BBC Thames Dive

Digging for Britain and Chesham Sub Aqua Club.

Over the past 2 years Chesham Sub Aqua has actively been involved in diving the Thames, searching for ancient artefacts in collaboration with the Bucks Archaeology Society.

Specifically helping to investigate the river bed adjacent to the Roman ruins in the Hambleden area, which lie between Henley and Marlow in Buckinghamshire. This area has been extensively excavated and several large, high status villas have been located adjacent to the Thames and in the Hambleden valley, however, the river, for obvious reason was less well explored.

CSAC had been diving in the Thames for many years, generally grovelling around for anything interesting, old bottles, clay pipes and the like. This was a slightly better distraction than the local dive lakes when being blown out from channel diving. Hence, we had built up quite a bit of expertise in diving the river safely and had a close relationship with the environment agency who are responsible for monitoring the river.

Two years ago, CSAC was contacted by the Bucks archaeology society to look for “anything” in the vicinity of a riverside Roman villa. As the river is fairly busy along this stretch, careful consideration of time, season and conditions were required to make a series of safe dives in this area. Generally early morning dives from 6.30am avoided the majority of the boat traffic ( rowers are out 7am in Summer) and a check to see if the river conditions themselves are safe. This can be done by looking at the Environment Agencie’s website to watch for warnings of fast rivers conditions. Furthermore diving after bad wet weather does not lead to good visibility, it will never be like the Red Sea but 1-2m vis is better than none.

During this period we have found numerous items dating over many centuries, Roman and Medieval building materials and much later material due to the River’s recent  leisure use. The number of later day champagne bottles and ancient beer bottles than can be found is phenomenal!

Recently, the BBC’s “Digging for Britain” programme had shown interest in the Roman history of the area. Specifically, the BBC team wanted to come down in June to film a piece with the archaeology team responsible and ourselves.

Chesham Sub Aqua was asked to help the presenter ( Dr Alice Roberts) do a piece in the river and provide underwater footage.

As with most filming this involved numerous takes so the four members of our club had a couple of dives each in the meantime and relaxed in the sun with a barbeque! I suspect the film crew were a little envious with the aroma of sausage, burgers and kebabs wafting over. Other more serious distractions to the films was the inordinate amount of light planes that use the river as a navigation aid and the odd gin palace slowing down in front of the camera to have a good look.

Dennis, our organiser was interview in water with his kit on by Alice numerous times until a satisfactory piece was captured and a group photo taken to prove we had met her! Luckily the sun was out and water temperature a barmy 13 degrees which made her wetsuit bearable.

It made an interesting day out to see the filming process and to enjoy a perfect afternoon in the sun, we even found some superb artefacts including a 100+ year old battery torch, clay pipes and those old beer bottles again!

The new series of Digging for Britian will be out August and we shall see if our exploits are still on film, if they are not, then some of the footage can be found on Youtube :


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