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The whole tale of how people use the river is all there, at your feet. At Kew, a pile of large iron nails rusted together show that boat building and repair went on, and pieces of 17th-century slipware mingle with Tudor pot handles. Hawkins is always ready to identify finds and explain modern mysteries. A cluster of red clay votive holders look vaguely Roman, but Hawkins explains they are from the Diwali celebrations, when Hindus send oil lamps afloat on a sacred river. In this modern era it is the Thames, not the Ganges. The river embraces it all.

The reward
After a hard day's dig, there is no better reward than a pub lunch and a pint. At Kew Bridge, you can choose from three historic pubs on the Strand on the Green footpath: The Bell & Crown, the City Barge and the Bull's Head. All serve up a traditional Sunday lunch with quiet views of the river flowing by; the Bell & Crown (www.fullers.co.uk) has a cozy fireplace and a large patio outside for fine weather.

On the Southwark side of the Millennium Bridge, you can choose to sit at the bar at the Tate Modern or dine at the Globe Theatre's The Swan bistro. And while the Anchor pub, where Samuel Pepys watched London burn during the Great Fire of 1666, has been renovated and enlarged into a tourist trap, you may just feel a whisper of the great diarist's spirit while you contemplate modern London passing by.

 

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