Sunday, 23 January 2011

Mudlarking: trudging along on the bank of the Thames

A few weeks ago, Tradescant Road wrote an excellent post on the discovery of Mesolithic remains on the foreshore of the Thames.   The remains are around 6000 years old, which makes them the oldest known bits of rock in London.  Unfortunately, it's not entirely clear what they are, but whatever they are, we've got them in Vauxhall.  We could build a museum, and attract tourists to our very own M16, but unfortunately, the 6-pronged rock formation thing can only be seen at very low spring tides.  As luck would have it, today was a very low spring tide day. So... this morning I did a little lurking about on the bank of the Thames, taking pictures (with some other mad people) of some bits of Mesolithic rock, and also a bronze age (approx 3500 years old) jetty or bridge.

It's a really odd feeling, walking about on pebbles that are usually submerged, but I recommend others do it if there's another chance any time soon...  Perhaps I should have taken the advice of "viewing from Vauxhall Bridge", since mudlarking is an excellent way of getting filthy.  Maybe it's time to invest in some wellies.  Anyhow,  here are a few photos:

 Not having any idea what I was supposed to be looking for, I was first advised by a gentleman nearby that the Mesolithic remains were the two circular blobs you can see (the largest is near the bottom of the photo).  Naturally, I was regretting that I'd left my bed so early...

Fortunately, either the chap in question was wrong, or those rocks are additional pieces of the structure because I returned a little later to find a crowd gathered around two of the real Mesolithic rocks.  Also, a third rock was visible slightly beyond the second one in the water, but it was submerged and I wasn't able to photograph it:

This is more impressive.  This circular formation is thought to be a Bronze age Jetty or part of a bridge. (Vauxhall Bridge, or somewhere near is thought to be the oldest bridge in London.)

A lake of water left on the foreshore as the tide withdrew shows how uneven the river bed seems to be:

I like this view of M16 from the ground when it's usually only observable from the Thames:

One of the outlets from the River Effra (and also, presumably the sewer outlet).  I'm not sure whether this is the "Brixton" or "Clapham" outlet referred to in my post on the Tideway Tunnel.  We presumed that when the pressure rises from inside the gates, it pushes them open.  There was still a trickle of (clean looking) water running from this outlet and down into the Thames.  If you look carefully, you can see the "Effra" sign at the top of the handrail:

I like this photo because it shows somebody climbing down the ladder well below the line of the watermark.  (When he arrived at the bottom, we did advise that there was an alternative way up again via the ramp!):

This is another outlet on the west side of the bridge.  Again, I suspect it to be the sewer overflow outlet, but I'm not sure.  It could be another outlet for the hidden River Effra, but there's no sign to indicate that:

This piece of sky will soon be hidden by the St George Tower, so I wanted a shot from the river bank.  This view won't be available again (at least for a long time):

Could this be a Mesolithic mobile phone?  Or just one from the Bronze Age?

This structure (not to be confused with the Bronze Age jetty), I was told, is much more recent and likely to have been used by the ship building industry:

By about 11:30am, a crowd had gathered.  I reckon we saw about 50 people wandering around the foreshore today.  The duck bus did not stop to let the passengers take a look at the  bits of rock:

I assumed that these folk were going to sail over and take a look at the Mesolithic stuff, but they just sailed on by.  I don't think I've ever seen such a small sailing boat on the Thames.  You can see the north side of the Thames in this shot, but nobody was wandering about over there:  

In this photo, I was hoping to capture just how low the tide was today.  The water looked almost narrow enough to swim across at some points:


Andrew Orange said...

But, but, but... I was there! Please don't tell me I snubbed you.

SE11 Lurker said...

@Andrew If you were wearing dark blue jeans and black motorcycle boots, and were with another chap, then I spotted you from a distance. However, you looked more beardy than usual and so I didn't want to have an embarassing conversation with somebody that I thought was you that turned out not to be. I think I have a photo of the back of you under Vauxhall Bridge :)

Baldassaro said...

I saw lots of people wandering about on the foreshore at about 11.15 - 11.30, but thought it was either a family party or people metal-detecting. I never realised there was mesolithic stuff involved.

Andrew Orange said...

Oooh! Look! Yes, I'm in one of your pictures. I'm the one striding away from the camera here:

Trudging valiantly behind me is my manservant Oliver carrying my rather heavy camera bag on his back.

Sorry to miss you, lurker.

Cathy said...

Time Team did a programme about this:

with the help of Jim Nicolson of Vauxhall Society.

Diana@ Thames boat hire said...

I was wondered to have this new first time. I don't know what the mobile was trying to express.

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