The air was crisp, a familiar wind barrelled down the river, the river ran fast as low tide approached on what was a bright and sunny February afternoon.
I took a couple of hours out of my day to walk along the river on the Middlesex bank towards Corney Reach as stretch of the Thames that run from Dukes Meadows towards the Chiswick Brewery know as the Fuller’s Brewery. This part of the Thames as a story of two to tell and is steeped in history. Here along the Thames are the remains of Saxon fish traps, plantations of willow once used by basket makers and the tell tale signs of an industrial past of boat building a wax works and the knowledge that settlement dating back to the Neolithic period and Roman Empire utilised this part of the Thames.
At low tide the riverbed reveals its historic past, clay pipes, ceramics, pottery, glass, metal and leather litter the shoreline. Each item gives a dateline to activity on a social and industrial level. Every decade and century leaves its stamp amongst the more contemporary detritus.
Their voices carried on the breeze, a group of children from one of the local schools exclaimed their excitement at finds in the shallow pools left by the outgoing tide. ‘A leech Miss, a leech Miss’ followed by ‘I’ve caught a shrimp Miss’ and then the shriek ‘ an eel’, all of this gave me a warm feeling as it means the state of the river has improved and running clean.
As I made my way across the stones and silt towards the drop off of the gardens where the edge of the river is scoured to reveal bars of sand fragments of pipes are bleach to their former white clay, fragments of clay pottery, blue and white china lay like confetti on the surface. One fragment of glass took my eye, it was the base of a glass Roman storage vessel. This fragment of glass was a mix of green and blue with a dimpled surface texture, this is one of my oldest finds. However I have found a flint arrow head which I assume pre-dates this along with the fossils of sea urchins and squid.
The whole area seems to speak to you about its past, its former market gardens, fishing and the location of Corney House these are all are distant memories, yet you think you can hear voices of ferry men working the river.
If you get a chance to visit this part of West London take a walk along the river and if at low tide see the history for yourself. On a cautionary note the tide moves fast and you need good footwear so alway be aware of the state of the river and locate exit points.