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Lara Maiklem's Top Tips for Larking

Posted on 15th August 2021 by Mark Skinner

Lara Maiklem's Mudlarking educated readers on the wonders that could be found on the banks of the River Thames and with her latest, beautifully produced book, A Field Guide to Larking, Lara broadens the scope of scavenging through fields, beaches and even the family home. In this exclusive piece, Lara draws up her top ten rules for successful larking. 

There are natural treasures and subtle clues to the past hidden in fields and rivers all over the country. Even your own house and garden can offer up tantalising glimpses of other lives, sometimes through the smallest and most mundane of objects. Larking is the art of looking for these things; the ownerless objects that don’t belong, the lost, discarded and displaced. You can find them tangled in strandlines on beaches, in ploughed furrows, under floorboards and on riverbeds. They will transport you to another time, reconnect you with nature and feed your imagination, but you need to find them first. Here are some tips to get you started on your larking adventures:

1. Rule number one, you are not going to find anything if you are in a hurry, or you look too hard. Set aside your larking time, clear your mind and relax. Larking is as much about the joy of the hunt as it is the thrill of the find. Even if you come home empty handed, the time you’ve spent searching should be food enough for the soul.

2. Wherever you decide to lark, do your research first. Find out what you are most likely to find on the beach you are visiting, when the farmer will be ploughing his field and search old maps for river ferry points, wharfs, old river stairs and bridges where people are more likely to have thrown or dropped objects into the water. 

3. Visit beaches on cold, stormy days. Not only will this chase away all but the most stalwart beachlarks, but storms and strong winds will wash up the best stuff. 

4. Some of the best beaches to search for flotsam are along the Atlantic coast, where the Gulf Stream washes all manner of objects ashore. Look for amber on beaches along the east coast of England. It washes up in the strandline among the seaweed and flotsam. 

5. If you are mudlarking on the Thames foreshore, you need to be aware of the tides. Check online tide tables and allow yourself about two hours either side of low tide. You also need a permit, but anyone can apply for one through the Port of London Authority’s website: pla.co.uk

6. Rivers, especially the Thames, sort by weight, so look for patches of metal where coins, pins and other small metal objects congregate. Invest in a pair of knee pads and get close to the mud for the tiniest objects. 

7. If you find yourself in mud, take small steps. The further apart your feet, the harder it is to pull them out.

8. Don’t pass a mole hill without looking it over. They often range across land that has never been touched by the plough and you never know what they might dig up.

9. If you ever take up the floorboards in an old house, sift through the dust and rubble beneath them for the small things that slipped between the cracks and were ‘posted’ down by children.

10. Carefully scrape old wallpaper off the wall and frame it, or cover a section with plexiglass and make it a feature of the room.

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