Podtours

September 15, 2008

Mudlarking

Filed under: England, travel — podtourz @ 9:25 am

I was in London at the weekend, and decided instead of doing anything purposeful on Saturday, just to walk out along the Thames and see how far we could get. (Canada Water was the answer to that; we did about seven miles, I think.)

And for a bit of it, in Rotherhithe, we went down the steps to the mud and shingle of the foreshore. The air was still, and thick with sandflies.  The sun  baking hot, that English summer we’ve been waiting for since April…

It’s a mucky place. But it’s a place for finding unexpected things. No Roman brooches or Anglo-Saxon swords, though the hope is always there (just as you always feel that only a transparent wrinkle in the timelines separates you from actually winning the lottery rather than getting two numbers nearly right…)  So here are our ‘finds’ – a rich gathering of detritus from centuries of London.

  • Several pieces of ‘churchwarden’s pipes’, mainly from the stem. Bleached white clay.
  • Two supermarket trollies, each one different; one square and spindly, the other rounded and fat.
  • Several pieces of blue and white china, perhaps from willow pattern plates. The glazes differ. Under some, the blue pattern has spread and blurred ; on others the design is still sharp.
  • Too many wheel rims to count.
  • A rib bone.
  • Some kind of animal tooth, turned black and fossil-like by time.
  • A white ceramic stopper from an old style ginger beer bottle, the steel wires that held it rusted fast into the sides.
  • Oyster shells.  More oyster shells. Still more oyster shells.  And a single mussel shell, both halves still held together by the mussel’s membraneous hinge.
  • Broken glass – some ancient (the top of an old perfume bottle) and some, from its sharp edges, probably last night’s trash.
  • The stem of a dark blue wineglass.
  • The stem of a glass,  in greenish glass, etched and rounded by the water till it looked like something by Henry Moore, and you could only dimly realise its ancient function.
  • Heaps of bricks and other building materials.
  • Old chains.  No boat has anchored here for years and yet the chains still strew the foreshore.

It was an intriguing walk. And I’m glad we took the south bank. Looking across to the Isle of Dogs, we saw capitalism gone mad  – huge glassy blocks, armoured against the outside world. But on the south side of the river, more of the old warehouses and pumphouses have survived; there’s a feeling of low-rise friendliness, a feeling that if you go down one of those side streets, you’ll find yourself in a perfect Victorian dock.

On our way, we visited the Market Porter, a very fine pub in Southwark. Excellent ales, and friendly service, and FULL PINTS topped up for us without us having to ask.   So here is a blatant plug for this engaging little hostelry.

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