Saturday, 17 October 2020

Sovereign Metal Detecting Rally Event in Shropshire

These commercial metal detecting groups seem to be springing up all over the UK. There's a lot of money to be made from them, and they are a self-propelling phenomenon, the more farmers learn that they can get big cash payouts for allowing events to take place on land that they can claim has "never before been detected", the less likely they are to allow individual tekkies on their land on a search-and-take agreement for which they get no cash (but a few duplicate finds stuck in a shadow-frame bought in a craft shop and a bottle of cheap wine at Christmas). So if tekkies cannot get on land for free, they have to join one of these organisations and pay the organisers that give the landowner a cash-in-hand payment (taxman please note) and often pocket the rest. One ( Let's Go Digging Nationwide Metal Detecting Events has 13,300 members, that's about half the number of tekkies believed to be in England and Wales! 

Anyway some bloke called Charles Lloyd has founded a group, "Sovereign Metal Detecting Rallys" (sic) and is looking for land and paying clients. But he's finding things are not that easy (The Pipeline,  Fears for Tiers over Shropshire Metal Detecting Rally Close to Scheduled Roman Villa  October 17, 2020).

The fate of a proposed metal detecting rally, due to be held this Sunday [18 October 2020] close to the site of a scheduled Roman villa near Shrewsbury on the Welsh border, hangs in the balance.  [...] Mr Lloyd initially invited up to forty “connoisseurs” to take part in the privately organised rally. However, subsequent posts increased the number of potential attendees to more than sixty, thus increasing the chance of locating important archaeology [...]. The publicity states that the event is due to cost £25 per detector meaning that, even if only the initial forty detectorists attend, the event will still raise £1000. 

Sovereign Metal Detecting Rallys claim to have done a Covid-19 risk assessment, but it is unclear whether that takes into account the new regulations and the introduction of the three tier system of classifying lockdown rules by the Government just this week

Even so adding to the concern over the rally, thePipeLine can also confirm that of detectorists declaring they are going to attend on Sunday a number appear to come from areas with high rates of Covid-19 infection. This includes attendees from [...] areas which either are, or are about to be, subject to the most severe, Tier 3 Covid-19 restrictions. These restrictions include Government guidance not to travel into, or out of, a Tier 3 area. [...] [on the rally,] the Covid precautions as a whole appear to be somewhat of an afterthought. It should be added also that none of these precautions deal with the most significant potential issue. That of the sheer number of people who might be attending a single event.

A spokesperson for West Mercia Police appeared to confirm that the event could be illegal under Covid-19 regulations, adding that there were severe penalties for organisers and attendees of  unauthorised gatherings. As was the case of the Pink Wellies Rally shut down by the Police on October 4th, there is no evidence that Sovereign Metal Detecting Rallys  is eligible for an exemption. Pipeline conclude: 

However, even if the rally does turn out to be allowable under the Coronavirus Act the question would remain that, while it might be legal, is it responsible to put metal detecting for artefacts over the risk to the health of people coming from a wide area, including those coming from areas with the high Coronavirus infection rates and where restrictions on travel are advised? In those circumstances any metal detecting rally would be at risk of becoming a, so called superspreader event, with severe consequences for the individuals affected and perhaps also for the reputation of metal detecting as a legitimate hobby?

Of course it also has implications for the people that live in the area too. If people cannot exercise self-restraint and act responsibly (which they demonstrably cannot), it is time to STOP this free-for-all and regulate metal detecting in the UK.

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