Bankside: A photographic report on erosion

Retrospective 2011 – 2015

Bankside

It’s time for an update on what I have witnessed during countless walks on the Thames foreshore in London.

More precisely, I would like to reflect on erosion locally at Bankside, based on my own observation and my personal photographic records.

Monitoring the archaeology on the foreshore is the primary role of the FROG volunteer within Thames Discovery Programme.

In October 2011, I decided to regularly walk on the foreshore in the City near Bankside, more precisely in an attempt to monitor on a long-term basis the foreshore area between the modern Blackfriars Bridge and Southwark Bridge. A few volunteers gladly came along to help with the monitoring and assessment for a few visits, and the reports were forwarded to TDP professional team for archiving and review.

However after some time, it became difficult to organize events and a challenge to complete the monitoring of over 100 archaeological features during a low tide, due to the volunteers personal commitments and the popularity and extent of the site.

Low tide Bankside September 2012Low tide at Bankside – area in front of Tate Modern in September 2012

The foreshore at Bankside is extremely popular, taken over by tourist guides and large enthusiast groups of members of the public and schools descending on the foreshore for beachcombing or educational tour activities. This made monitoring tasks difficult to complete. There were additional time management & health and safety issues to consider in the site visits and risk assessments.

After a year of frequent walks and visits, I had collected enough evidence for erosion at the site.

I decided that realistically I would only continue the erosion assessment with a discreet presence, compiling a photographic and digital record of significant features getting dramatically eroded on an occasional basis. Taking photographs on site to illustrate erosion is a good compromise when you are short on time and visiting on your own.

I was also certain that professional archaeologists and mudlarks were actively present in the area and that the area was well-documented.

At this stage, I didn’t set a foot on the Thames foreshore at Bankside for almost a couple of years, moving out for professional reasons and focusing on other river sites that were overlooked whenever I had a chance. I have, since then, dedicated my time working in larger volunteer groups supervised by senior archaeologists, part of a team, during fieldwork or workshop activities.

Blackfriars Bridge causeway in September 2012Causeway near Blackfriars Bridge at low tide in September 2012

So, why monitoring erosion matters? It helps define recording priorities for local archaeology community groups, assess if the access (river stairs) has changed, if the main archaeological features have changed, if new historical discoveries can be made, if new health and safety issues or potential risks emerge across the same zone.

However, the pictures gallery below speaks for itself, showing signs of erosion across the zone.

BANKSIDE – GLOBE STAIRS

Globe Stairs Picture Gallery – explanation

In October 2011 : a long horizontal timber is surviving on the last eroded step of the stairs, with consolidation block made of glass waste, concrete, etc. A couple of wooden planks fixed with big nails are fully exposed. The entire structure is probably associated with the bargebed feature nearby.

In October 2012: the horizontal timber is gone.The planks visible on the left of the stairs are gone and only the nails survive on site.The consolidation block is now scattered and most of it is no longer visible.

In May 2015 : more erosion is visible on the last step of the stairs, fragments of the consolidation block on the left are missing and more vertical timbers are exposed.

 October 2012 : more vertical timbers and consolidation block made of glass/waste/ concrete were associated with the river stairs. May 2015 : not much is left.

THE VICTORIAN CART WHEELS NEAR BANKSIDE – A retrospective – 2011- 2015

December 2011: only one cart wheel was identified and exposed on site as a mooring feature near Bankside Old Stairs. October 2012 :only the chain and a vertical timber pile remain visible since March 2012. May 2015 : I was unable to find remains of the feature

 In October 2011, we know this feature not far from Globe stairs on the foreshore as an ‘unclassified structure  of 5 squared posts around an iron-banded roundwood post’. In March 2012, it is is now identified as a second cart wheel and was possibly re-used as a mooring feature on the site. In October 2012, the cart wheel is more exposed than ever. In May 2015, the cartwheel has been dramatically damaged by the tidal scour ( I would also suspect the fact that being visible and accessible to large groups of tourists at low tide and exposed daily did not help keeping it safe). It looks like it has been dug, exposing the internal features, while much wood is missing.

May 2015

May 2015 : Just realized that another cart wheel is now fully exposed on the foreshore area near Blackfriars station/ OXO Tower, in what used to be a zone mixing up concrete blocks, vertical and horizontal timber structures that could indicate an old jetty structure.

EROSION NEAR BLACKFRIARS BRIDGE

THE HYDRAULIC FEATURES

There are quite a few intriguing modern hydraulic features at Bankside foreshore. These are helpful to assess erosion on a yearly basis.

In March 2012: the above feature, which was described as a ‘foundation and well for hydraulic crane’ is made of timbers, concrete and metal structures, 3 sub-squares and 1 circular (one of the sub-squares is underwater in the picture from May 2015).

In October 2012 : one of the sub-square showed signs of serious erosion as the water has dug under the horizontal timber, now uncovered. Fast erosion could have been a result of the building works undertaken at Blackfriars Bridge for the new railway station. Pipes and drains were then becoming visible on the third sub-square (partially under water on the 2nd picture from October 2012).

In May 2015: the foundation bases of the structure and the side timber works are getting even more exposed.

   EROSION ON A METAL & TIMBER FEATURE

 As you can see on this mysterious feature in the area near Blackfriars Bridge, it has been naturally uncovered by the tidal scour

A CULVERT/ BRICK FEATURE NEAR BLACKFRIARS BRIDGE

Since December 2012, erosion has uncovered much of it and we can now notice a concrete or stone block ino the middle on the above brick feature : is it a culvert/ associated to sewage waste ?

May 2015 - detail of the brick work

May 2015 – detail of the brick work from the structure near Blackfriars Bridge

MORE MOORING FEATURES GETTING  ERODED

EROSION NEAR SOUTHWARK BRIDGE

 Near Southwark Bridge, more timber and brick foundations are exposed on the foreshore since 2011. On the river wall, since 2011, at least 2 wooden fenders have gone missing on the modern structure.

 The old river stairs and causeway timber baselines beneath Southwark Bridge is getting more exposed since 2011

            EROSION OF THE CAUSEWAY NEAR OXO TOWER

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Erosion on the tidal Thames foreshore

Wapping :A stroll down memory lane (2011- 2015)

It’s now been nearly 5 years since I joined the FROG (Foreshore Recording and Observation Group) within the Thames Discovery Programme. It is time to reflect on my own observation of our tidal river and how erosion has changed the foreshore locally.

I will start with Wapping foreshore, as it was one of the first sites I visited during fieldwork in 2011.

There is a growing public and community interest for the Thames.

Community projects (such as TDP, Citizan and London’s Lost waterway) give an opportunity to Londoners or anyone passionate about the Thames to participate in community archaeology, while encouraging the assessment, survey and monitoring of the foreshore.

More recently, the PLA has launched the Thames Vision project: Londoners were asked to share their views on the river in a survey, for a better understanding, to help shaping the future of our river together. Meetings with members of the public and stakeholders are about to take place in London this month. It is an exciting time ahead for anyone interested in the river use.

Overall there is a demand from members of the public to protect the historical heritage of estuaries’ foreshores and sea coastline, continually eroded by the tidal scour or the river use, when not dramatically exposed or damaged in the event of floods or powerful storms.

Monitoring the archaeology on the foreshore is the primary role of the FROG volunteer within Thames Discovery Programme. Significant archaeological sites are being washed away.

Monitoring and measuring erosion on a monthly basis creates a full and long-term picture of erosion or deposition on determined foreshore areas.

I have decided to display below some photographs I have taken during foreshore trips at Wapping between Autumn 2011 and Spring 2015, to show how erosion is permanently changing the Thames foreshore and why archaeological remains are at risk of being washed away permanently.

River Access : Wapping Old Stairs

Timber feature on the foreshore, near Wapping Old Stairs

The Remains of Gun Dock

The brick culvert near Wapping Old Stairs

Mysterious iron wheel feature

The Thames in Oxfordshire from Port Meadow to Swinford Bridge

The Thames near Eynsham

ROUTE DESCRIPTION

This is a stunning walk along the Thames especially on a sunny day, probably about 7-8 miles, and a must-seen for wildlife admirers.

I have not yet been brave enough to keep walking from Swinford Bridge all the way to Newbridge, as I reckon it would take the day and some extra effort.

For traditional pub lovers, I recommend a visit to the Perch (and its lovely garden) in Binsey and The Trout Inn at Godstow, not to forget a little detour to the Talbot Inn in the village of Eynsham for a well-deserved pint at the end of the walk.

The walk includes delightful sights such as the Evenlode stream (part of the Cotswolds), open pastures and meadow, some woodland and Swinford Toll Bridge.

1. Oxford Port Meadow to Godstow Nunnery ruins

Horses grazing on the common land

I always start my walk from Port Meadow, Oxfordians ‘ favourite spot, an open grazing land left untouched from centuries.

If you are lucky, you will see some wild cattle and horses grazing on the land, sharing the space with rather aggressive & territorial geese, in spring and summer times.

Cattle crossing the remaining flood waters

 

The site really gives you a feel of the ancient Thames, inspiring landscapes demonstrating how open settlements and farmers would have gathered and lived along the Thames in Oxfordshire.

Port Meadow in summer 2013

Port Meadow in summer 2013

Port Meadow & the Thames - sunset summer 2013

Port Meadow & the Thames – sunset summer 2013

 

Many archaeological features are registered on the site, some visible from the naked eye, including survival and evidence of Late Prehistory/ Iron Age activity.

At a glance, you can spot low irregular mounds and some ring-shaped ditches, including the ancient scheduled monument Round Hill.

Irregular surfaces & mounds on Port Meadow revealing late prehistory activity

Irregular surfaces & mounds on Port Meadow revealing late prehistory activity

Port Meadow

possible ring-ditch enclosure

possible ring-ditch enclosure ?

Lying in the grass, I noticed during my walk that some fragments of limestone remains on the surface, raising questions.

Limestone

The river Thames and its streams would have acted as natural boundaries for ancient farm buildings and paddocks, I suppose.

Signs of erosion are visible on this stretch of the Thames.

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Often, the site is flooded and resembles a lake or marshland, getting a bit boggy when the waters recede.

The Thames

Port Meadow flooded – the ‘lake’ in February 2014

 

After the flood – also showing signs of revolting, unauthorized ‘bottle digging’ on the scheduled monument, reported to the relevant authorities

But time to continue the walk after enjoying the meadow, you are invited to cross a first footbridge, the Thames standing on the right side turning into a gentle curve, a second footbridge leading to ‘Fiddlers Island’ on the left.

the first footbridge in 2013 before the floods

the first footbridge in 2013 before the floods

The same footbridge during the floods in early 2014

The same footbridge during the floods in early 2014

Recent floods in December 2013 and the beginning of 2014 gave an impressive view of the site.

The second footbridge leading to  ‘Fiddlers Island’ was completely under water.

Footbridge to Fiddlers Island on the left during the summer 2013

Footbridge to Fiddlers Island on the left during the summer 2013

 

Second footbridge to Fiddlers Island during the recent floods

Second footbridge to Fiddlers Island during the recent floods

 

Now in April 2014, the trees on Fiddlers Island are still showing signs of the flooding.

Trees showing the flood water level

Trees showing the flood water level

Time to turn right and follow the towpath of the canal, with sights of the local moored boats, heading towards a steel arched rainbow bridge, so the walk can continue directly along the Thames.

the Thames near Port Meadow

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After some time spent walking in the meadow with open pastures & fields on the left, you reach Godstow channel and the remains of Godstow Nunnery/ Abbey.

 

 

First founded in the 12th Century, little remains of the site : ruins of the precinct walls and the small chapel.

It was also a nunnery, Fair Rosamund, mistress of Henry II, is said to have spent the last years of her life here.

Godstow channel also stands on the site. However, to continue on the Thames Path, it is required to cross the road leading to Godstow Bridge and the Trout Inn pub on the opposite bank and right side of the site.

I recommend to have a break half-way of the walk, sit in the Trout Inn terrace garden and enjoy a well-deserved refreshing drink with stunning views on the Thames.

 2. The Thames Path from Godstow to Swinford Bridge & Eynsham

Back to open pastures and farmland on the way to Eynsham, with stunning views of the river.

The walk offers picturesque views of the Oxfordshire countryside.

Reaching King’s Weir, I find myself now close to the Cotswolds territories, walking along with delightful sights of lush pastures.

King's Weir

King’s Weir

 

Crossing a concrete footbridge, I get a chance to admire the river Evenlode, which slips into the Thames.

Then, I continue walking successively into open pastures and the proximity of woodland by the river Thames until I reach Swinford Bridge at the end of my walk.

The lovely village of Eynsham can be accessed by crossing the Toll Bridge and walking a little further. I also recommend to stop for a drink at the Talbot Inn on the road, not far from the river Thames.

The Thames in Oxfordshire : A walk from Iffley Lock to Abingdon

After more than 3 years dedicated to the Thames in the London area, I decided it was time to expand my horizons and explore the Thames Path a little further.

Oxford being my second home, it makes it easy for me to plan picturesque walks along the Thames.

 A WALK FROM OXFORD (IFFLEY LOCK) TO ABINGDON

Kennington

Route description

 

Sandford-on-Thames

 

So far, this is one of my favourite walks in Oxfordshire, highlighting a section of the Thames Path on a curve to Abingdon via Iffley, Kennington and Sandford-on-Thames.

Lots of narrow boats, canoes & rowers, wild life and countryside delights to be seen.

To do this walk any justice, I would recommend to spend the day, planning a picnic or having a lunch/mid break at the stunning King’s Arms pub with great views on the Lock at Sandford-on-Thames.

It is possible to walk the Thames Path all the way from Oxford city Centre/Folly Bridge but I start from Donnington Bridge, which is the closest from Iffley Lock.

I usually take the bus back to Oxford from Abingdon.

You will find details of this route online or in useful guides for the Thames Path walks (see my bibliography section).

1.Oxford – Iffley Lock

The walk starts with the open fields of Iffley Meadows Nature Reserve and the Thames Path leading to Iffley Lock.

A notorious spot for university rowers, cyclists, locals and dog walkers.

to Iffley Lock

Iffley Meadows (below) are ancient meadows, often flooded in winter, where the iconic snake’s-head fritillary flowers can be seen in spring.

Iffley Meadows

Next to the meadows is the Isis Farmhouse, formerly the Isis Hotel, an early 19th Century pub, full of character and benefiting from a large beer garden with views on the Thames.

Beer used to be delivered by ferry boat.

The Isis

Then comes Iffley Lock.

Iffley Lock house

Formerly built in the 17th Century, little remains from the original work, the Lock was rebuilt in 1924 with a small Stone Bridge and the Lockkeeper’s house.

Iffley Lock Stone Bridge

 

 

Iffley Lock Stone Bridge

 

Iffley Lock Stone Bridge

Iffley Lock Stone Bridge

 

The Stone Bridge carries a bronze bull’s had and a coat of arms

Bull's Head

Coat of arms

The old 17th Century pound lock would have been located near the weir stream according to local maps.

Iffley Weir

Iffley Lock - the weir stream

If you cross the Lock and next to the weir, is the site of the former Iffley Mill.

Standing there since the 12th Century, it sadly burned to the ground in 1908, and was a well-documented event at the time; some photographs remain accessible online, not to mention the famous pictures of Henry Taunt when the Mill was still active.

It was used for grinding corn and other cereals.

Some stone work remains from the entrance gate.

Iffley Mill remains

Nearby, on the little lane up from the river going to the lovely Iffley village, a couple of millstones are displayed on front of a private cottage.

millstone

millstone

It is worth making a little detour to Iffley Village, with its thatched cottages & St Mary’s Church, one of the finest Norman churches, on a hill overlooking the river, almost unaltered since the 12th Century.

Iffley VillageMill Lane in Iffley village

 

St Mary's Church

St Mary’s Norman Church

St Mary's Church

An ancient grave cross in the churchyard

Grave

 

2. From Iffley to Sandford-on-Thames

Back to the river towpath, the Thames grows in size near Kennington railway steel bridge, which is quite an eerie sight.

 Kennington old steel railway bridge

 

old steel railway bridge

The Thames Path slightly disappears into green, open meadows.

river

The views of the river showing the Rose Island on the opposite bank are particularly stunning.

Rose Island

Rose Island

Now a private house, this property used to be the Swan Hotel, a public house owned successively by Morlands Brewery and Morrells brewery in the end 19th Century.

There was a ferry boat crossing and steps bringing the customers to the public house.

Traces of the landing place can still be seen today:

Landing place of Rose Island

LaLanding place of Rose Island

The walk continues ahead towards Sandford-on-Thames, crossing open fields, footbridges and beautiful weir streams.

open fields

Four Spires Hotel

 

water fall

weir stream

 

Near Sandford-on-Thames is the Sandford Lasher, an impressive weir, it is now difficult to get close for great views of the Lasher as part of the path has been blocked to public access due to danger.

The name Sandford probably refers to an earlier river crossing (sandy ford).

Soon in the distance can be spotted the King’s Arms public house with tall chimneys and Sandford Lock.

King's Arms

The Kings Arms Hotel was converted from a malt house, used by the local Sandford Mill. The Mill, closed in the eighties, is now gone and replaced by flats.

King's Arms

 

King's Arms & Lock

The Mill can be traced back to 1100, it was owned by local monks for making bread. At a later date it was owned by the Knights Templar and used for grinding corn, and again rebuilt in the 19th Century.

Sandford Lock has been reconstructed, just like Iffley Lock, it was one of the first pound locks on the Thames in the 17th Century.

3. From Sandford-on-Thames to Abingdon

Past Sandford-on-Thames, the towpath continues into a wild stretch to Radley village, the river turns into a curve with lush pastures, farmland and woodland on the side all the way to Abingdon. This is your chance to spot cranes, grey herons and wild life on the Thames, with breathtaking views.

It is a scenically rewarding walk until you reach the historic town of Abingdon-on-Thames, with St Helen’s wharf and the 15th Century alms-houses.

Erosion on the Thames near Sandford                                          Erosion between Sandford-on-Thames & Radley village in Oxfordshire

 

Wild stretch of the Thames Path on the way to Radley                                               Wild Thames Path near Sandford on the way to Radley & Abingdon

 

Dead tree                                                                                                       Dead tree on the Thames

 

Thames Path to Radley                                                      Picturesque view of the Thames and farmlands in Oxfordshire

Thames near Radley

Thames river

 

Farmland near Radley boathouse     Walking through farmlands on the side on the Thames Path to Radley village

Lush pastures                                                                                      Lush pastures on the Thames Path

 

Boathouse on the Thames, way to Abingdon

 

Boathouse on the Thames                                                                           A private boathouse on the way to Abingdon

 

 

woodlands                                                                                      A very ‘Alice in Wonderland’ walk

Thames Path to Abingdon

   Walking through woodlands and ideal picsnics sites

Thames Path to Abingdon Thames river to Abingdon

 A grey heron near Abingdon                                                                                 A grey heron in the Swift Ditch area near Abingdon

 

Abingdon Weir

Abingdon WeirAbingdon Weir

 

                                   The walk finishes with the views of the old Abingdon Bridge and St Helen’s Wharf.

Abingdon Bridge

Abingdon Bridge

Abingdon Bridge

Abingdon Bridge

Abingdon Bridge

                                  View of the spire of St Helen’s Church and wharf, with the almshouses facing the river.

St Helen's wharf and Almshouses

Abingdon on Thames

St Helen's wharf and Almshouses

 Almshouses in Abingdon

 

The Thames bursting its banks in Oxfordshire

Recent rain and bad weather have caused occasional floodings in the Oxford area. It may indeed look impressive to freshers like myself,  the locals will tell you that it is a frequent and yearly sight in Oxfordshire. These pictures were taken on 02/01/2014, before the floodings worsened.

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What was a nice green plain near Magdalen Bridge this summer and autumn turns into a pool of water when the river Cherwell nearby floods. The river Cherwell is famous for punting in Oxford and is a tributary of the Thames

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Rugby pitch  flooded, view from Magdalen Bridge

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Port Meadow in Oxford, ancient grassland still in use for cattle & horses (and pretty much unchanged since prehistoric times) is rather dry and undisturbed during the hot summer months, but turns quickly into a lake due to heavy rainfall.

moo

Cattles on Port Meadow during the summer 2013

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View of the Thames at Port Meadow from the ancient grassland in the summer 2013, without flood

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The flooded grassland turns into patches of dried, cracked mud in the hot summer time, resulting in this intriguing patterns, with visible bird & cattle foorprints. Picture taken during the summer 2013.

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Below are pictures taken at Port Meadow on 28/12/2013

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The grassland and most parts of the prehistoric site are now covered in water, forming the illusion of a lake, right next to the river Thames banks.

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Partial floodings on the grounds of Port Meadow near Fiddler’s Island.

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The bridge leading to Fiddler’s Island is now somewhat a fantasy sight and the path is covered in water from the Thames

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View of the river Thames bursting out its banks with strong current

Since I posted this entry, floodings have worsened in Oxfordshire. Below are pictures taken on 06/01/2014 from Magdalen Bridge, Christ Church Meadow and Iffley Lock.

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View of the river from Magdalen Bridge on 06/01/2014. The botanic Gardens are located just on the right

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River Cherwell floodings on Christ Church Meadow (near the Rose Lane gate entrance) on 06/01/2014, the path visible on the right of the picture is now totally flooded

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The  land where wild deers or cattle can be spotted in the summer & spring seasons at Christ Church Meadow is also flooded

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A rather gloomy sight for locals and students on 06/01/2014

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Also the University Grounds, where students and tourists sit on the grass to picnic in the summer, are flooded near Christ Church main entrance

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The canal and the towpath are now indistinct

The police has now cordonned off the area & towpath from Donnington Bridge to Iffley Lock due to flooding. Pictures of the scene on 06/01/2014 around 2.30 pm right before it worsened can be seen below.

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View of the Thames water level & Donnington Bridge on 06/01/2014

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Flooding imminent on the river Thames on 06/01/2014

The Isis Farmhouse pub & gardens located on the right of the towpath were already flooded, the flood level has increased ever since.

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This is where we stopped our daily walk, due to the risks and flooding of the towpath, unable to continue to Iffley Lock

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Meadiw Lane Nature Reserve, Iffley, Oxford is now a desolated field ressembling a lake (picture taken on 06/01/2014)

Happy Holidays and New Year to all Thames admirers !

Wishing all the Thames admirers a very festive season.

What a year I had and such fantastic sights on the Thames that will haunt me for long.

Looking forward to many more exquisite moments and muddy adventures in 2014.

To illustrate, here is a small retrospective in pictures from the year 2013

light

oldman

Detail of a lamp post on the Thames Path

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View from Vauxhall before redevelopment started

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A Thames clipper from Wapping Stairs

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View from Millbank 

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Putney Bridge in the summer

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The Tower Bridge

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Wapping foreshore

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Millbank foreshore

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Millbank foreshore

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The Thames at Iffley in Oxford

Health And Safety : Of the hazards and peculiar encounters on the Thames foreshore

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The Thames foreshore can be a strange place to be.

Hundreds of years of deposited history and dumped materials don’t come without a little hazard.

Wreckage, sewage, death reminded by the sight of stack of bones or perished animals, ammunitions & unexploded ordnance, oxygen bottles, broken glass, modern waste and needles, to mention a few.

The Thames is no longer the great stink of medieval times or as filthy as described by authors in the Victorian area, but if you plan trips on the foreshore on a regular basis you might as well be aware of some basic rules and get prepared.

Access

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The stairs at Wapping on a rainy day, where slippery takes all its meaning

I have witnessed flocks of tourists at Bankside on the foreshore with inappropriate footwear, running down the access stairs and strolling about with jolly faces in flip flops and shorts.

Sadly some people seem completely unaware that the Thames remains a dangerous environment, and that the tide doesn’t last all day. Often I had to step in and offer an impromptu friendly health & safety advice.

Here comes the boring bit of advice but always plan ahead your trip: consider the weather conditions, know your tide timetables, the site and your access points.

Always make sure the access stairs are safe and not too slippery (you will find that falling flat on your behind is not a great start to the day), wear appropriate footwear, inform relevant people where you are and for how long, pack a bag…

In other words, assess the risks first so you can put a smile on your face and enjoy your day to the full.

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Muddy stairs at Wapping foreshore without ramp

The Dangers

Germs, sewage & refuse

Be aware of your surroundings: look up for sewage pipes and refuse manholes still in use on the river walls. Ladies, dirty Thames water does not make that hair soft & shiny.

sewage incident

Be careful when picking up finds on the foreshore, I would recommend wearing gloves whenever possible, due to disease risks, sharp rusty metal objects, broken glass and needles that can cause serious issues & injuries. A first-aid kit in the bag won’t hurt, just in case.

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Glass bottles & needles: the Thames foreshore is not my idea of Alice in Wonderland

Impediments & trip hazards

There are many potential hazards on certain sites: damaged or falling objects like river wall fender, timbers, and bricks.

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Damaged slipway and unstable heavy stone work near Trig Lane foreshore

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Fallen stone piece near the river wall at the Tower of London foreshore, during a fieldwork visit in 2011

Be especially cautious when walking near a river wall, under a canopy or pier.

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Strange encounter under a canopy at Berdmonsey foreshore in 2011

The Thames foreshore remains one of the most important  archaeological site so you can expect to discover nautical features, jetties and slipway structures from past times, anchors & chains, and refuse from human activity.

Look down for tripping hazards: stone features, metal & industrial waste, mooring features …

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Some old garden gate at Putney foreshore in 2013

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Modern mooring chain at Bankside near Blackfriars Bridge

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Modern rubbish ? Angry golfer ?  Golf clubs probably dumped from the nearby railway bridge or lost at Putney in 2013

The Port of London activities & the tidal environment

Always have a look on the tide level, don’t just trust the tide timetables, as other factors can affect the river tidal behaviour (heavy rain, raising of the Thames barrier…).

Watch out for the Thames Clippers and cruise boats passing by at full speed, this will create waves of mini tsunamis and you might have to keep your distance. After all it’s been a while since you last assess if you are still a strong swimmer.

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A narrow path at Millbank foreshore

City foreshore

This picture in the City foreshore shows how you could easily get caught by the upcoming tide if not careful

Death is everywhere

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Fellow crows looking for a fresh shrimps meal are a common sight on the foreshore

I remember my very first visit on the foreshore and being amazed by the number of animal bones, skulls and even horns. Our sacred river is an animal sanctuary after all.

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Crow skull found at Putney in winter 2012

Such an amount of bones and skulls can be explained by centuries of human activity by the river, we can easily imagine local market stalls and generations of butchers cutting up meat and chucking unwanted carcass remains, all ending up in the river.

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Cow, horse, goat & sheep jaw bones are common finds on the foreshore

Londoners would also discard all sorts of broken & unwanted daily life items in the river,  creating layers of successive rubbish pits, contributing to the rich archeology of the site.

Always be on the lookout as some bones may be carved, drilled and potential history artefacts, tools that have been disposed in the river when there was no more use of them.

Then you have thousands of years of local wildlife living & dying on site.  Not just the common rodents or fish species. There is a number of written accounts through the past centuries describing whales found in the Thames near London and even many prehistorical animals like aurochs.

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Dead rat on the foreshore at Millbank in 2013

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Dead fish near Southwark Bridge foreshore at low tide

Beware of the “Triumphant Splash”: A mud bath

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Know where you are going and where you walk.

Don’t go on your own: even Indiana Jones had a supporting team.

Be confident, but cautious. It may take some time to learn and adapt to the different foreshore soil backgrounds.

You could witness the soft & sandy foreshore beaches in such places as Wapping, Bankside or the Tower of London, and rather firm rocky grounds at Putney.,.

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My little London paradise beach near Wapping

You can also very quickly end up waddling onto the extreme pools of mud.

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Extreme mud bath and danger awaits & can surprise even the most experienced at Millwall

Please respect the environment and worship the prehistoric peat as I do, you might just destroy evidence of prehistoric roots or forest by stomping in the lot.

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Prehistoric peat & the fishtrap remains at Putney foreshore

Begin with the soft and more accessible sites on the foreshore; you will have all the time to be more risky and adventurous later on if you dare.

No matter how well you know the site, keep in mind that sometimes there are little surprises in store: don’t panic and stay calm.

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Prior digging or mudlarking can leave the foreshore unreliable, even if it looks firm and rocky at first

What I call the “triumphant splash + extreme mud bath package” experience probably happened to our predecessors a lot anyway, according to recent findings.

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Abandoned shoe at Wapping foreshore

This is WAR : unexploded Ordnance & Ammunitions

Last but not least, the Thames is here to remind us of the darkest hours of Humanity and History.

I have not yet discovered human remains on the foreshore but it is of course a possibility.

In the many dangers of the Thames, even if you may not likely find that often, there are many unexploded ordnance & ammunitions on the foreshore: be suspicious with metal waste and watch out for bomb shells, shrapnel and grenade -like shapes, old oxygen & gas bottles, guns, bullets of all sorts and from all times.

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WWII bomb shell found at Bankside in 2011 & removed from site by the  bomb disposal unit

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Oxygen bottles are common on certain areas of the foreshore and can sometimes be mistaken with shells when covered in mud

If in doubt do not touch, walk away at a reasonable distance, and notify the relevant authorities.

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Bullet cases and fuse waste are also common finds on the foreshore

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Musket ball finds from the foreshore

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If it looks like shrapnel or grenade, it’s likely grenade: do not touch & stay away

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Bullet, shiny as new, found near London Bridge

I hope this post will not dissuade Londoners and Thames admirers to visit the foreshore occasionnally but I am speaking from experience.

I would also always insist on getting a standard foreshore permit  from the PLA & follow the access maps guidelines, respect the protected sites.

My best finds are eye search only and I do not find digging useful most of the time.

Be (reasonably) social: there are lovely people & locals from all backgrounds on the foreshore, for various reasons.

We may have different opinions regarding how the foreshore is accessed but we all share the same love and passion for the river Thames …

Be responsible. If you sense someone is exposed to danger,  seem lost or confused, may not be aware of the environment, do not ignore them.  A few friendly words or a  simple warning can do a lot and save lives.

I will also post a list of tips and useful items to pack when visiting the foreshore, it’s only free shared advice and personal opinion, but who knows, it might help a few.

(All content and pictures in this post are copyright of the author, Lucie C. All the pictures displayed were taken between 2010 and 2013 during various walks on the foreshore and speak from own experience).