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'Mud Men': Safety Warning

A new TV series which features people looking for historic artefacts on the Thames foreshore (commonly called ‘mudlarking’) has prompted the Port of London Authority (PLA) to remind people of some of the hazards involved.

“This series, ‘Mud Men’, is enabling more people to share in the fascinating history of the Thames, which is great,” said PLA chief harbour master, David Snelson.  “But we need to make sure anyone interested in going out to see what they can find understands what can and can’t be done.  This is to protect both the people involved and London’s archaeological heritage. There are many potential safety hazards; the Thames is a fast flowing tidal river and an exposed area of foreshore can be submerged very quickly.”

All metal detecting or digging on the Thames foreshore requires a PLA permit. 'Digging' includes any activity which disturbs the surface - ie use of any type of implement to 'scrape' or investigate the foreshore to a depth of 7.5 cm (3 inches). However an "eyes only" search, without digging, does not require a permit.

The foreshore permit is only valid for certain locations west of the Thames Barrier up to Teddington. Metal detecting or digging is not normally allowed east of the Barrier. For more information on Thames foreshore permits, please contact Ken Jackelman, at the PLA, Tel: 01474 562339, or use this Enquiry Form.

It is very important that any object found on the foreshore which could be of archaeological interest is reported to the Museum of London so that potentially everybody can benefit from the find.


The Thames foreshore is potentially hazardous and some dangers may not always be immediately apparent. The Thames rises and falls by over 7.0m twice a day as the tide comes in and out. The current is fast and the water is cold.

Anyone going on the foreshore does so entirely at their own risk and must take personal responsibility for their safety and that of anyone with them. In addition to the tide and current mentioned above there are hazards from raw sewage, broken glass, hypodermic needles and wash from vessels. Steps and stairs down to the foreshore can be slippery.

Before going onto the foreshore consider:

  • sensible footwear and gloves
  • carrying a mobile phone
  • not going alone
  • the tide; is it rising or falling?

Always make sure you can get off the foreshore quickly - watch the tide and make sure that steps or stairs are close by.

Finally, be aware of the possibility of Weil's Disease, spread by rats urine in the water. Infection is usually through cuts in the skin or through eyes, mouth or nose. Medical advice should be sought immediately if ill effects are experienced after visiting the foreshore, particularly "flu like" symptoms ie temperature, aching etc.