by Nigel Richardson, The Telegraph, June 21, 2017
Mudlarking at low tide
Mudlarking is the term used for searching the Thames foreshore, when the tide is out, for the detritus of thousands of years of human and animal occupation. Most common finds are Victorian clay pipes, medieval tiles, Roman coins, pottery shards, thimbles and animal bones. You don’t need a metal detector, just keen eyes - and a permit from the Port of London Authority (pla.co.uk), which costs £75 annually, £32 for a day. Note also that it can be dangerous so be aware of tide times and look out for hazardous materials and waste on the shore itself. Sites near bridges are particularly rewarding but some locations are off-limits - see relevant page at pla.co.uk .
Swimming in Docklands
Open water swimming is one of Britain’s fastest growing activities and now you can do it in the Royal Victoria Docks in east London. This is a sport for experienced swimmers (you have to to be able to manage 400m in a pool without pause). A wristband safety system is in operation, so your whereabouts are known at all times, coaching sessions are available and water quality is tested regularly. For those who just want to cool off and splash around, there's a roped-off supervised area for "casual swimmers" who don't want to venture into open water.
London Royal Docks Open Water Swimming (07714 292 351, londonroyaldocksows.co.uk) is at the western end of Royal Victoria Docks, E16 1SL, nearest station Royal Victoria on the Docklands Light Railway. Open Tues, Wed and Fri 5-8pm, Thurs 6-9am, weekends 8-11am, closed Mon, until Sept 30: £8 per swim plus £10 to sign up for wristband safety system; wetsuit hire £10. See also nowca.org.
Learning to sail or row
Various clubs offer watersports on the Thames. The London Corinthian Sailing Club (020 8748 3280, lcsc.org.uk) operates between Hammersmith and Barnes Bridges in west London and offers RYA Level 1 and 2 courses. In the east the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre (020 7537 2626, dswc.org) offers private tuition (£30 per hour) and “Twilight Evening Sailing” for sailors with some experience (£25 for non-members). On the course of the University Boat Race, between Putney and Hammersmith Bridges, you can learn to row at Barn Elms Boathouse (020 8788 9472, enablelc.org/bebh): from £121.50 over 6 weeks.
Eating and drinking afloat
Eat, drink or just enjoy the sunset at two of London’s coolest summer venues: Battersea Barge and Tamesis Dock, converted Dutch barges with superb river views from the south bank upstream of Westminster. Both offer decent pub grub, craft ales and summer cocktails. Battersea Barge has an interesting programme of music and theatrical events while Tamesis Dock offers weekend brunches and “Karauke - you sing, we play ukuleles”.
Battersea Barge (020 7498 0004, batterseabarge.com) is moored at Nine Elms Lane, SW8 5BP, nearest tube and rail station Vauxhall. Tamesis Dock (020 7582 1066, tdock.co.uk) is on Albert Embankment, SE1 7TP, between Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges (Vauxhall also nearest station).
Taking the Tate Boat
The Tate galleries - Britain at Millbank and Modern at Bankside - have their own boat (also known as RB2) that plies between the two every 45 minutes during gallery opening hours (£8.10 single). Not only do you see the river views that Turner, Monet and others painted but it takes just 14 minutes and is far more convenient than bus or tube. You can also do Tate to Tate tours - a tour of Tate Modern in the morning, a river trip to Millbank and a tour of Tate Britain in the afternoon: £24.30pp. See tate.org.uk/visit/tate-boat.