Sherlock Holmes and the Wapping Canal clean-up Mystery

Saturday morning saw an intrepid team of Wapping residents get stuck into the first Wapping canal clean-up.

Two hours later they were all very wet, very muddy, very cold but very happy. And the canal and footpath was a lot cleaner too.

Mr Picky also made some new friends.

Man with a mission

As usual the entire Love Wapping Ranger Team (Rubbish Division) were ten minutes late and almost had to run as Alexei powered off along the footpath. This was a man with a mission.

Main focus of attention was the area of bushes and trees by the old pedestrian bridge from Discovery Walk into Tobacco Dock.

Alexei immediately disappeared into the thorns and mud and was not seen again for some time.

Rumour has it that he made a couple of conference calls but no one really knows. He did appear briefly with a pair of bolt croppers.

Alexei and bolt croppers
Alexei and bolt croppers


The rest of the team scrambled up the bank and began to pick their way through an incredible amount of rubbish.

Within a few minutes it became obvious that there was no way we could get even this small area completely cleared in one morning but we carried on anyway.

They look happy! Some of the team posing with the eight bags of rubbish cleared.
They look happy! Some of the team posing with the eight bags of rubbish cleared.


Gloves are absolutely essential for this work and a fetching range of washing-up gloves were on display, some even colour coordinating with their wellies. Nice.

Another empty safe

Next find was a large bag (middle right in picture above) that on being opened revealed – a digital safe! And no there was nothing in it. There never is anything in safes. Odd that.

Safe and found.
Safe and found.


Being responsible citizens and all that we dutifully rang 101 and let the police know of our discovery. They turned up, put on forensic gloves, then went away again. Sherlock it was not.

Apart from the fun of sheltering under a bridge that leaks during rain and being baffled at the sheer amount of junk people had dumped here the best part of the morning was meeting other residents, having a chat and just having a laugh!

In the days before social media this was called ‘socialising’ apparently. Might well try it again.

Find of the day

Only ten minutes after the police left the discovery of the day was made. A ladies handbag containing her purse, passport, work ID card, driving licence and every piece of plastic she could ever need.

Ladies handbag and safe recovered during clean-up.
Ladies handbag and safe recovered during clean-up.


Obviously some scum bag thief low life person had stolen it, nicked the cash then dumped the bag into the bushes. Receipts in the bag dated October 2014 showed that this had happened not that long ago.

Was this the Sherlock moment? Nah.

101 was dialled again and an officer from Tower Hamlets popped round to Love Wapping HQ later to pick it up and reunite it with its owner. (If you recognise your handbag please get in touch with the police, not us. Or Sherlock)

To round the morning off we worked our way along the canal by 21 Wapping Lane and also removed some of the junk thrown into the area where Mr Burns the Grey Heron and Kevin fish. There is still more rubbish in there that needs to be removed.

On returning to Love Wapping HQ the Wapping Wildlife Rangers spent almost as much time cleaning their clothes as they had getting them covered in mud, but it was most certainly worth it.

Many thanks to all who turned out and got wet but had fun and made Wapping just a little bit nicer.

We’ll be back!

It is doubtful if even 0.5% of the rubbish in and around the canal was cleared on Saturday so we will be returning on a regular basis. Come along next time to make a difference, get involved and probably get muddy too.

We are aiming to have another clean-up at the beginning of February. Please complete the form if you are interested in taking part.

If you love wildlife, love Wapping and enjoy working outside in the freezing cold for free then fill in the form below.

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2 thoughts on “Sherlock Holmes and the Wapping Canal clean-up Mystery

  1. Mark thanks for organising this. I agree it took almost as long to get clean!
    I mentioned my husband had seen the kingfisher at the shadwell basin end of the canal – on inspection of the photos on love wapping he thinks he saw the female.

    1. My pleasure! It was good fun, and thank you for turning out in such miserable weather. I sent our Wildlife Rangers out on a special Shadwell Kingfisher patrol for two hours this morning but no sign of Kevin, or should I say Patricia? I haven’t seen Kevin for several days now Any more sightings please let me know!

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