Down and Dirty

Though a born and bred West Londoner I have not spent much time down by the Thames. A spell of volunteering for the Museum of London made me realise how much of the development and wealth of this great city depended on the river and so I became interested in getting to know the Thames better. I love being outdoors and when I heard of the new Thames Discovery Programe which trains volunteers to monitor certain key archaeological sites on the foreshore I signed up for the very first FROG (Foreshore Recording & Observation Group) training.

The first training session was a very intense day, held at the Institute of Archaeology, part of UCL. It passed by in a whirl. The main thing impressed on my mind was how many potential hazards there were on the foreshore, from being poisoned by giant hogweeds to contracting Weil’s Disease, spread by rats!


Undaunted, I dug out my wellies, made sure I had a supply of waterproof plasters and set out a few months later for Charlton, South London for the second, practical training session. Eventually I found my way to Anchor and Hope Lane. I love the reversal of the normal phrase – it makes me think of a sailor anchoring and hoping for the best .

Despite it having been dry and sunny for the last few days, the foreshore was extremely muddy. The timber structure we were supposed to record was totally covered with green slime. We had to spend hours cleaning it off so we could get a good enough look at the planks to measure and record them. It didn’t take me long to get down and dirty i.e. slip over in the mud.

Surveying the foreshore (or mudlarking, for that matter) can only take place within a tidal window. Otherwise there is nothing to see but water or the ground is too soft to walk on safely. Once the tide started to come in it was time to clean up our tools. kick off our muddy boots and repair to the Anchor and Hope pub. It had been a beautiful sunny day, very enjoyable. I had met old friends again and made new ones.

A wonderful bonus was the opportunity for the volunteers to go on a specially organised guided tour of the nearby Thames Barrier, visiting parts that are not normally open to the public. It was fascinating. Unfortunately I can’t show you the photos as we don’t have permission to do so! Sorry.

For more information about the project or volunteering, contact the TDP team.