Find out more about our FROG (Foreshore Recording and Observation Group) volunteers in the first of our volunteer profiles from Catriona Stuart, for Volunteers’ Week 2021


Catriona (right) with Marion and Sue from the Greenwich FROG on a monitoring visit

One of my earliest memories is being woken to the sound of the hooters of all the ships, boats and tugs on the Thames celebrating the New Year. The Thames environs was a heavy-duty working area the whole length of the river which I wasn’t allowed to visit. A lifetime later my chance had arrived!

When I heard about the Thames Discovery Programme, I signed up for the FROG Training Course. The group was a complete mix of people whom I found energising and inspiring. The theory training was quick but thorough, then the fieldwork practicals began. I carefully descended the muddy stairs determined that my arrival on the foreshore was not a spectacular slide. Some folk walked confidently over the slippery, rubble-covered foreshore, some didn’t. As arms were offered and accepted – nobody fell.

Every time I leave the street level for the foreshore I am impressed and delighted by total change of the environment. How very different the foreshore feels from the street level. Even the wind is different, the Thames itself looks different, swirling and eddying – it suddenly feels as elemental as standing on a mountain. The foreshore excites me because it has so much to tell and the Thames itself is exciting because it is dangerous: a force to be reckoned with.

The Thames foreshore is constantly changing. I have watched a huge beam wash free of the foreshore to float down the Thames. Layer upon layer of history of London life is disappearing so there is recording to be done, and FROGs are doing it.

It’s fun mastering new skills and practising them when you have a purpose. The skills themselves aren’t too taxing although the awkward positions you have to get into can challenging. But, unless an ache is too much to tolerate, often we would much rather stay because the banter and the chat between the team is great! The information that you pick up from these open discussions is riveting.

The level of knowledge other FROGs have about the history of life by the Thames is both wide-ranging and down-to-earth: time passes in a flash. The recording part of fieldwork certainly requires practice. I can’t pretend that I have cracked it yet. The other FROGs look at the object, the measurements etc. there is a bit of discussion about the wood, oak or elm? It’s all good stuff and an eye opener for me. It’s so valuable picking up the tricks of the trade by watching those more experienced than you. Getting the hang of “the knowledge” feels so good. Job done! You can feel the buzz of satisfaction going through the group.

From my experience, all FROG members have a deep curiosity about the Thames and a desire to be a part of something worthwhile. Older people like me share those qualities, and I can say it is excellent to discover an organization who will put that curiosity to good effect. It’s rewarding. Of course older people enjoy it – who wouldn’t?