Monday 21 November 2011

Metal Detecting Under the Microscope: HRH and the Metal Detectorists

Prince Charles studied archaeology at Cambridge, he also owns quite a large chunk of the English countryside. As such, he is free to define the terms under which he lets others use it and its resources (which he also owns). The Duke of Cornwall has specific rights over the foreshore too. His plans to charge people for artefact hunting and beach combing with metal detectors on the foreshore of Duchy of Cornwall beaches, between low and high water (a sixty pound annual licence), have met opposition from angry metal detectorists. The Duchy estate has previously not allowed metal detecting in these parts of the county (BBC News: 'Duchy of Cornwall metal detecting fee upsets enthusiasts', 21 November 2011).
The treasure seekers claim a charge is unfair and would be unworkable [...] Cornish archaelologist Jonathan Clemes said: "People could just be walking the beach and finding these things without a detector. There shouldn't be a charge. "You get people who go fishing on these beaches all day and you don't charge them, and how are you going to police it?"
(It would appear however that Mr Clemes is in fact a metal detectorist himself).
Veteran detectorist Mick Turrell organises group expeditions and owns a shop which sells the detector devices. He is puzzled about why he should pay to explore Duchy land, which is owned by the Prince of Wales, when exploring Crown estate land, owned by the Queen, is free. He said: "Our problem is people are thinking of going on holiday. They have a choice; they can go and detect on the beaches on Crown estate land for free. "If they come to Cornwall they have to decide if they can afford it because it is a lot of money they will have to pay out. They are rightfully upset about it."
Mick Turrel owns and runs "Leisure Promotions" in Newbury, Berks. As somebody remarked to me, and I have no reason to disbelieve him: "he has 20 years of creating a hole in the archaeological record that stretches up and down the A34 either side of the M4 junction at Newbury". He is also the guy behind the rallies which will reportedly be seeding fields with imported artefacts.

The Duke of Cornwall has of course every right - like any landowner - to say under what terms he will allow metal detecting on his property, and also what happens to the artefacts found there. It is not "unfair" and the only thing that would make it "unworkable" would be if there were in fact a huge number of metal detector users that are willing to use their machines on other people's land in total disregard of the law of private property and the wishes of and conditions imposed by landowners (i.e., the people labelled "nighthawks"). The Duke of Cornwall permits metal detecting under certain conditions and does not give that permission to those who do not meet those conditions (i.e., applying for, and getting a licence/permit) I am sure Mr Clemes would not like to claim that vast numbers of people will be acting illegally on Cornwall's beaches? After all is not the prevailing mantra that the vast majority of detectorists are "responsible" (and also "law-abiding")? Statements like the above raise the question of just how extensive this illegal detecting is anyway? Perhaps when they start being hauled off Cornwall's beaches protesting "i's not fair, it's me RIGHT to go metal detecting on me 'oliday innit?", we will find out.

Mr Turrel's club newsletter has a lot of bile about the world in general, starting with the Prince of Wales. He suggests a boycott of all "Duchy Originals Produce", and notes that some of his metal detectorist members "have contacted the Cornwall Tourist Board to say that they will no longer be booking holidays in Cornwall whilst this extortionate charge is in place". Good, that will leave the beaches for the rest of the British populace to enjoy without the nauseating sight of some get-rick-quick Jimmy Thugwit, smelling of chips, cheap suntan oil and sweat hoovering up whatever takes their fancy. Mr Turrel urges members to "write in with your own personal points of view to either the Duchy or the Cornwall Tourist Board". Maybe readers of this blog might like to do the same.

In particular they might inform HRH and the administrators of his estate, which the PAS seems to have neglected to do, that there is actually a Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting which says something quite different from the 'shut-the-gate' ones of the NCMD and FID which is all the Duchy seems aware of. Heritage Action mentioned it (scroll down) but the message is taking a long time to get through to landowners, even the Royal ones with an archaeological education.
Vignette: The Landowner with vast tracts.

1 comment:

kyri said...

i thought you needed a fishing license to go fishing,only children under 12 do it for free and i know you need a license to go mudlarking/metal detecting on the thames[the port of london charge £7.50 a day].you can get a fishing license from the post office and they dont seem to have any trouble issuing them.many more people go fishing than metal detecting and i dont hear them complaining.
i would never consider banning metal detecting alltogether as i do think they have made a contribution to the archaeological record with some spectacular finds[and i know you dont agree with me on that]but there has to be some tighter control and its about time we licensd metal detectors,£250 per year,this will help raise much needed funds for the they love the pas so much,why cant they pay for it.its a bit gaulling for me,as a british taxpayer to be funding some of these obscene rewards even if the finds are spectacular.

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