So you’ve got your detector and you’re ready to treasure hunt this summer. There’s good hope; the British Museum reported roughly 67,000 finds of archaeological interest in a single year, with 78% of them found by people using metal detectors (a tool, interestingly enough, originally developed for detecting landmines).
In fact, according to the BBC over 90% of all treasures found in the ground across Britain alone are unearthed by amateur metal detector treasure hunters. Still, there’s no use in having the capability without proper direction. So here’s your guide to finding where best to metal detect in the sunshine – I’ve sorted locations into one of two main categories: relics and recent valuables.
Best locations for metal detecting relics
Woodlands, footpaths and reserves – look for picnic groves
With research you can pinpoint historically popular stretches of woodland and walking paths. During the 1800s in the US, for example, forest reserves were used as picnic sites. People would take their horse and carriages up to these woods and spend the day picnicking.
In the 19th and 20th century people would picnic under trees at these sites en masse. You’ll want to look for the old picnic groves, which in some cases should still be easily recognizable – these often contain a lot of great potential finds. Many people also frequented footpaths to walk their dogs and to hunt.
Ploughed fields – particularly the large ones
If you live in a rural area a ploughed field may seem like an unlikely candidate for good finds. For example, a 50-acre field with only one house in the vicinity looks dismal in the sense that it’s devoid of human traffic. However, YouTube blogger ‘ChicagoRon’ – an experienced metal detector – advises that, before ploughed areas like these were settled, a single farmer would have probably been able to farm only one acre of field, using a plough and mule:
“When the farms all got bought up by bigger farms, all those houses got ploughed over, burned down, removed… on that 50 acre farm, there may have been 5 houses out there somewhere over the last 180 years.”
The use of machinery to harvest crops is a relatively new way of farming – before that, crops were picked by hand. So over the years, many people may have lost jewelry and coins on these farms. From time to time, modern farming machinery lift objects buried under the earth, bringing them closer to the surface (but hopefully without damaging these very same artifacts in the process!).
Churches – underneath trees and church backyards
If you have your eye on some of your country’s oldest treasures, including precious coins, churches may be a great bet – as they’re often among the oldest buildings in any area (partly thanks to churches being subject to more protection against new civil construction).
Worshippers would have visited these churches with coins to hand as offering each week. An ideal place to discover old coins is underneath trees – this was often where people and families would relax and have leisure. Church backyards are another suitable location.
Extra tip – do research
Research is a good way to make sure you mine areas that people have been using for a very long time – potentially allow you to find relics, gold nuggets and other trinkets from past eras. Your local library will have a ton of information about your local area, town or state’s history. This can save you from travelling further then you need to.
Check local town plans, mining reports, and talk to people who have lived in the area a long time. Older folk may have invaluable knowledge about specific places with long-standing history used by many residents before redevelopments happened, such as swimming holes, hunting areas, private inns and playing grounds – giving you the edge of where best to go metal detecting.
Just knock on doors and verbally ask if it is okay to metal detect, which usually is enough to get permission.
Best locations for metal detecting recent valuables Beaches – before the crowds or after a storm
The reason why beaches make such good locations for metal detecting in the summer is the sheer number of people who have used them over the years. People playing beach sports, swimming or even just lazing around have dropped personal items: coins, chains, rings and so on.
You want to time it well when it comes the busy summer holidays – ideally arrive before sunset or right after the main beach crowd has disappeared, towards the end of the day. You may find even more luck after a storm has occurred; sometimes objects that have been wedged under the water dislodge nearer the surface or on the shoreline.
Public beaches usually allow metal detector use along the beachfront or water, however you should try to get permission beforehand, and you may need to get a permit for offshore metal detecting. You can sometimes also get permission to
use private beaches. Inland lakes are another good bet but you’re often only allowed to metal detect before or after swimming hours.
Parks and commons – the greener version of the beach
Parks have a similar potential as beaches, as summertime is a good excuse for lots of people to lounge around in more natural environments. So in a park you may find many coincidental discoveries. Again, seek permission, in case the park requires a permit for metal detecting.
Some parks also have a fantastic legacy of high public use over previous decades such as during fairs, concerts and circuses. A bit of research may come in handy if you’re looking to find relics, as you’ll want to pinpoint locations where historic activities happened.
To conclude, you have two main options for metal detecting this summer. The first is to search for historically high-use places including: woodlands, ploughed fields and churches. In order to find recent items, you generally want to choose high-use public areas ideally used recently by thousands of people: beaches, parks and commons are your best bet for finding treasures ranging from begotten jewelry, coins and even rings that might otherwise go undiscovered.