Our Thames Discovery Programme is a community and public archaeology project which explores the archaeology of the River Thames at low tide.  

Members of the Foreshore Recording and Observation Group (FROG) regularly monitor sites along the river, recording remnants of London’s past, as well as the effects of climate change and erosion.  

This blog written by FROG members based in Fulham (West London) follows the group’s activities and discoveries over 2023. 

January-February 2023

With the beginning of a new year, we hope for lower tides, but there has been a lot of rain. This raises the tide levels, and the Thames Barrier has often been closed to prevent the winter storm tidal surges. During the first few months of this year, we haven’t been able to see as far out into the river as we could 10 years ago.  

water under a bridge
Thames low tide during the winter


High tides mean that we still can’t monitor many features we have previously recorded further out in the river. Features are remains of human activity on the foreshore, such as jetties and wharves, fishtraps and gridirons and bargebeds.

But new archaeology is always appearing! We spot a pile of seventeen bricks, which used to be part of the wall on Putney Bridge. A vehicle collision knocked the bricks down onto the footpath below, and they have now made their way into the river. 


We welcome new members to the group at our FROG training day at Fulham Palace. This is a great opportunity to share what we have discovered, as well as the importance, benefits, and rewards of our monitoring work on the foreshore.


May 2023 turns into a busy month! The tides are finally low enough for us to regularly visit the foreshore. We start off near Fulham Football grounds, where one of our longtime members, Julia, has spotted a possible fish trap.    

We record the wooden posts of the possible fish trap, and just a few metres to the south another member of our group, Iwona, spots a linear brushwood feature (c.75cm wide) with wooden stakes. This may be connected to the other posts, perhaps making it a V-shaped fish trap. Fish traps were used on the Thames from the Mesolithic (8800-4500BC) to the post-medieval period (1485-1750). Many of the ones we find on the Thames foreshore date to the early medieval period (AD 410-1066)  

Two people on a gravel beach
Recording the feature found by Iwona
hand holding the bowl of a pipe shaped like a woman's head

An interesting find

We also discover this particularly striking 19th century clay pipe in the shape of a woman’s head wearing a hat.

With the tides now back to normal we also get the chance to check on an area of prehistoric peat. Some of our group also join a brilliant Iron Age themed TDP foreshore walk led by Will Rathouse, along with 23 enthusiastic members of the public. 

At the end of the month, we meet to discuss plans for our pop-up event as part of the Totally Thames Festival and are joined by ancient textile specialist, Nicole DeRushie for a fascinating talk and demonstration Iron Age spinning techniques – in period costume. We have a go at spinning ourselves, with a wooden distaff and spindle whorl. This is challenging but great fun! 


On the 16th and 17th of September, we take part in the Totally Thames Festival, held on the Thames embankment overlooking the Fulham foreshore.  

We exhibit our pop-up timeline of finds from the Fulham foreshore spanning from the Palaeozoic (528 – 252 million years ago) to the 20th Century. We find that we aren’t just informing the public, we are learning from them, as many share their own riverside stories with us. This is a great success! Despite pouring rain on the second day, we have almost 270 visitors to our exhibition. 


One of the most important parts of our work on the foreshore is recording how the archaeology we discover is affected by erosion and silting up of the river.  

We discover new wooden posts at the eastern edge of our monitoring zone, which have been revealed as foreshore is being washed away.   

a short wooden post sticking up from the foreshore
Wooden post revealed by foreshore erosion


Hot on the heels of our success at the Totally Thames Festival, we are invited to take part in Positively Putney, just across the river from Fulham on the 24th of November. We share a stand with Thames Tideway engineers and speak to 60 – 80 people during the three-hour event! Group members Julie and Susie share foreshore finds, as well as information about what the TDP and FROGs do.  

We are also joined by Will Rathouse and Dave Saxby (MOLA archaeologist) who is keen to share his news, discoveries, and images of Putney foreshore. It is very rewarding to speak with members of the public and hear their local stories and memories. 

To round off the month, we go on a fascinating visit to London City Wall, followed by a walk around East London medieval theatreland. We bid a sad farewell to Josh Frost, who is moving on to a new role, with chocolate moulds in the shape of the TDP logo! 


Just like at the beginning of the year, heavy rain means the tides are too high. We’re back to wishing for low tides as soon as possible in 2024! 

Thames Discovery Programme