was a complete stranger and I was sure that he must have been asked many times before. After a moment he said yes, okay, I suppose so, but just that one field. Success! I thanked him and said that I would start tomorrow if that was alright with him. He said yes that was fine. I was excited, I had permission to detect on one large field that just might lead to more.

I excitedly phoned my detecting buddy Bob to give the news and the next day we met up at the layby to explore the field. The night before I had explored various old maps and resources and could see that this large field had once been a series of smaller fields and in one of them there used to be a house or croft and a garden. Over the next month or two we detected on there as often as possible. We found a huge number of buttons, lead bags seals, spindle whorls, about 5 silver 18th century coins that had been turned into love tokens and a very interesting lead token and various unidentifiable copper coins plus a few Victorian silver coins.

One day I happened to be driving past the field and noticed a couple of tractors working on the field.. it was being seeded! i thought Oh No… we probably will have to stop detecting on there now. I decided that it might actually be an opportunity, so I drove down to the main farmhouse, parked up and had a look around for Alan. Again I found him in one of the outbuildings. I said hello and we exchanged a few stilted pleasantries, Alan was as socially awkward as I was! I said that I had noticed the tractors working on the field and asked him if that meant that I couldn’t detect on it anymore. Alan took a moment to think about it and at first said that yes it would sort of okay he thought but then changed his mind and said well probably best not to really.

My heart sank a little, but I decided to take the opportunity to try to salvage something from this devastating news. I asked “Well, is there another field that I could detect on instead?” Alan’s reply was “Well I’ve got lot’s of fields”, He wasn’t wrong there, he has around 800 acres of land but needed just a little push. I said “Well I only need one, which one would you be okay with me trying?”. Alan’s reply was that there was one across the the other side of the busy A road where the grass had just been cut, so I could have a go on there if I liked. I said great, perfect, thanks.. or something along those lines. A few days later I was on that field.

Bob and I found coins and bits and bobs on there, nothing major but it was great to be on somewhere new and different. The oldest item was a medieval slide buckle. One day a random guy parked up on the grass verge and wandered into the field along with two small children. Bob mistakenly assumed that he was the landowner and started chatting to him and the children, giving them each an old penny that he had found. I quietly advised him that this wasn’t the land owner but just a passer by who was interested in metal detecting and had just got his first detector. It turned out for the best though, because he lived next door to a field just around the corner and had permission to detect on it, he invited us along to join him on his first day out on it the following weekend. That turned out to be a good days detecting with me finding two silver hammered coins.

Anyway back to this new field, as the landowner seemed okay with the idea of me asking for more fields to detect on, I continued to do so and over the next few weeks he agreed to 3 more fields, then the next time agreed to the most important field, the one that sat between the medieval moat and the site of the medieval church. By now the landowner came out to chat whenever he saw me. He became very friendly and just said that he now trusted me and that I could go anywhere I liked on his land which extended to around 400 acres. On the moat/church field I found a total of 6 hammered silver coins over a month or two plus part of a bronze age axe head. I found another hammered coin in a large meadow, it was an Elizabeth I Groat (4 pence). I knocked on Alan’s door the following weekend and gave him this coin as a thank you for letting me detect on his land, and the following Christmas gave him and his wife a couple of bottles of wine. We were now on very friendly terms and I could come and go as I pleased, he said that he was asked on a regular basis by other people if they could detect on his land but he always said no as there was already someone (me) who detected there and that as long as I was about he wouldn’t let anyone else detect there.

This continued for many months to come, Alan had mostly retired from dairy farming and allowed other farmers to grow crops on his fields so I just detected on whichever fields didn’t have crops on at the time. One day whilst chatting with Alan he suggested that I should ask his neighbouring farm for permission as well. He knew them very well and he was sure that they would agree if I said that he had suggested it, This wasn’t the farm with the baptism pond it was the neighbour on the opposite side. Alan said that it was now run by two brothers and a sister after the death of their father. One day I called by and knocked on the door and one of the brothers answered it. I explained who I was and what I wanted to do and how Alan had suggested I ask. The brother said yes no problem, I could detect on their land whenever I liked and I could park my car in one of their parking spots on their drive and come and go as I pleased. I said that I would come along the following weekend to start. I was quite excited by this new land as one of the fields contained a bronze age burial mound and another was supposedly the site of a now deserted medieval village.

That Sunday I parked on the drive and crossed over the busy A road to a complex of fields on the other and began detecting. After an hour or so I noticed two people walking towards me across the fields, I walked over to them. It was the sister Heather and her husband Craig. She was very pleasant and explained that they had seen my car on their drive and wondered whose it was. She had asked her brother who had told her that it was mine and that he had said that it was okay for me to detect there. Heather explained that there was a problem and they might have to stop me from detecting. The problem was that they had rented those fields out to another local dairy farmer and they couldn’t really let me detect without his permission as well. I said that was understandable and I would stop right away. Heather mentioned who this farmer was, it was Robert, the farmer with the medieval baptism pool. I said that I had met him a couple of times and he might remember me. Heather said that I could carry on for now but she would have to check with Robert and she would let me know, This was a group of 9 fields and Heather said only 7 of them where hers, the other two belonged to another neighbour of theirs. When I got back to my car Heather had left a note on my windscreen to say that Robert remembered me and he was happy for me to continue, but only when his cows weren’t on the fields as they could be quite aggressive. So for the following weeks I detected there every time i could. The cows were only ever on one of the fields at a time and were regularly moved about, so there was always 6 of the 7 fields available to detect on.

I occasionally knocked on their door to show them my finds which were mostly coins and buttons but I did find a few 17th Century silver coins. They also had three fields on the same side of the road as the house which I hadn’t yet detected on, one of these contained the bronze age burial mound, so one day I was chatting to Heather and asked about those fields, she said no problem carry on and do as I like. So again for the next few months we were on those fields whenever we could. One of those fields was very special with a few hammered coins along with a stunning medieval horse harness pendant and a Roman fibula brooch. Heather often came across for a chat whenever she spotted me out and about. One day I asked about the two fields that she didn’t own on the other side of the road. She told me which farm they belonged to and gave me the farmers name, it was Dave, and said to tell him that she had suggested I knock and ask.

So one morning I called in. There was a older man with a walking stick in the farmyard talking to someone that I vaguely recognised. so I walked over and asked if Dave was about. He said that was him and how could he help. I explained who I was and that Heather had suggested I knock and ask. He was very interested in history and we chatted for a while, then I remembered that the man with him worked on Alan’s farm so that helped. Dave agreed to let me detect with no restrictions, he just said go anywhere on his land whenever I like, no need to knock each time, just to help myself.

So now I had three neighbouring farms along this same stretch of road with around 700 acres between them that all let me detect on them whenever I like..amazing! and some amazing finds too!

By now I had been detecting on Heather and Dave’s land for about 7 or 8 months and hadn’t been on to Alan’s land in all that time so decided call by one day to say hello. I drove down the private road to the farmyard and went to look for Alan, as usual he was easily found. He actually bounded over to me with a big smile and shook my hand. he said that he was pleased to see me and had been worried about me as he hadn’t seen me for so long. We chatted for a while and I said that I would be back in a few days to detect on one of his fields that I had barely touched. He said no problem and he looked forward to seeing me, so that is where I am off to later today.

The point of this rambling story is that building good relationships with your land owners keeps you in their mind and opens other doors..and gates to more land. All the local famers in this area know me and they do mention me to each other. There are at least 3 other neighboring farms that I know are aware of me and who would almost certainly say yes if I asked them. Getting permission to metal detect on farmland isn’t as difficult as some would have you believe. My permissions are less than 30 minutes drive from three major UK cities and on a busy main road that connects them. They must get asked all the time but I have them exclusively for my own detecting and I am finding some great things on them.