Discovering Mudlarking

You know how they say you can stumble across the best things when you’re not actually looking for them? Well, for us, this was the case when we met Karen Turner, a Mudlark in London.

The “new normal” of 2020 and everything “C” word related has given us an unexpected opportunity to focus on new film and photography projects. With even more time to venture out and capture Street Photography too, it’s been brilliant and really refreshing to get back to the core of our creative documentary style. Some days, however, Street Photography can be super demanding and can quickly zap your ability to see the wood from the trees. On this occasion, it was very nearly one of those days.

Sony A7iii in hand and earphones in, I moped through the Southbank of London, wondering why I hadn’t taken a single street photo in 2 hours. So eventually decided to call it a day, grab a coffee, and set off back home. Now with my coffee in hand and earphones still in, I retraced my steps back through the Southbank and noticed some people down on the Bankside Foreshore of the River Thames. I stopped for a moment and wondered what they were up to.

Mudlarking at Southbank with a view overlooking St Pauls Cathedral
Mudlarker looking for buried treasure on banks of River Thames in London

As I strolled along a little further, I noticed a few more people digging and picking at the ground. I was intrigued, and after about 10 minutes of casually observing, trying to figure out what they were up to, I went down the steps that led to the foreshore and politely asked;

Me: “Hi, sorry to bother you. Do you mind me asking what you’re looking for?”
Mudlark (Karen): “We’re Mudlarking”
Me: “Mudlarking? What’s that?”

A Mudlark in London

Following our little exchange, Karen very kindly agreed to meet us the following day on the Foreshore of Limehouse Basin. She took the time to tell us a little bit more about what Mudlarking is and why she does it. We found her story and enthusiasm fascinating, and it highlighted just how much more of London there is still yet to discover.

What exactly is Mudlarking?

According to The Thames Festival Trust Heritage Programme

“Over the past 2,000 years of human activity along the River Thames, countless objects have been intentionally discarded or accidentally dropped in its waters. For millennia, the Thames has been an extraordinary repository of these lost objects, protected and preserved in the dense, anaerobic mud…

….Mudlarking’ is the act of searching the riverbed for these historical treasures. Mudlarks comb the Thames foreshore, which is only accessible for a few hours a day at low tide, in their hunt for objects, untouched since they were lost hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Each artefact, whether ordinary or extraordinary, tells us something unique about London’s history.”

A Mudlarker in London at the Limehouse Basin Foreshore
Mudlarker walking along shore of River Thames
Mudlarker looking for buried treasure on banks of River Thames in London
Mudlarker walking with bucket on banks of River Thames in London looking for treasure
Image of shore of River Thames
Karen Turner - A London Mudlarker

Our Street Photography Projects

As well as exploring the charms of British History, our Street photography has taken us to various places around the world. The intrigue of the unknown has given us the opportunity to capture photos in the most remote villages of Cambodia to the bustling city of Berlin.

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