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Peta Bridle’s Riverside Sketchbook

May 13, 2021
by the gentle author

Peta Bridle sent me this latest series of her drawings.

“I made these sketches this spring. My drawings were all made on the spot and I was grateful for the bright dry weather which granted me excellent drawing conditions. I use Quink and a Chinese calligraphy brush which has a beautiful quality of line. You can create either the slightest hairline or a full heavy stroke of ink simply by altering the pressure a little. I was only able to make visits to London when my work rota allowed because I am a home carer. It has been drawing which got me through the lockdown.”  Peta Bridle



Dr Salter’s Daydream, Bermondsey

This statue of a cat crouches on the river wall in Bermondsey. It is one of a collection of four statues to commemorate Dr Alfred Salter (1873-1945), his wife Ada and their only child Joyce, made by artist Diane Gorvin.  Dr. Salter was a doctor,  campaigner and Labour politician who lived and worked locally. In the Victorian era, the Salter family dedicated themselves to tackling poverty in Bermondsey and Alfred set up a medical practice to treat its poorest residents. His daughter Joyce died of Scarlet Fever when she was only eight years old. The statue of Dr Salter sits on a bench remembering his family in happier times. As I sketched the family cat, Dr. Salter and Ada looked on in silence whilst little Joyce leant against the wall, smiling to herself.



Boat Nails, Roof Tile, Oyster Shell, Cumberland Wharf, Rotherhithe

Cumberland Wharf has a sandy beach that you can reach by some stone steps. Along with an abundance of rusty nails, I found an oyster shell and a red roof tile. The nails were evidence of a barge building and boat repair workshop that once operated here. Charles Hay & Sons was established in 1789 and the premises backed directly onto the beach.



Houseboat, Cumberland Wharf, Rotherhithe

This sits on the bank at Cumberland Wharf. It is a quiet spot to draw in, the only distraction being the occasional police boat or clipper traversing the river. A walker brought their dog onto the beach whilst a mudlark searched the shore, looking for finds.



Monument, St Mary’s Churchyard, Rotherhithe

A park bench offered a convenient place to sit and draw this leaning monument with its faded inscription to Reverend Edward Blick, put there in affection by his parishioners. The churchyard was bright with spring flowers and I could hear the voices of children playing in the nursery beyond. St. Mary’s stands close to the Thames on a narrow cobbled street, close by the Mayflower Pub where Captain Christopher Jones moored the Mayflower on his way to North America in 1620.



Phoenix Wharf, Wapping

Phoenix Wharf is an Victorian warehouse backing directly on to the Thames. Unlike the other warehouses that line Wapping High St, it appears undeveloped as yet.



The York Watergate, Victoria Embankment Gardens

This was built in 1626 in the grounds of York House for the Duke of Buckingham to access the river. When the Embankment was constructed in the nineteenth century and the land reclaimed, the watergate became stranded and was left in situ. When I made this sketch the gardens were busy with people enjoying the spring sunshine and there was the drone of a lawnmower circling behind me.



Sphinx by George John Vulliamy, Victoria Embankment

This bronze sphinx is one of pair on either side of Cleopatra’s Needle, an Egyptian obelisk from 18th Dynasty, Pharaoh Thutmose III, presented to Britain in 1819. Tourists like to stop and have their photo taken next to the sphinx and many did while I was drawing there.



Herb Garden, Surrey Docks Farm, Rotherhithe

I sat in the corner of the herb garden, looking towards Canary Wharf over the river. From behind me came the gentle tap of metal from the blacksmith’s forge. In front, the high tide pounded the river wall, sending water slapping up onto the path. I used to visit Surrey Docks with my eldest daughter when she was small. Where the farm stands today was once part of a shipyard. Then it became a Victorian timber wharf. From 1883, it was used as a river ambulance receiving station from where smallpox and fever patients were transferred by boat to isolation hospitals further down the Thames Estuary.



Merchant Vessel Royal Iris with Tate & Lyle Plant

The MV Royal Iris once ferried passengers across the River Mersey in Liverpool and was the ship that inspired Gerry & the Pacemakers to write ‘Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey.’ It became a floating dance floor where bands performed, but pigeons have now replaced the partygoers from the past and the boat is a partially sunk wreck moored at Trinity Wharf.



Trinity Buoy Wharf Lighthouse

I sat across from the car park to draw London’s only lighthouse. It was built in 1864 to experiment lighting equipment for Trinity House lighthouses, lightships and buoys. The Chain and Buoy Store sits behind where iron mooring chains were once kept.



The Hope & Anchor, Charlton

I sat in the beer garden of the pub to sketch one of the anchors leaning against the railings. In the distance, the cable car spans the water from Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks. The pub itself is painted black with a little round tower one end and faces directly onto the Thames.



Lola Rose, Broadness Creek, Kent

There are ramshackle buildings on stilts, reached via rickety walkways crossing the water, and the boatyard is very picturesque. I sat hidden among the reeds to sketch this little boat, the Lola Rose.



Double page of Broadness Creek, Swanscombe Marsh, Kent

Broadness Creek is a tidal inlet on the edge of Swanscombe Marshes. It is home to a small boating community and I spent a few indulgent days making sketches here. A line of electric pylons cross the marsh and reach beyond. A Dutch barge is moored in the distance. From where I sat, I could hear birdsong from the marsh – including a cuckoo – gulls wheeling overhead, wind catching the rigging of the boats and, out on the Thames, the throb of a ship’s engine as it slid past. In the distance, a procession of vehicles crossed the Dartford Crossing, linking Kent and Essex. The marshes have been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its wetland, saltmarsh and varied wildlife habitats. Swanscombe Marsh is a magical place.


Drawings copyright © Peta Bridle

You may also like to take a look at

Peta Bridle’s Gravesend Sketchbook

Peta Bridle’s City of London Sketchbook

Peta Bridle’s New Etchings

Peta Bridle’s Latest Drypoint Etchings

Peta Bridle River Etchings

15 Responses leave one →
  1. May 13, 2021

    Gorgeous work, Peta. I love the line and shadows in your sketches.

  2. Jane permalink
    May 13, 2021

    Love the effect you have got with the ink and the Chinese calligraphy brush. Might get one and try using it’s this summer.

  3. May 13, 2021

    I liked the look of these ink and brush sketches, the range of tones and the use of line and white space to suggest forms.

    The Royal Iris dances were most popular during the early 60s and I gather into the 70s. The business plan involved the 3 mile limit of the UK’s territorial waters. A ‘dance cruise’ involved a journey out of the Mersey estuary just outside the limit, a gentle pause while the passengers enjoyed a duty free bar, and then a slow and steady steam back to the ferry terminals at New Brighton, Seacombe and Birkenhead. The ticket price reflected the likely discount for the total cost of the evening. I was far too young to have participated but I gather a good time was had by all.

    I did travel to my first job in Liverpool by ferry each day, and in mid to late 70s the Royal Iris was on rotation as one of the ferry boats. It was always my preferred vessel. I hope someone invents a use for it.

  4. Peter Hart permalink
    May 13, 2021

    Wonderful work Peta. My favorite medium. Thank you.

  5. Daisy permalink
    May 13, 2021

    Lovely work as always

  6. May 13, 2021

    They are such beautiful drawings and am so pleased to discover Peta’s work

  7. May 13, 2021

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful sketches, it was such a joy to look at them this morning. They are all wonderful. I particularly loved the sketches of the Herb Garden at Surrey Docks Farm and those of Swanscombe Marshes. There is something about the relationship between wild and urban which is fascinating. I also love the boats; the rope on the houseboat at Cumberland Wharf caught my eye. It looks sensuous and soft as hair – a mermaid’s perhaps?

  8. May 13, 2021

    Wonderful, this particular drawing technique!

    Love & Peace

  9. May 13, 2021

    I am always happy to see more from this artist. The line quality is so descriptive, and
    distinctive. I am in awe that these sketches were done on-site. Brava!

    Generalizations are always dangerous — but I’ve heard so many stories of how creative ventures ( of any kind) have helped people to endure this lockdown. Or — perhaps? — it has just given us the uninterrupted time to explore ideas.

    Thank you GA for your optimism.

  10. May 13, 2021

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thanks for sharing those delightful drawings from Peta Bridle’s Riverside Sketchbook. They are so full of life, enhanced by the sights and sounds of the differing locales that she describes. Not to forget the history that she includes.

    What an excellent way to relieve the tedium of the lockdown.

  11. Mary permalink
    May 13, 2021

    Peta has produced some beautiful images.
    How interesting that she refers to the birdsong at Swanscombe Marshes and describes the place as magical. London Resort Holding Company (LRHC) have submitted a planning application to turn the whole area into 1,245 acres of resort hotels theme and water park.
    After much campaigning nationally and locally by conservation groups Natural England has now designated the area a Site of Special Scientific Interest as this brownfield site has more endangered species than any other in England. A final decision on whether planning permission will be granted rests with government ministers. Meanwhile LRHC continue to greenwash their land grab.
    More details can be found at
    Please consider signing one of the conservation groups petitions and spread the word to family and friends.

  12. Mark permalink
    May 13, 2021

    Peta, Lovely work as always

  13. Johnny C permalink
    May 13, 2021

    Seen ‘The Icicle Works’ play on the Royal Iris back in the 80’s. Fabulous band, fabulous night.

  14. Vivien permalink
    May 14, 2021

    I love your work Peta, it looks so understated but ready there is so much detail.

  15. May 16, 2021

    Lovely drawings, so effective.

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