For 26 Inspirations at the Bloomsbury Festival...

In 2021 I illustrated endangered UK habitats for 26 Habitats, a project by 26, a not-for-profit organisation for writers and anyone interested in the power of words. So 26 asked me if I’d like to contribute a piece on nature as my inspiration to its 26 Inspirations project for the Bloomsbury Festival.

In 2022 the festival theme was Breathe. I often sketchwalk along a section of the Lea between Cody Dock and Bow Locks, noting sights, soundscape and when I can smell the sea on the tide. I’d long wanted to do a panoramic sketch of my walk, so that was my piece, Breather.

It was surprisingly tricky. I hadn’t appreciated how bendy this stretch of the river is, nor how broken-up are the views that my mind stitches together. It took several goes, a return to my original sketch and from it, a digital sketch that could be printed to size for the exhibition.

My 150 words required to accompany the sketch came back from my editor, Lisa Andrews, with notes: “I don’t know if you know … but you have written a really beautiful poem … So I took the liberty of creating a version with some line breaks… and then being an annoying editor who can’t help fiddling, I made some very light edits…”

I was delighted. So above, the visual record and below, the poem, given eloquence by Lisa.

See Lisa’s own piece for 26 Inspirations here and all of the works in the project here.

An archival-quality giclée print of the sketch is available to order, produced by specialist art and photography printers The Print Space. Contact me if  you would like to find out more.


Screen break, tea break, sketchwalk, Lea.
I stretch my view –
to big skies and tangles
of industry, tide and nature
in this workaday corner of East London.
Unsung yet full of song,
soaring above the city clatter
a soundscape
all twinkly sand martins,
squabbling gulls,
shouty crows,
and down in the rustle of the reed beds,
the click of coots.
At low tide, I breathe sea tang
and I am home in Kent’s creeks and marshes.
Sometimes I play,
follow a diving cormorant,
guess where it will surface (I’m always wrong).
I stretch my view –
until nature brings me wonder.