Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend Walk: The River Thames foreshore

Today we were up bright and early and in Vauxhall by 8.45am, to meet up with the archaeologists and a large crowd of other anoraked and welly-booted folk, and take a long walk along the Thames foreshore. The river Effra joins the Thames in this area, in a very small way, as now the Effra mostly flows underground, having being diverted into Bazalgette's sewer system. This is what passes for the river Effra these days.

We were there to see some Anglo Saxon, Bronze Age and Mesolithic remains, as revealed by the very low tide. I was expecting to stand on the foreshore being lectured for two hours, but far from it! After a few introductory remarks, and advice to try not to sink in the mud, reminders that the number for the emergency services is 999 and that the coastguard would soon rescue us if there was a problem(!), we were off. We walked along the foreshore from the MI6 building almost to Battersea power station, there to see this Anglo Saxon fishing trap. Wattles would have been placed between the posts to corral fish as they were brought in by the tide, then they would have been caught in nets.

It was quite hard going walking over the pebbles and rocks, not to mention the mud. I went in to my ankles more than once. Thank goodness for welly boots. The Prof, however, discovered his rigger boots are not waterproof!

We also saw these Bronze Age piles, which were probably part of some kind of bridge, possibly to an island in the river. One of the archaelogists suggested that perhaps the Bronze Age people buried their dead there, or made offerings of food and drink to the river. It was very likely a special place to them because of the joining of the two rivers.

The pile on the right is a replacement put there by Time Team, after the original was taken for dating. When it was put there a few years ago, it was level with the ground, which shows how much the foreshore is eroding over time.

We then saw some Mesolithic remains, from in the region of 6000 years ago! At this time this area would have been dry land, so they are probably the remains of a dwelling - and Mesolithic people were supposed to be nomadic, so this is interesting in itself.

While we were there the archaeologists noticed some new piles that they had not seen before as they had previously been underwater, and got rather excited! It was really interesting to be there as new discoveries were made. Also an antler was found, and my own Prof found a sheep's tooth, which someone from the Museum of London was interested enough in to take back with her.

A couple of people found small tools made from knapped flint. I found a couple of pieces that were probably waste flint from the knapping process - but I am still excited to know that means someone was working with my little piece of flint thousand of years ago. I also found a piece of flint that was burned red on one side from being in a fire, probably during the Bronze Age.

I thoroughly enjoyed the morning's activities, and will be watching to see what else is uncovered in the future as the Thames recedes.

Here are some other photographs I took while we were walking along the by the river.

I have always wanted to go on the Duck Tour! They are amphibious landing craft from World War II and take passengers on a whistle stop tour of London, then on to the Thames! Seems like good fun to me, maybe this will be the year I finally do it.


  1. Hi Debbie - Sara showed me your post. What a great day! I would have loved to go foraging on the foreshore for prehistoric finds. How did you hear about it? I remember the Time Team episode well and I recall that they only had a very limited time to work due before the tide came in. Great post and some really good pictures.

  2. Hi Wayne
    Glad you liked the post and pics. It was great fun. I heard about it through someone on twitter. It was run by the Thames Discovery Programme and I'll certainly be keeping an eye out to see what else comes up in the future.
    Thanks for dropping by!


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