‘The St Lawrence is water, the Mississippi is muddy water, but the Thames is liquid history’ – John Burns

When the tide is out, the Thames foreshore is the biggest open-air archaeological site in London.

The River Thames is the beating heart of London. With every tide, new evidence of millennia of life, death and ritual emerge from its murky waters. Centuries of artefacts and structures litter the foreshore, evidence of every stage of London’s history from it prehistoric beginnings to yesterday’s news. Every day, objects including Roman coins, Elizabethan dress-pins, medieval pottery, WWII munitions, and modern-day artefacts wash ashore, telling an up close and personal story of London’s people.

On our Dirty Weekend, you will wade through millennia of archaeology, taking part in guided exploration and examination of the many artefacts you will find on the surface of the foreshore with expert Thames mudlarker and co-star of the History Channel series ‘Mud Men’, the Mud God himself, Steve Brooker.

There is absolutely no better or more exciting guide for our weekend experience. Steve is one of 51 expert Thames mudlarkers, a dedicated group of people who have obtained a special permit from the Port of London Authority to carry out exploration of the Thames foreshore. Often, mudlarkers find incredibly rare objects that are priceless in terms of the knowledge they contribute to understanding of London’s History. Steve has amassed a vast collection of artefacts, and is involved in setting up the Thames Museum, which will showcase his collection as well as finds from fellow mudlarkers.

Tell me more

Our weekend of exploration will be based around the foreshore of Greenwich (recently designated as a World Heritage Site), the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf.  This is the epicentre of Britain’s maritime history, trade and commerce. We will also learn about the folklore and magic of the Thames, with a fantastic guest lecture about the infamous Bellarmine ‘Witch Bottles’, looking at at their uses – and contents!

You will arrive on Friday evening at a lovely pub (location TBD!) for an orientation session, which will include a Risk Assessment, health and safety briefing as well as more about the Thames foreshore and what you’ll be doing – and meet the DigVentures staff and your fellow Dirty Weekenders, of course!  And have a pint or two….

On Saturday morning, we will meet in front of the iconic Cutty Sark at Maritime Greenwich before we start making our way down onto the northern side of the foreshore, (Isle of Dogs) via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.  Our morning will focus around exploring some of the finds washed up from the constantly eroding banks of the Thames, as well as the ever-changing structures and archaeological remains. We will make our way to the Greenwich side of the foreshore, where you will get a close up view of the in-situ remains of Greenwich Palace and its associated Tudor landing station, as used by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

After a bracing morning on the river we will spend the rest of the day in the pub. With Steve’s expertise, we will examine the finds, record and research their possible dates and uses. We’ll be joined by a few more of London’s mudlarkers, and have a truly unique opportunity to handle their personal collections, learn about their discoveries, and the stories of the people who might have originally owned them.

The day will finish at 4:30pm, after which you can plan your own outing in the capital, or feel very welcome to join the DV crew for dinner at 7:00pm at the historic Mayflower pub, the oldest pub on the river Thames and the original mooring point of The Pilgrim Fathers’ Mayflower ship.

Exploration of the foreshore will continue on Sunday with a walk through time, as we take in a Neolithic forest, in situ 14th century fish traps, and the only place in London where you can see full-length 17th century clay pipes, and the remains of the platform where Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s iron ship, the Great Eastern was launched. In the afternoon we will be exploring the folklore and magic of the Thames, with a fantastic guest lecture about the infamous bellarmine ‘witch bottles’, looking at their uses and unsavoury contents. And perhaps trying our hand at making one, as well!

Schedule and Further Info

Dates: 6th – 8th May 2016 (Saturday and Sunday, with Friday evening pre-meet)
Cost: £195
Age restriction: You must be 17 or older to participate. Minors are welcome if accompanied at all times by a parent or guardian who is also a registered participant for the weekend.

Friday evening: 8:00pm arrival at the pub for orientation. Please note there will be a mandatory Health and Safety talk, as well as a Risk Assessment. If you cannot make this meeting, please let us know as soon as possible.

Saturday and Sunday: It’s going to be an early start! Low tide is at 08:30am, so we will be meeting at 7:30am SHARP on both days in front of the Cutty Sark for a prompt 8:00am start. Our activities are dependent on tide times, so please do not be late as we will not be able to wait for you. We have given you half an hour juggle-time so that you have the opportunity to grab a tea or coffee and take a comfort break before we leave!

07:30    Meet at the entrance to the Cutty Sark
08:00   Walk to the foreshore
12:30    Lunch break (please plan to bring or buy your own lunch) – We will be taking lunch in The Pelton Arms, just a few roads back from the foreshore (23-25 Pelton Road)
13:30    Finds research afternoon and talk from Annie Thwaite on ‘Witchcraft and Healing’
14:30    Tea break
15:00    Meet the Mudlarks
16:00    End of day, or hang out with DV!

The DV crew will be sticking around in Greenwich for dinner. We encourage everyone to stay and have dinner as a group, but you are also welcome to make your own evening plans.

07:30    Meet at the Cutty Sark
08:00   Walk to the foreshore
12:30    Lunch (please plan to bring or buy your own lunch)
14:30    Tea Break
16:00    End


*Please note, accommodation and lunches are not included in the Liquid History Dirty Weekend.

What should I pack?

Wellies!!! You will need warm clothing, preferably layers, and extras of everything in case you need a change during the day. We will provide all the restorative cups of tea, coffee, and biscuits you might need, plus any other tools.

Suitable footwear is a must, as is keeping your baggage to a minimum. Wellies are preferable as the mud can be quite deep in places, and it is advisable to carry your personal items with you in a rucksack, keeping your hands free. Please also bring a spare plastic bag for muddy shoes, and alternative footwear to change into for the afternoons.

Given the tide schedule, we will not be coming off the foreshore until at least 12:30pm, so please bring any refreshments you might need for the morning.

You will need:

  • Lunch for both days
  • A full set of waterproofs
  • Boots: wellies and/or study boots, plus a change of footwear
  • Backpack: to bring a change of clothes to site
  • A warm hat and gloves
  • A plastic carrier bag: to put your muddy boots in when we go to the pub – no muddy shoes allowed inside!
  • Anything else you might need for a two-day working weekend

If you have any further questions or would like more information, please get in touch! You can email us hello@digventures.com or call 0333 011 3990

 Book now