Thames foreshore permits
Anyone searching the tidal Thames foreshore from Teddington to the Thames Barrier - in any way for any reason - must hold a current and relevant foreshore permit from the Port of London Authority. This includes all searching, metal detecting, ‘beachcombing’, scraping and digging
Standard 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. Please 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 issues a Standard Permit, which allows digging to a depth of 7.5 cm and, to members of the Society of Thames Mudlarks, a Digging Permit which allows, in certain parts of the foreshore, digging to a maximum depth of 1.3 metres. There is a strict limit of the number of digging permits issued and there is currently a waiting list for membership of the Society. All enquiries for membership – from holders of standard permits with at least three years of membership and a history of reporting finds – can be made to [email protected] and they will be forwarded to the Society.
Holders of Standard Permits should be aware that updated Terms and Conditions apply to the Permits and these are available from the application website. In particular, the permit is issued for personal enjoyment only and not for financial gain.
Permit fees are reviewed annually.
Fees for 2022
- Adult £96 (Permit lasts for three years from date of purchase)
- Junior (15-17yrs) £63 (must be accompanied by a permit holding adult)
- Junior (12-14yrs) £36 (must be accompanied by a permit holding adult)
- Monthly £42 (A one-day permit allowing a single visit to the foreshore, 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 a potentially hazardous environment which must be respected and contains 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, other less obvious hazards can be encountered including 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, so due care and caution must be exercised when going to or leaving the foreshore.
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? Details of tide times is available from the PLA website and the PLA App.
- 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.
You must report any and all objects you find which could be of archaeological interest to the Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer at the Museum of London ([email protected]) or 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.
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 issue a permit, which is administered by the PLA allowing searching or digging.
Where on the Thames foreshore can I dig or search?
Permits issued by the PLA are only valid for certain locations west of the Thames Barrier upstream to Richmond Lock. They are not valid east of the Thames Barrier and no searching/digging is allowed on the foreshore of the River Thames east of this point.
A GIS-based map of where Standard Permit holders may search the foreshore -- including all relevant restrictions listed in the Terms and Conditions associated with the Standard Permit -- is available below (details of the restrictions are available from the ‘Legend’ tab).
Can I magnet fish in the tidal Thames?
Magnet fishing in the tidal Thames is not allowed, even with a Foreshore Permit. This is because of potential hazards to navigation, the environment and the safety of individuals involved and other river users.
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 [email protected].
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.