The hidden history of farmland

30th March 2017

Please note: the views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SellMyLivestock.

My name is Scott Bevan and I’m a keen metal detectorist from Birmingham. I took up metal detecting 16 months ago after a friend suggested that I go along with him on a rally. I immediately fell in love with everything about the hobby. I’d always been fascinated with history, going way back to my school days. I remember learning all about the Roman invasion of Britain. About the Saxons and the Vikings. About Henry the VIII and his many wives, and about Queen Victoria and her reluctance to be amused. But I never dreamt that one day, I would find myself unearthing coins and artefacts from these eras in British history.

I’ve been lucky enough to discover some beautiful items. A Bronze Age axe head, a medieval key, copper coins, silver Roman coins, silver hammered coins and most recently part of a silver Anglo Saxon coin. The long lost history buried beneath our feet is truly astonishing.

Medieval key (1150-1450)

Of course this isn’t the only aspect of metal detecting that appeals to me. Having been born and raised in the inner city suburbs of a large city, the only time I ever visited a farm, or the countryside in general, was on a school trip. Metal detecting has changed all of that. Not content with only attending large organised club events, I began contacting farmers myself in the hope that I could begin detecting as full time as possible. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been permitted to detect by more than several farmers across the country. And so began my love affair with farming and the great British countryside.

I’ve learnt so much this past year, about all aspects of farming, and I continue to do so. The truth is, my metal detecting exploits wouldn’t be possible without the help of the farming community. Although I’ve been lucky enough to visit some farmers, there have been many who have declined. There are various reasons for this and all are totally understandable:

  • Some farmers already allow detectorists on their land and don’t want any more.
  • Some are tenant farmers and can’t permit detectorists on the land.
  • Some farmers don’t want detectorists on their land purely out of choice. I completely get this. I often put myself in the farmer’s shoes (or wellies). If a relative stranger were to knock my door, or ring my phone asking for permission to search my land, I would definitely have reservations. However, I would say this, if the only reason you would say ‘no’ is down to trust, please get to know the detectorist.

Roman coin (Emperor Augustus Denarius 2BC-2AD)

The vast majority of us are genuine people with a passion for finding history. A genuine detectorist will:

  • Have insurance either with the NCMD (National Council for Metal Detecting) or the FID (Federation of Independent Detectorists).
  • They will detect ethically, filling all holes neatly and showing the farmer all finds. If anything of value is discovered it’s usually split 50/50 between the finder and the farmer, and you can ask the detectorist to provide you with a contract stating the split for extra peace of mind.
  • Show all relevant finds to the local ‘finds liaison officer’.

There can also be potential benefits to allowing metal detectorists on your land:

  • It’s an extra pair of eyes. Broken fences, escaped livestock, faulty gates and suspicious activity can all be reported.
  • A detectorist can also help you locate any lost machinery parts or jewellery.
  • It can give you an idea of the history of your land and of course, dare I say it, there is always the chance that something significant could be discovered and a potential profit being shared. The next Staffordshire hoard could be on your land.

King William III shilling (1697)

I’ve found so many wonderful things this past year. I’ve seen some beautiful scenery. I’ve spent time with nature I never knew existed and I’ve made some truly wonderful friends. And it’s all been made possible by the farming community.

If there are any farmers who’d like to discuss the possibility of allowing me to metal detect, please let me know. My email address is I’m prepared to travel, will pay a daily fee or donate to a charity of your choice, and I can provide references.

You can also keep up to date with my detecting adventures by following my account @scottylar on Twitter.

Favourite breed: Longhorn cattle

Further reading:

Back to the land…

10 common misconceptions people have about farmers!

The Tweeting Farmer

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