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Metal Detecting and Digging on the Thames Foreshore

Thames Foreshore Access for Leisure or Pleasure including Metal Detecting and Digging

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 other less obvious hazards, for example raw sewage, broken glass, hypodermic needles and wash from vessels. Steps and stairs down to the foreshore can be slippery and dangerous and are not always maintained.

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.

Metal Detecting and Digging

A licensed Mudlark on the foreshore (click on image to enlarge)

Anyone wishing to carry out metal detecting of digging/scraping on the Thames foreshore requires a permit from the Port of London Authority.

Walking on the Thames foreshore does not require a permit.


Note:  Scraping the Thames foreshore surface with any type of implement is considered  digging.

Why do I need consent?

All the foreshore in the UK has an owner. Metal detecting is not a public right and as such it needs the permission of the landowner. The PLA and the Crown Estate are the largest land owners of Thames foreshore and jointly administer a permit which allows metal detecting and digging.

Where on the Thames foreshore  can I dig or use a metal detector?

The Thames 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.

Note: Other restrictions apply. For further details see the attached Thames foreshore maps and permit application form.

Foreshore Map - Lower District
Foreshore Map - Middle District
Foreshore Map - Upper District
Foreshore Map - Queenhithe Dock
Foreshore Map - Greenwich Palace

Foreshore Map - Great Eastern Launchways (New)


You must report any objects you find which could be of archaeological interest to the Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer at the Museum of London on  020 7814 5733. This Scheme records all archaeological finds made by the public in England and Wales. If you believe that a find may qualify as treasure then you should contact the coroner for the district in which the object was found, usually within fourteen days of making the find. In practice many finders report treasure via the Finds Liaison Officer, which is also acceptable. The coroner or finds liaison officer will give guidance on what to do. The Treasure Act code of practice contains a directory of coroners in the Thames area.

Further advice can be found in this document - Portable Antiquities Scheme – Advice for Finders

Here is the full version of the Treasure Act 1996.

The export of archaeological objects from the UK to any destination requires a UK licence if the object is more than 50 years of age. The type of licence required will depend on where the object was found and, in some cases, the value of the object. See the Arts Council website for further details.


Permit Duration

The PLA has a designated 'renewal period' for foreshore permits from December to January each year.

  • Applications received within the 'renewal period' will be issued with a three year permit running from the 1st December.
  • Applications received outside the 'renewal period' will be issued with a three year permit running from the preceding 1st January.

Type of Permits

The PLA issues two types of foreshore permits.

  • Standard - allows digging to a depth of 7.5 cm
  • Mudlark - allows digging to a depth of 1.2m and access to cetain areas prohibited to Standard Permit holders

To apply for a Mudlark Permit you must have held a Standard Permit for two years and have a record of reporting finds to the Museum of London.


Permit fees are reviewed annually and any increase will be applied from the beginning of the "renewal period". (See permit duration)

Fees for 2016

  • Adult £72
  • Junior (12-17yrs) £36 (must be accompanied by a permit holding adult)
  • Daily £31

Applying for a Permit

To apply for a Permit complete an application form

Application form - printable version to be completed manually (PDF)

Application form - complete online before printing and signing (Word .docx)


  • Page 1 - sign and date
  • Page 2 - complete in block capitals

Also enclose with the application form:

  • The fee (cheques or postal orders made payable to the 'Port of London Authority')

If you wish to pay by credit/debit card please indicate on page 2 of the application form and you will be contacted for payment

  • Passport size photo

The completed application form, fee and photo should be posted or sent via email to:

Mr Ken Jackelman
Port of London of Authority
London River House
Royal Pier Road
Kent DA12 2BG

For further information please contact Ken Jackelman:

Telephone  01474 562 339 or email  

(Please allow a minimum of three weeks for the application to be processed)