I contacted Fred through The River Thames Mudlarking Finds, a mudlarking Facebook group with over 67,000 members – a group sharing the liquid history of the Thames and its many bounties, from the everyday clay pipes to silver jewellery and gold coins.
I met Fred on the beach of Minster, on the Isle of Sheppey, in the Thames Estuary at low tide, the best time for detectoring. He grew up in the area and lives nearby. Fred uses The Shipping Forecast to get information on the best days to head out and search for finds. The best combination is a spring tide coupled with high pressure, this perfect pairing exposes areas of the seabed that rarely get seen and hopefully a rare opportunity to reveal an elusive treasure.
The day we met, and after only a short amble, the thick sediment gave up a couple of mud-caked bullets. Fred, a riverbed historian, tells me these were from a target range in the area from around Victorian times and the First World War. Until the early 20th century Mudlarking was a scavenging career for the poor, living along the banks of the Thames, giving them an opportunity to make a meagre wage – but today it has become a pastime for treasure seekers.