I’m returning to metal detecting after an absence of several years. I first started metal detecting about eight years ago beginning with a Minelab X-Terra 505 which I later replaced with a 705. There was much about this hobby that I enjoyed but it also had its drawbacks. So one winter I gave it up and sold the kit on eBay.
Years later, I don’t regret that decision but now I feel the urge to return to it. This is partly due to the improvements in technology, but it also has to do with the fact that my occupation involves long hours at a desk and I need to get out into the countryside more often.
There are many advantages to metal detecting, and a few drawbacks. I’ve added my list below. Perhaps you have some other points you would add to either or both lists.
Benefits of metal detecting
Physical health. It may not be strenuous when you’re actually detecting i.e. slowly walking across the field, but the walk to the site, the digging, the bending down to examine the soil etc, all combine to create gentle exercise in the fresh air.
Mental and emotional health. Like all outdoor activity there are lots of pleasant effects from being in comparatively natural environments. OK, so a ploughed field filled with artificial fertilisers isn’t exactly prime rain forest but it’s closer to nature that your office desk. Beach detecting is very therapeutic, even on a wet and windy February morning.
The excitement of finds. It can be quite exciting to handle something that has remained lost since the owner dropped it several decades, hundreds of years ago, or even one or two millenia ago. It might be something mundane like a thimble that a farm worker used to repair his clothes in the field 150 years ago. It could be a 90 year old, or a 900 year old coin. It might be the buckle from an 18th Century shoe. It will feed your imagination and put you in touch with people who are long gone but may be remembered through your discoveries.
Increased knowledge of history. As your hobby progresses your knowledge will increase. Part of the process is researching the land, and naturally this involves pouring over maps and learning about the landscape’s past uses and occupiers. It also involves learning how to identify finds of various kinds, and that can also require a certain amount of research and detective work. Your knowledge of coins, coin manufacturer, and British monarchs, and Roman emperors will probably increase quite rapidly, if your success rate with detecting is high.
Access to private land. Whether you’ve secured permission to detect on private land yourself, or you’ve joined a club and you’re out in the field on a dig, there are times when you can simply enjoy the view that you would not otherwise be able to see.
Meeting new people. You may have taken up metal detecting in order to get away from people, in which case you probably detect alone or with a detecting buddy. On the other hand, you might look forward to meeting new people. There are county clubs all over the UK and here are also clubs which cover larger areas. As well as day long detecting, both types may arrange metal detecting rallies covering a weekend or longer. I once went to a rally on the Ridgeway organised by the Weekend Wanderers club. There were stalls, food, beer, and trade stands on site, and several large fields in which the attendants fanned out to detect.
Helping archaeologists and historians. By reporting your finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme you’ll be helping to advance the knowledge of history and archaeology in the country. It’s just possible that you’ll find a previously unknown settlement site, or a clue to an unsolved mystery. Visit their website and add the contact details of your local Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) so that you can give them a call if you turn up something.
Helping to reunite lost property with its owners. Imagine losing your engagement or wedding ring in your garden or on the beach. Despite frantic searching you fail to find it and you’re very upset. Then you remember someone talking about a local metal detectorist and after a few phone calls he’s out there looking for it with his detector. Imagine the relief if he found it. Such hypothetical situations do become real. Conscientious beach detectorists who hand any jewelry into the local Police station have reunited lost lockets and other items with their owners. They may not be valuable items but they often have a great sentimental value. Helping others in this way is a reward in itself.
Financial reward. Ask any non-detectorist what they know about metal detecting and they will probably give you an answer that involves digging up buried treasures or expensive artifacts. It’s certainly true that you could get lucky and find a hoard, a Tudor gold ring, or a very rare coin. However, detectorists will remind you of the law regarding Treasure Trove. In order to obtain financial reward there is a process to follow, and you’ll have to share the windfall with the landowner who gave you permission to detect on their land in the first place. All that being said, it’s probably much better odds that doing the Lottery, and you’ll often find items that you could sell for a small sum, or modern day coins when beach detecting. And each time you go out you can’t help but wonder, “Is this the day that I find that buried treasure…”
The timeless excitement of a new box of gadgetry
Disadvantages of Metal Detecting
Now that I’ve listed what I regard as the main benefits of metal detecting let’s look at the disadvantages.
Disappointment. Like those who enjoy fishing, detectorists will have days when they have nothing to show for their efforts. However, the difference between fishing and detectoring is that, with fishing, you simply don’t get a bite and you return home having sat on the bank for a few hours. With metal detecting, you might get lots of signals and go to all the physical effort of digging up the target only to find it’s a piece of worthless trash. Digging holes in the drizzle isn’t much fun if all you find is ring-pulls and bottle caps.
Frustration. When I first started I sent many dozens of carefully written letters requesting permission to detect on their land. I always enclosed an agreement form, a code of conduct, and a stamped and addressed envelope. The vast majority did not respond despite the s.a.e. and of those that did very few gave permission. It’s especially frustrating when you are denied access to areas that you have identified as being probably rich in potential through research.
It’s a bit nerdy. Not everyone will agree with this one but I think the image of metal detecting puts it somewhere on the league table of nerdiness. I can’t quite put my finger on the reason. Perhaps you can suggest why. Post a comment below with your ideas.
Risks associated with Metal Detecting
We live in a risk averse society and we’re constantly being warned about so called ‘dangers’. The vast majority of these risks can be mitigated with some common sense but as the weary cliche reminds us, common sense is not as common as it once was.
Injury. While metal detecting is not as risky as scuba diving it’s still advisable to go with a buddy. If one of you twists an ankle stumbling over a root in a remote area where your phone doesn’t work then help is at hand. It could be a long hobble back to the car on your own.
Infection. If you’re going to stick your hands into holes that contain all kinds of sharp stones and perhaps metal fragments then it’s advisable to wear sturdy gloves. Scratches from something covered in bacteria are not much fun.
Animals. Your out in the country so you should be following the country code and leaving gates as you find them. It’s unlikely that you’ll be given permission to detect on pasture that’s occupied by grazing cattle, but maintain some situational awareness. Look up and around from time to time. You don’t want to be surprised by a curious and clumsy herd or an angry bull.
Comments? Post them below. Good luck with your own detecting!
All three lines probably extend far beyond the start and end points mentioned in the respective books.
The Spine of Albion Review
The authors, Gary Biltcliffe and Caroline Hoare, dedicated fifteen years of hard work following the line and visiting all the significant sites along its route.
As they travelled from site to site they dowsed the path of the two complimentary male and female energy lines (or dragon paths), which they named Belinus and Elen.
Wherever the two complimentary currents cross the each other on the alignment there is a node point that is of particular importance and power.
The ley line alignment itself follows a rhumb line path and the two dragon lines weave around it. The line tracks the length of Britain at 14.5 degrees west of True North.
At each location along the line we learn a lot about its history, symbolism, and heritage. The authors investigated the legends and folklore, and the archaeology and historical records of each site.
The book is therefore not only the story of the journey along and around the line but it is also a detailed reference book.
It is a guidebook to one of Britain’s most important ley lines.
Anyone living close to a section of the alignment who wants to visit just a few of the sites can turn to that section and glean plenty of information about each location.
The print quality is excellent with plenty of colour photos of the many churches, abbeys, earthworks, sarsen stones, trees, wells, masonry, and countless other evidence.
Inspiration and Exploration
Uffington White Horse, or is it a dragon?
Once you start reading this book your feet will start to itch. It’s an inspiration to start exploring the section of the Belinus line that is closest to you.
There will be sites you will want to visit for the first time. There may be sites that are familiar to you that you will return to with deeper knowledge and understanding.
It is a book that compliments the resurgence of walking, following footpaths, and rediscovering Britain’s largely forgotten routes of pilgrimage.
Pilgrimage in Britain is usually thought of a purely Christian activity but travel along sacred paths goes back a lot further.
It is known that the early Christian monks and missionaries built their wattle and daub churches on or near existing sacred sites. By doing so and by following the old paths that interconnected these ancient sites the paths of Elen between stone circles and holy hills became paths of pilgrimage between churches and cathedrals.
Dip into the Spine of Albion, find a path, follow it, and see where it leads you. Use this book as your guide and you’ll know what to look out for at each location.
The Spine of Albion could easily be your guidebook for an exploration of the line that could take weeks to complete.
St Mary’s Church, Uffington, Berkshire
We are all familiar with the fact that our busy everyday lives tend to absorb so much activity and attention that we have little left after all the supposedly important tasks are done.
Just as light pollution prevents us from gazing in awe and wonder at the stars as our ancestors did, so our attention is drawn to the modern world and all its distractions.
It takes a conscious effort to devote some time and attention to books like this but it is vitally important that we do so.
For some it will be a pleasant enough read and an armchair journey to places that they may never visit in person. Whether you do manage to visit is not as important as being reminded of the significance of these alignments and the sanctity of the node points.
Gary Biltcliffe and Caroline Hoare’s book delivers an important message for the 21st Century. It reminds us of how long these sacred sites have hummed with power generating the fertile atmospheres for the benefit of all.
The Cloud, Cheshire
However, these power points in the earth’s energy grid need our attention and care. They need to be visited and and the paths need to be used lest they grow over.
Neglected networks tend to atrophy and fall into disrepair. The result is a gradual depletion of vitality within the areas they designed to enliven.
Be part of the restoration. Buy this book and learn about the node points nearest to you. Visit them and walk the paths that pass through them.
You will not only become fitter and happier but you will also contribute to the restoration of Albion’s network of winding paths through the hollow hills.