I love the river because it’s so varied. The changing light and reflections constantly inspire me and I’m always on the lookout for new views to sketch or paint. Its rich tapestry of history is also a big draw, and as London’s skyline is constantly evolving it is a great way to capture today’s landmarks.
The south side of the river is a wonderful use. Rotherhithe has such strong historic river connections, from where The Mayflower set sail to the ship-building and breaking, and also the former docks. The local pubs and the waterways of Surrey Docks are great to paint. The people are lovely and I’ve been fortunate, through my art, to have had many fascinating conversations with locals who have been here for generations. Canada Water is a fantastic, evolving area.
For me, the early morning and evening is the best time to be beside the river. The skies are often dramatic, and the riverside locations tend to be quieter, too.
Mudlarking is not a new pastime, but one that’s been in existence since Victorian times, when folk would search the foreshore for anything useful or valuable, and it became popular again in the 1960s. The Port of London Authority now issues permits for everyone wishing to retrieve items from the foreshore, which I’m happy to have. There is also a duty to record or report anything significant, which is great as it is adding to the rich history of London and its river.
I’ve been fortunate to have found some great artefacts over the years. One of the most amazing discoveries was about seven years ago, when I chanced upon a complete, rare onion bottle, sitting upright in the mud. This was probably chucked overboard from a ship around 328 years ago, and would have been used for wine. It has been recorded by the Museum of London, and is an early English example, dating to around 1695.
I’ve always been a fan of the pubs that line the River Thames on both sides, particularly The Town of Ramsgate, Prospect and Grapes, and The Mayflower and Angel on the opposite side. Sketching or painting whilst having a pint is very satisfying.
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