35 years ago I was born “a frog”. Ironically, crossing the Channel and moving to the UK, I didn’t know I would end up involved in muddy adventures around London on the Thames foreshore.
After a practical and theoretical training, I became an active member of the Thames Discovery Programme.
I am now sometimes called a FROG – a volunteer member of the Foreshore Recording and Observation Group. But I have extended my activities to historical research, occasional experimental archeology and workshops, finds cleaning & sorting sessions not limited to London.
As an adoptive Londoner, I surely worship my river Thames and feel privileged to explore parts of London’s hidden gem, the Thames foreshore.
So why would someone be so keen on scavenging the banks of the river, known as murky old tidal Thames, get muddy and brave the many obstacles on the way ?
I once had children commenting on my leisure activities at street level : ‘what is she doing down there? It’s only water and rubbish anyway’. Yes, rubbish. They were right : centuries of dumped materials and household rubbish of our past Londoners, these river blessings are hands-on history, exposed by erosion and offered to the eye of the modern citizen.
I reckon I took the easy (somehow lazy) way in to amateur archaeology : no bending on my knees in tiny test pits, no deep digging and scraping for hours, just some attention to detail, eyesearch only as a start and let erosion and the good old tides do the work for us.
Hundreds of broken pottery sherds, animal bones, potential museum artefacts lying there, waiting to be re-discovered and picked up.
Yet it took me some time to get accustomed to the constantly-changing foreshore environment, from the rocky banks to the unsteady -somehow quicksand- mud.
I also had to learn how to read the tide timetables (and knowing how uncooperative a tide or the weather can be) and of course lots of fieldwork practice, workshops and training. This would include Health and Safety regulations on top of monitoring, recording, measuring and planning techniques.
Because the Thames is and remains a potentially hazardous environment.
The FROG fieldwork at the Tower of London in 2012
The FROG cleaning a shipwreck at Brentford in 2011
After 2 years of regular visits to the foreshore, either with TDP events or separately, I can finally discern some stunning artefacts lying in the mud or in the middle of the colourful scatters of iron nails, leather, broken brick, pottery, bones…
I am now confident enough to identify pottery finds and give it a date range.
I am no expert and will remain a historian enthusiast for many years, but I now understand what is a significant find that should be reported to the relevant archaeology departments, and what is an insignificant find that I can bag home to contribute to my personal hoard.
I also own a standard foreshore permit and would encourage anyone to apply for one through the PLA website BEFORE considering any foreshore activities(no permit = no scraping and always check the access maps, tides and site restrictions).
I will try to share my passion for the Thames and post about my personal experience and discoveries here. Keep posted.
The Thames foreshore near Wapping
The upcoming tide near Custom House foreshore
(All pictures and content are copyright of the blog author, Lucie C.)