Mudlarking specifically derives from 18th century England where the poor would hunt for valuables lost in the Thames to sell for a meager wage. The term literally means “to scavenge in the mud”.
Today, there is still an active community of mudlarkers who do it recreationally and pick up various treasures from the foreshore. What I find so intriguing about the experience is the historical significance of some of the pieces you find from ancient pottery, antique silverware, buttons and much more. My favourite find was a porcelain smoking pipe that was likely used by a 16th century dock worker and tossed in the Thames like many others scattered across the bank.
If you also want to take part in this British tradition, there are few things you have to know. First, you must take caution and make sure to go at low tide – so check the tide tables before you go. Secondly, it is definitely very dirty (and yes muddy!) so wear sturdy shoes and wash your hands or wear disposable gloves. Lastly, make sure you apply for a permit in advance (a recent change due to rising popularity). Read up on the rules here to make sure you scavenge safely. This article also has a lot of great tips for first-time mudlarkers. I’ve marked my favourite spot to mudlark as it has easy access and is just steps away from my favourite farm cafe.