The metal detecting Lymington Lawyer at New Forest Scott Bailey Solicitors

Digging for New Forest Treasures

The Metal Detecting Lymington Lawyer on a mission to smooth the path for property sellers and buyers

Metal detecting on the beach

Scott Bailey Solicitors "behind the Blue Door": Daniel Ratcliff

My name is Daniel Ratcliff, and I’m a property lawyer at Scott Bailey in Lymington. Whilst we are often referred to as “Scott Bailey Solicitors” I am actually a Chartered Legal Executive specialising in property law. Legal Executives are one of a number of different kinds of qualified lawyers providing top quality legal advice at firms like ours. You may also have heard of Notaries or Licensed Conveyancers. Not all lawyers are solicitors. It can be a bit confusing for those not familiar with how law firms operate – but don’t worry, you’re in safe hands!  

Whilst the majority of my days are spent dealing with property conveyancing, equity releases, and deeds of release, there’s more to me than just law books and transfer deeds! You might be surprised to know that in my spare time I’m a keen metal detectorist. If you don’t know what a metal detectorist does, we are those people that walk around aimlessly on the beach (or in a field) digging holes, hoping to find Henry the VIII’s missing golden wedding ring, or other treasure, but normally go home with a horseshoe and 20 bottle tops!!

I started the hobby last year as a way of growing my understanding of this country’s rich history (and if I’m honest a way of trying to get a bit fitter).

Equipment for metal detectingAs I have developed my hobby, I have realised that my day job links into metal detecting quite a lot. My understanding of the local history has helped me gain a better feel for the land in the area which helps when dealing with awkward purchases and sales. For example, knowing if the land has historic importance can affect what a person can or cannot do with it, be it digging holes or building houses! I have also been able to get to grips with the law surrounding treasure and how it effects s detectorists (and landowners or developers who happen upon treasure!).

The Treasure Act 1996 dictates much of what can be kept. When people first think of treasure, they immediately think of fantasy stories of pirates and buried treasure. Believe it or not, there are plenty of hoards still sat in the ground today and can be found with a little bit of patience… and a lot of luck!

Under the existing definition of treasure, objects are designated as treasure if they are found to be over 300 years old, made of gold or silver, or found with artefacts made of precious metals. Once officially identified as treasure, artefacts become the property of the Crown and are available for acquisition by local or national museums to go on public display.

There are new changes being brought in this year which provide that the treasure classification will not be based solely on the material quality of an artefact. This should provide a more transparent and efficient treasure process for museums and the public, to allow history to be better documented and, in some cases, retained.  

The growing popularity of metal detecting since the act in 1996 has brought to light an increasing number of finds from Roman Britain that do not meet the current treasure criteria because they are often made from bronze rather than “precious metals” which has created a legal loophole.

Understanding the law behind metal detecting is vital in my hobby and I am fortunate to be able to educate other detectorists who are either new to the hobby or do not understand the changes. I can now also assist local landowners and farmers who require agreements in place in case detectorists find items of treasure on their private land.

The above is a small insight into my day-to-day life as a lawyer, and as a detectorist. If you’re interested to know more about some of the things I have found please feel free to follow me on Instagram “@the.digging.lawyer”.

Or, if you need help with your property law matter (whether or not it’s to do with digging), please do not hesitate to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Dan Ratcliff, Metal Detectorist and Property Lawyer at Scott Bailey

Dan Ratcliff, Metal Detector and Property Lawyer at Scott Bailey

About Scott Bailey LLP

Founded in 1930, Scott Bailey has grown to become a leading firm in the New Forest, providing a full range of legal services to private individuals and businesses. Services for individuals include Residential Conveyancing, Divorce, Family, Wills Trusts & Probate, Litigation & Disputes.

SME business legal services include Corporate, Commercial, Intellectual Property, Dispute Resolution, Landlord & Tenant, Insolvency and Employment Law. Scott Bailey LLP is one of only a very few firms based in the New Forest providing these specialist services. 

The first firm in the region to receive the Law Society's prestigious LEXCEL award for high standards of practice management and customer care, Scott Bailey LLP promises top-quality, professional help from a team of expert solicitors who will put your best interests at the heart of their work.


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