From Permission to Passion: Building Relationships with Landowners

It was a fairly non descript morning when I first mustered up the courage to knock on Farmer John’s door (not his real name!) . My palms were sweaty, and I’m pretty sure my voice cracked as I explained what metal detecting was and why I wanted to search his fields. Little did I know, that nervous conversation would be the start of a friendship that’s lasted years and led to some of my best finds.

Getting permission to detect is often the biggest hurdle for newcomers to our hobby. It’s not just about access to land; it’s about building trust, respect, and often, surprising connections. Over the years, I’ve learned that the art of gaining and maintaining permissions is just as crucial as learning to use your detector.

My relationship with Farmer John didn’t start smoothly. He was skeptical at first, worried about holes in his fields and the possibility of losing valuable artifacts. I remember promising to fill in every hole and show him every find, commitments I’ve kept religiously. It wasn’t just about following detecting etiquette; it was about proving myself trustworthy.

The turning point came a few weeks into detecting on his land. I’d found a beautiful Georgian shoe buckle, ornate and well-preserved. Instead of pocketing it, I trudged through the muddy field to John’s farmhouse. The look on his face when I handed him that piece of his land’s history was priceless. From that moment on, he was hooked.

Soon, our post-detecting chats over cups of tea became a regular occurrence. John would regale me with tales of the farm’s history, pointing out old boundaries and the sites of long-gone buildings. His knowledge transformed my detecting from random sweeps to targeted, historical treasure hunting.

But it’s not always been smooth sailing. I remember the day I accidentally left a hole unfilled – I’d been distracted by a call and completely forgot. The next time I saw John, his disappointment was palpable. I spent the next detecting session filling in every hole I’d ever dug on his land, whether it needed it or not. It was a hard lesson, but it reinforced the importance of respecting the land and the landowner’s trust.

Over time, I’ve built relationships with several landowners, each unique. There’s Sarah, who owns a vast estate and is fascinated by history. She’s always eager to see my finds and has even started accompanying me on some hunts. Then there’s old Mr. Thompson, who was initially wary but now saves up his questions about local history for our chats.

I’ve learned that for many landowners, it’s not about the monetary value of finds. It’s about connecting with the history beneath their feet. I always make sure to research the history of the land I’m detecting on, not just for my own hunt planning, but to share with the landowners. Seeing their eyes light up when I explain the significance of a Roman coin or a medieval buckle found on their land is always a highlight.

One of my most memorable moments was when Farmer John’s grandson, Tommy, joined me for a detect. Watching the boy’s excitement as we unearthed a Victorian penny was infectious. John later told me that Tommy had been struggling with history at school, but now he was eagerly researching every evening. It was a poignant reminder that our hobby isn’t just about finding ‘treasure’ – it’s about bringing history to life.

Of course, there have been challenges. I’ve had permissions denied, sometimes rudely. I’ve had to navigate the complexities of detecting on land with multiple users/owners. And yes, I’ve had to deal with the occasional landowner who expected to keep all the finds. Each experience has been a lesson in diplomacy, integrity, and the importance of clear communication.

I always make sure to give back where I can. Whether it’s helping to mend a fence, reporting suspicious activities I’ve noticed while detecting, or simply being an extra pair of eyes on the land, it all helps to build goodwill. I’ve even started an annual ‘history night’ at the local pub, where I display my finds from the year and invite the landowners to join in the excitement.

The relationships I’ve built with landowners have enriched my detecting experience immeasurably. They’ve given me access to lands steeped in history, shared knowledge that no book could provide, and offered friendships that extend well beyond our shared interest in the land’s hidden past.

To any detectorist starting out, I’d say this: remember that seeking permission isn’t just a necessary step to start detecting. It’s the beginning of a relationship that can transform your hobby from a solitary pursuit into a shared passion. Treat the land with respect, the landowner with honesty, and you might find that the real treasure isn’t what’s buried in the soil, but the connections you make along the way.

As I write this, I’m looking forward to my next visit to Farmer John’s. I’ve just finished researching a promising new area of his land, and I can’t wait to share my findings over a cup of tea before we head out together, detectors in hand, ready for our next adventure in uncovering the past.