Hidden historical British treasures could remain undiscovered because metal pollution has blighted the soil, detectorists have warned.
The passionate hobbyists claim their machines are disrupted by heaps of shredded aluminium and even hypodermic needles while searching UK farms for artefacts.
Detectorists fear the next great historical hoard will forever remain hidden beneath the polluted soil, kept from museums by a layer of metallic waste which is sending search equipment “berserk”.
Tens of thousands of antique items are found each year through metal detecting, with some fortunate finds are worth millions, and boasting huge historical value.
Those passionate about the pastime and its part in British heritage want land laden with waste metal to cleared.
William Hargreaves, a member of the National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMD) who has scoured fields since the 1970s, is concerned about the future of historic finds.
He said: “It affects metal detecting in a big way, because of what’s being put on the ground and what’s being done.
“A lot of it is a clinical waste. It’s got a ton of crap in it. Aluminium, bits of cans that look like they’ve been through a shredder, all sorts of bits of metal. You get bandages, gloves and hypodermics.
“You won’t find anything. As soon as you get in the field the detector goes berserk.”
Retiree Mr Hargreaves has also raised concern that geophysical surveys used by archaeologists can be thrown off by the volume of metal in the earth, which shrouds the detection of potentially valuable items. He sees only one solution to the contamination, which he claims is caused by poorly processed compost being dumped on fields.
He said: “The ground will be like this forever unless they dig it up. It has to be stopped.”
The detecting expert believes around two feet of topsoil would have to be scraped from fields to reach a layer free from pollution, and the NCMD has voiced concerns over the impact not only on history in the UK but also ecology.
A National Farmers Union spokesperson responded: “Compost has been used for many years by the agricultural sector as a valuable fertiliser when used safely and in accordance with regulation.
“As well as containing readily available nutrients for growing plants, it offsets the use of manufactured fertilisers while recycling valuable material.”