Metal Detecting on Agri-Environment Land

When land managers enter a legal agreement with Natural England for an agri-environment scheme, they sign up to a range of conditions. Those which relate to metal detecting are listed below.

Hobby metal detecting conditions

Here are the hobby metal detecting conditions which apply to agreements under the new Countryside Stewardship scheme which started in Jan 2016.

  • It's against the law to use a metal detector at a scheduled monument without a licence from Historic England. Metal detecting is also not allowed on Sites of Special Scientific Interest, nor on known archaeological sites on Agreement Land. (These latter are identified on various records held by the Agreement Holder).
  • On any other Agreement Land, metal detecting is allowed as long as it does not conflict with the requirements of the Agreement (for example, disturbing ground-nesting birds could be a conflict).
  • The Agreement Holders are responsible for ensuring any metal detecting will not conflict with their Agreements.
  • All hobby metal detecting allowed by Agreement Holders must be undertaken in accordance with the current Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting, and all finds must be reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme as set out in that Code.
  • Metal detecting rallies are allowed as long as they do not conflict with the requirements set out above, and they do not conflict with the requirements of the Agreement.
  • All metal detecting (including that on rallies) must be undertaken in accordance with the current Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting.

Further information about metal detecting on Countryside Stewardship land can be found in the gov.uk Countryside Stewardship page.

Countryside Stewardship legal conditions can vary year to year, and the following links show the manuals relating to agreements commencing 1 January 2019 as examples. Within the manuals are the rules relating to metal detecting on:

Metal detecting survey at Owmby Roman site, Lincolnshire
Metal detecting survey at Owmby Roman site, Lincolnshire © Historic England

Other rules that affect metal detecting on agri-environment land

Environmental Stewardship

Although this agri-environment scheme closed in 2014 for new applications, existing legal agreements will continue, the last of which will expire in 2024. There are different conditions for Entry Level and Higher Level stewardship agreements:

  • Higher Level
    Metal-detecting is not permitted on archaeological sites on holdings with Higher Level Stewardship agreements or Sites of Special Scientific Interest without the permission of Natural England: such sites will be identified in the landowner/farmer occupier's Farm Environment Plan.
  • Entry Level
    It's against the law to use a metal detector at a scheduled monument without a licence from Historic England. Metal detecting is also not allowed on Sites of Special Scientific Interest or known archaeological sites on grassland. Other than that, there are no restrictions on metal-detecting on Entry Level Stewardship land providing searchers follow the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales, and that they follow the rules on rallies below.
  • Rallies
    Natural England requires up to 12 weeks notice of any large scale metal detecting events (known as rallies) on Environmental Stewardship land. Metal detecting rally organisers should follow the Guidance on Metal-Detecting Rallies in England and Wales.

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Related Publications

  • Our Portable Past

    Published 20 February 2018

    Guidance for Good Practice on portable antiquities

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