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Good Beach Detecting

I know nothing about beach detecting so I have surfed the net and compiled the following list of tips which I plan to use when I next give it a go, hope it can be of some use to others like me;

Research first

Check the local library for old pictures and articles of events on the beach showing where people gathered in the past.

Find postcards showing the beach at the height of summer, they will show the 'hot spots' to search where you have the greatest numbers of people congregating.

Talk to the beach attendants and bait diggers, ask the fishermen that you meet on the beach, have they noticed any recent changes to the beach by recent storms. Any newly exposed rocks at low water and what wind direction will stir up the sea and sand to expose the lower levels.

Talk to old residents, do they have an interesting story to tell about their Grandfather who witnessed a shipwreck as a boy.

Check out O/S map http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/getamap/ and Magic Map http://www.magic.gov.uk/website/magic/ for beach layouts, they show features such as Mean Low and Mean High water lines and tidal ponds.

Kinks in the Mean Low water lines are formed by geological gullies in the bedrock which trap losses and do not shift position like sand and shingle gullies.

Footpaths from holiday camps leading onto the beach can be productive too.

Old Maps http://www.old-maps.co.uk/ shows how things would have looked over 150 years ago, access to the beach for example.

Try and get to see a Yachtsman's inshore water chart for the area.

On your map of the beach add all the useful features you come across and mark the position of your finds, a pattern might evolve over time.

Watch other detectorist's and learn which areas are producing.

Detect the Towel line

On most beaches there is a strip of beach just above the high tide mark where the majority of beach goers set down their towels and chairs. This can be one of the most productive areas to search and since it is in the dry sand it is very easy to dig targets. This is typically one of the first areas I hunt on a beach, lots of dropped coins and a good chance of jewellery.

Most designated bathing beaches now have lifeguards/beach patrols during the summer months, they usually patrol an area between a pair of flags set out along the beach, bathers are encourage to stay within this area for safety reasons, it is a good place to start your search.

When up on the dry sand, look for the remains of beach parties, barbeques, sand castles, where the ice cream van parked, where the Donkey rides are, hot dog stands, anywhere people would have reached into their pockets for money, they are all good indications of where you will find the spoils, again in the sand dunes, look for where the picnics have taken place, also where the courting couples have been romping around in gay abandonment.

Detect the features

Check out under the pier if there is one, most were built by the Victorians and some very nice finds can be made under them, one word of warning, beware of fishing hooks, broken glass and junkies needles, so don't dig in the sand with your bare hands.

The sea wall, large rocks, boulders and groynes are good places to search, sunbathers use these as back rests, wind breaks and clothes hangers, look to see which way the ebb tide runs along the beach, items will be swept along in this direction and come to rest against any obstructions such as groynes or rocks.

Also look for patches of small stones and shells that have come together and been left by the tidal action, invariably you will find a like sized coin or ring has come to rest in the same area.

Look for the remains of stakes and piles that may indicate a landing stage or dock, a stone and shingle bank that juts out at right angles to the beach, all are good indications that the area may have been used for the loading and unloading of cargo.

Detect the sweet spot

The sweet spot of a beach is the area between the high tide mark and the low tide mark of a beach. To metal detect this area properly you should work about 10' off centre on both sides of the centre mark. While metal detecting work in a zigzag pattern to cover as much area as possible.

This area is reloaded by mother nature every time there is a gale or storm. Why is this so? I have no idea. It was taught to me by my now deceased grandfather, and he told me he got the secret from an old seafarer.

Detect the hard pack, black sand and shallow sand

Try to find areas where the sand and shingle levels are low, (not deep) or where the hard pack may be exposed. Most beaches have a hard surface below the sand and shingle, and this is where the majority of the older finds will be found because coins and artefacts quickly sink down through the upper layers of the beach.

Look for anything unusual on the beach, where a stream meets the sea, look to see how it has eroded its way down to the sea, it will give a good hint of what the sub-strata is like beneath the sand.

Look for deep cuts and areas of the beach that have been eroded away.

Look for patches of sand wetter than others as the tide goes out. Check the sea walls and piers for damp areas which might suggest the sand levels have dropped.

Ask if any dredging away of sand has been carried out or if sand from another beach has been deposited and if so where was the sand from and detect there.

Look for patches of black sand on the beach because this is a good sign that the top layers of sand have been washed away and you can get to the lower levels and therefore the older finds.

A lot has been said about "Black sand", all of which is true, but not all beaches have a sub strata of black sand, some may have hard packed stone as the sub strata, while others may have black, grey, yellow or orange clay and some will have a solid rock shelf It is always prudent to look for areas where the top covering of sand has been temporarily eroded away.

Search parallel to the sea. By doing this, the sand you cover isn't going between dry and wet, making some detectors loose balance all the time.

I take a four foot by half inch round bar (steel) with me, I take five steps from high water towards low water, stop and push the bar down until i find hard pack at the depth i know i can detect and recover my finds, (if the sands to deep I’ll leave it until the wind or tide moves it)

I then turn left or right and take another five steps and down goes the bar, I do that for a hundred steps then stop, go down another five steps towards low tide and end up fifteen steps below were i started, (a long oblong) in the end you have a hundred steps long by fifteen deep and believe me that is a large area.

So what are you looking for ? (hard pack) not gravel bars or rocks but hard pack, if you want the older finds the hard pack is the place to be.

The steel bar is your detector, when it hits rock the sound is high, with gravel it’s med tone, and with clay it’s a thud.

Best time to detect

I tend to favour the small beach because the finds are more concentrated, I can arrive at first light and get most of the beach searched before the first visitors arrive.

Try and detect before people are on the beach and after they have left, this causes the least inconvenience to other beach users and you won't feel like the 'pied piper' with hoards of kids trying to dig your every signal.

Metal detecting after a large storm is absolutely the best time to hit the beach with a metal detector! A lot of beach hunters wait for these occasions then congregate by the dozens when these events do take place.

The surf from large storms will erode many inches, sometimes feet of sand off a beach exposing historical artefacts and other great finds that were previously too deep to find with a metal detector.

Be prepared to get out there with your metal detector right after a major storm passes through. If you don't you may miss some of the best metal detecting of your life.

If you find any piece of jewellery, try to find the owner by starting at the local police station, ask them if anything has been reported lost within the last few months in the area you found it. The look on someone's face when you return a lost ring or trinket is worth every penny.

Last and by no means least, please remember to fill in any holes you have dug, even on the beach, leave everything as you found it and take any litter home or dispose of it thoughtfully, it's a great hobby, let's keep it that way!

On a final note the web sites below offer even more advice

Permits are now required to metal detect on Crown Estate beaches, see this site




(Added 01/07/06 compliments to CraigA).