The Best Guide + [Western Europe]

UK: Metal detectors labelled as 'criminal damage night-hawks'
Metal detecting on the moor has dug up old issues between archeologists and treasure hunters. The issue of potential damage to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), such as Staines Moor, from the use of metal detectors has arisen before.

Metal detectors labelled as 'criminal damage night-hawks'
Staines Moor [Credit: Get Surrey]

Some say the machinery damages to rare plants that grow on the moor but there are further historical threats too.

Pamela Irving, council member of Rescue: The British Archaeological Trust, told the Herald & News: “Use of metal detectors on any site without the owner’s specific permission is a theft which, if observed, warrants calling the police, who should respond, and arrest the individuals concerned for criminal damage.

“This is particularly the case on public land where anything removed belongs to the whole community not private individuals and permission, if applied for, would be refused.”

Responsible metal detecting, she said, should follow a code of conduct that ensures people operate legally and responsibly.

She described those damaging Staines Moor as "night-hawks doing criminal damage deliberately or in ignorance of their obligations".

They should be stopped, she insisted.

Mrs Irving added: “As well as damaging the ecology of the SSSI potentially permanently, if there is ancient metalwork to be recovered, this is potentially because there is archaeological evidence also being destroyed. The below ground evidence of past human activity is also irreparably damaged by the random digging of holes.

“So as well as the immediate theft of any metal objects detectorists may recover, they are also stealing important and irrecoverable evidence of our past, which also belongs to us all. It is to be hoped that Spelthorne is not about to sponsor a metal detecting rally without the full involvement of the Surrey County Archaeologist, or other professional advice, for example from the Surrey community archaeologist, based at the History Centre in Woking, or the Surrey Archaeological Society, on both the suitability of the chosen site and the conduct of the rally generally, to ensure full and proper recording of the finds.”

Leaping to the defence of metal detector enthusiasts was Cliff Tate, overseer at the Surrey Searchers Metal Detecting Club.

He said: “Detectorists are people who like and appreciate the great outdoors and usually respect it enough not to leave the ground full of holes. The real culprits of these holes always seem to go unpunished, ie deer, badger, fox, rabbit and squirrel. It’s amazing how many so-called experts can’t tell a shovel-shaped hole in the ground from an animal scrape. Or is this because they don’t want to?”

Source: GetSurrey [January 30, 2014]