A Not So Rubbish Trip

Illustration from Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (1851).

London dustman. Illustration from Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (1851)


When Rosie Oliver says she’s going to take you on a rubbish trip, she means it literally. Rosie, a lawyer, lecturer and presenter specializing in environmental law and policy, created and leads a two-hour walk from Mudchute on the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich on the theme of rubbish and how it has influenced the landscape. Woven into her commentary are stories about the people who collected the rubbish and how the rubbish has been treated and transformed over the centuries.

One example is Mudchute Park, the site of the former mud chute that spurted silt dredged from Millwall Docks into “settling ponds”, a type of landfill for waste mud. Also, the Victorian homes we passed and structures like the railway viaduct were likely built using materials that included rubbish: the dust and ash from people’s fireplaces from burning coal and domestic rubbish, which was collected by dustmen and taken to brick factories in Kent where it was mixed with clay, fired and brought back to London to be used for building.

In the 21st century, the need to reuse, recycle and reduce the rubbish we generate is greater than ever, Rosie says.

The walk includes a visit to the Mudchute city farm, where we saw one of nature’s recyclers in action – a magnificent pig – and we finished on the banks of the Thames at Greenwich, a veritable treasure trove of historical rubbish.

Rosie’s company is called Dotmaker Tours, and she offers the rubbish walk to the public once a month, and at other times to private groups: http://dotmakertours.co.uk/page10.htm.