There is no doubt that one of the things that many metal detectorists struggle with is getting permission to detect somewhere. There is sometimes a feeling of dread at the thought of knocking on a farmers door and asking, or sometimes you almost give up before trying, just assuming that everywhere is ‘taken’, because metal detecting has been going on for decades now, surely there is no land left undetected? Then of course we now have all of these commercial groups grabbing huge swathes of the countryside offering big cash rewards to farmers, so can you still get permission to detect somewhere? Well, yes of course you can. I have only been detecting for just over two years now and have several permissions to detect on, and have a really good success rate in asking for permission. So how do I do it?

Metal detecting on farmland in the UK offers a unique opportunity to unearth hidden treasures and connect with the country’s rich history. However, the key to a successful metal detecting expedition lies in obtaining proper permission from landowners. In this comprehensive guide, we will navigate through the intricacies of gaining permission, addressing legal considerations, effective communication strategies, and fostering positive relationships with landowners.

1. Understanding the Legal Landscape:

Before embarking on the journey to gain permission, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of the legal landscape surrounding metal detecting in the UK. Familiarize yourself with the Treasure Act and the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which outline the legal framework for reporting and recording finds of archaeological and historical significance.

Research local bylaws and regulations that may impact metal detecting in specific areas. Some regions have restrictions or requirements, and being informed about these legal aspects will not only ensure compliance but also demonstrate your commitment to responsible metal detecting.

Also bear in mind that the person farming the land might not be the actual landowner. If the land has a tenant farmer then you need permission off the actual land owner as well as the tenant. There are also some less formal arrangements where the farmer is the landowner, but he has a few spare fields that he is temporarily renting to one of his neighbours, again, you need permission off both.

2. Researching Potential Sites:

Identifying suitable farmland for metal detecting is an important step in the permission-seeking process. Conduct thorough research on historical maps, old records, and local history to pinpoint areas with archaeological potential. Sites with a history of human activity, such as old settlements, battlefields, or trade routes, are likely to yield interesting finds.

Consider joining online forums, historical societies, or local metal detecting clubs to tap into the collective knowledge of experienced enthusiasts. These communities often share insights into promising locations and can provide valuable tips for researching potential sites.

However don’t let not finding a location with some historic importance put you off. Just because you can’t see any evidence of previous activity doesn’t mean it isn’t there. That plain looking field has had thousands of years of activity on it, just because it isn’t recorded doesn’t mean that something didn’t happen there. A fleeing highwayman, a civil war exchange of fire, a medieval trading fair, you just don’t know. Any permission is better than no permission at all.

3. Building a Positive Reputation:

Establishing a positive reputation within the metal detecting community and among landowners is instrumental in gaining permission. Attend local events, participate in organized digs, and engage with online forums to connect with fellow enthusiasts. Demonstrating a genuine passion for history and responsible metal detecting practices will enhance your credibility.

Consider volunteering your time for community-based projects or collaborating with archaeologists on excavations. This not only contributes to the preservation of historical sites but also showcases your commitment to the ethical aspects of metal detecting.

4. Effective Communication Strategies:

Approaching landowners with respect and professionalism is paramount to securing permission. Although I prefer to just call in sometimes an email or a letter can work. You could craft a concise and well-written letter introducing yourself, your passion for metal detecting, and your commitment to responsible practices. Clearly outline the benefits of metal detecting, such as potential historical discoveries and the respect you have for the land.

Include any relevant qualifications, memberships, or affiliations that highlight your dedication to ethical metal detecting. Provide references from other landowners or local authorities who can vouch for your responsible conduct. Just bear in mind that a letter or email is a lot easier to ignore, or say no to than when you are face to face.

5. In-Person Meetings and Presentations:

Whenever possible I prefer a face to face meeting with landowners. This allows you to establish a personal connection, address any concerns they may have, and present your case more effectively. Prepare a brief presentation outlining the benefits of metal detecting, emphasizing responsible practices, and showcasing notable finds from other permissions you may have obtained.

During the meeting, actively listen to the landowner’s concerns, answer questions transparently, and be open to negotiation. Building a rapport is crucial, and demonstrating your respect for the land and its history will increase the likelihood of gaining permission.

Often I will only ask for permission to detect on one specific field. This could be because I have a particular interest in that specific field, or it just might be because it is easier to get permission for one field rather than the whole farm. Hopefully permission on one field will lead to permission on others, also it can often lead to permissions on neighbouring farms as well.

6. Negotiating Terms and Conditions:

When negotiating permission terms, be flexible and willing to accommodate the landowner’s preferences. Discuss issues such as the frequency and duration of visits, areas to be explored, and the handling of any finds. Offer to share interesting discoveries and information about the history of the site with the landowner, fostering a sense of collaboration.

Clearly outline your commitment to adhering to the principles of the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting. Agree on the reporting process for any finds of historical or archaeological significance, ensuring compliance with legal requirements.

7. Establishing a Formal Agreement:

Once you have reached an understanding with the landowner, formalize the agreement in writing. Draft a permission agreement that clearly outlines the terms and conditions, including any stipulations regarding finds, reporting procedures, and access limitations. Both parties should sign the agreement, and each should retain a copy for reference.

Ensure the agreement includes a provision for regular communication and periodic reviews to address any concerns or changes in circumstances. This demonstrates your commitment to maintaining a positive and collaborative relationship.

8. Maintaining Responsible Practices:

Gaining permission is just the beginning; maintaining responsible metal detecting practices is essential for preserving the positive relationship with the landowner and the integrity of the hobby. Adhere strictly to the agreed-upon terms and conditions, respecting access limitations and reporting any significant finds promptly.

Consider providing periodic updates to the landowner on your progress, sharing interesting discoveries, and reinforcing your commitment to responsible metal detecting. Actively participate in site conservation efforts and contribute to local heritage initiatives, further demonstrating your dedication to ethical practices.


Gaining permission to go metal detecting on farmland in the UK is a nuanced process that requires a combination of legal understanding, effective communication, and responsible practices. By navigating the legal landscape, researching potential sites, building a positive reputation, and employing effective communication strategies, enthusiasts can increase their chances of securing permission.

Approaching landowners with professionalism, engaging in in-person meetings, and negotiating terms collaboratively are crucial steps in the process. Establishing a formal agreement and maintaining responsible practices are equally important for preserving the positive relationship with the landowner and contributing to the overall integrity of metal detecting as a hobby.

By following this comprehensive guide, metal detectorists can unlock the fields and embark on a journey that not only unearths hidden treasures but also fosters a positive and collaborative relationship with landowners, ensuring the preservation of historical sites for future generations.