Thames foreshore permits
On Wednesday 6th January 2021, England entered a third period of national lockdown. The Government has instructed that you must not leave or be outside of your home except for specific purposes. These purposes include exercise outdoors or visits to an outdoor public place. The PLA does not currently intend to ‘close’ the foreshore or to stop issuing foreshore permits, but it is for the individual to determine whether being on the foreshore is essential or justifiable under the current government guidelines. The Thames and its foreshore remains a challenging environment for recreational activity and whilst the Emergency Services remain available to assist in the case of an incident, the significant reduction in other river traffic means that should someone come into difficulty, it is unlikely they will be seen by a passing vessel and the alarm raised.
Anyone searching the tidal Thames foreshore from Teddington to the Thames Barrier - in any way for any reason - must hold a current foreshore permit from the Port of London Authority. This includes all searching, metal detecting, ‘beachcombing’, scraping and digging.
Foreshore permits are issued via an automated application process, which can be accessed from the link below. Applications will not be processed without all the relevant paperwork provided and that your permit will be issued by e-mail as a pdf document, which should be taken onto the foreshore. (Enter your email address carefully as permits will be sent to the email address provided. If you do not receive your permit within 24 hours, please check your spam/junk folder.)
Please note: Existing holders of foreshore permits were not migrated across to the new online system. To renew your permit, apply using the link below as a new member.
The PLA only issues a standard permit, which allows digging to a depth of 7.5 cm. The PLA is not currently issuing any new ‘mudlark permits’.
Permit fees are reviewed annually.
Fees for 2021
- Adult £90
- Junior (15-17yrs) £60 (must be accompanied by a permit holding adult)
- Junior (12-14yrs) £35 (must be accompanied by a permit holding adult)
- Monthly £40 (A monthly permit allows for one visit and is valid for one month from the date of purchase.)
Applying for a Permit
To apply for a Permit, please complete an application through the following link –
The Thames foreshore is potentially hazardous and some dangers may not always be immediately apparent. The Thames can rise and fall by over seven metres twice a day as the tide comes in and out. The current is fast and the water is cold.
Anyone going on the foreshore does so entirely at their own risk and must take personal responsibility for their safety and that of anyone with them. In addition to the tide and current mentioned above there are other less obvious hazards, for example raw sewage, broken glass, hypodermic needles and wash from vessels. Steps and stairs down to the foreshore can be slippery and dangerous and are not always maintained.
Before going onto the foreshore, always consider:
- Wearing sensible footwear and gloves.
- Carrying a mobile phone.
- Not going alone.
- The state of the tide; is it rising or falling?
- Making sure you can get off the foreshore quickly – watch the tide and make sure that steps or stairs are close by.
- Finally, be aware of the possibility of Weil’s Disease, which is spread by rats urine in the water. Infection is usually through cuts in the skin or through eyes, mouth or nose. Medical advice should be sought immediately if ill effects are experienced after visiting the foreshore, particularly ‘flu like’ symptoms, including a temperature and aching in the muscles and joints.
Are Foreshore Permits valid during lockdowns?
As long as Government guidelines permit outdoor exercise, and the PLA has not closed the foreshore to access. Check Notices to Mariners for updates.
How long are permits valid for?
Adult and junior permits are valid for three years from the date of purchase. A monthly permit is valid for one month from the date of purchase.
Why do I need consent?
All the foreshore in the UK has an owner. Metal detecting, searching or digging is not a public right and as such it needs the permission of the landowner. The PLA and the Crown Estate are the largest land owners of Thames foreshore and jointly administer a permit which allows searching or digging.
Where on the Thames foreshore can I dig or search?
The Thames foreshore permit is only valid for certain locations west of the Thames Barrier up to Teddington. Searching is not allowed east of the Thames Barrier. All searching, digging, scraping or the removal of any items is strictly prohibited at Queenhithe Dock, Brunel’s Great Eastern Slipway, Tower of London and at Greenwich Palace. (locations of these are indicated in red on the plans below)
Permanent Exclusion Zone - Palace of Westminster
No person except in an emergency can enter an area within 70 metres of the northern bank of the river Thames between Westminster Bridge and 200 metres below Lambeth Bridge. (see Foreshore Map - Middle District)
Note: Other restrictions apply. For further details see the attached Thames foreshore maps
Temporary Exclusion Zone - Duke Shore Wharf
A section of the river wall at Duke Shore Wharf in Limehouse is a failing structure and the foreshore in the area must be avoided. This exclusion area is shown below, with the exclusion zone marked in red.
You must report any objects you find which could be of archaeological interest to the Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer at the Museum of London on 0207 814 5733. This Scheme records all archaeological finds made by the public in England and Wales. If you believe that a find may qualify as treasure then you should contact the coroner for the district in which the object was found, usually within fourteen days of making the find. In practice many finders report treasure via the Finds Liaison Officer, which is also acceptable. The coroner or finds liaison officer will give guidance on what to do. The Treasure Act code of practice contains a directory of coroners in the Thames area.
Further advice can be found in this document - Portable Antiquities Scheme – Advice for Finders
Here is the full version of the Treasure Act 1996.
The export of archaeological objects from the UK to any destination requires a UK licence if the object is more than 50 years of age. The type of licence required will depend on where the object was found and, in some cases, the value of the object.
Group Activities on the Thames Foreshore
Anyone wishing to organise a group activity such as a walk or guided tour which does not involve any disturbance of the Thames foreshore must first apply for written permission from the Port of London Authority’s Estates Department on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the group activity involves any disturbance of the foreshore then each participant must also have their own individual Thames Foreshore Permit in addition to the event organiser will also need permission from the Estates Department .