A Windy Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, during the lockdown one of the highlights of my week has been a walk around the local cemetery. It’s only open to visitors at the weekend from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday is generally very busy, so Saturday it is. Today was overcast and breezy, and indeed we even got a drop of the wet stuff for the first time in weeks. Still, I love seeing the way the plant life is changing.

The cow parsley has given way to the hogweed, so I know that spring is officially over.

Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium)

And all the meadow flowers, the ox-eye daisies and the red campion, are in full flower in the wild part of the cemetery.

Ox eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and red campion (Silene dioica)

The dock is doing well too. This one is about seven feet tall.

Curled dock (Rumex crispus)

There is one little patch of red valerian that reminds me so much of Dorset, where it grows out of every wall.

Red valerian (Centranthus ruber)

The red clover is in full bloom.

Red clover (Trillium pratense)

The tormentil is growing all over the sunnier graves.

Tormentil (Potentilla erecta)

The elder is magnificent this year. I have never seen so many flowers. You can smell the gooseberry twang of the blossom from 2 metres away (if you are socially distancing šŸ™‚ )

Elder (Sambucus nigra)

I have become intrigued with what thistles look like when you photograph them from above. It’s as if a whole new world has opened up.

Spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare)

Creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare)

And here is something fairly unusual – goat’s rue, a member of the pea family, but with white flowers rather than the usual lilac ones.

Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis)

It’s fascinating to see how the seasons are moving on. In the space of less than a fortnight, the shining cranesbill has flowered, and the foliage has turned a stunning crimson.

Shining cranesbill (Geranium lucidum)

The salsify has changed from attractive purple flowers to big fluffball seedheads.

Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius)

The white flowers of the firethorn are changing into bright orange berries. It will definitely be worth checking for waxwings here in the winter, for some reason they love the fruit of this shrub.

Firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea)

It sometimes feels as if the cemetery is the only place around here open enough to really see the sky. My Mum, after she’d been slaving away at some embroidery or crochet, would often go outside to ‘stretch her eyes’. I know what she meant.

And then onwards. Past the first patch of this year’s yarrow (new to me, anyhow), and past the strangely sculptural flowers of the teasel.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Teasel (Dipsacum fullerum)

But here’s a surprise. Who should be sitting next to the tiny stream (which has been reduced to a trickle by the lack of rainfall) but a very handsome mallard drake? I thought he would scoot off as we approached but instead he sat there, looking very pleased with himself, whilst standing on one leg.

And then we turned for home. How I love the woody pathways on the route back to the entrance gate. I always keep an eye open for foxes, but they seem few and far between this year. I suspect that they are about much more during the week, when there are fewer visitors.

How I love the cemetery! I find such peace there; even though Dad isn’t even interred yet, and his ashes will stay in Dorset, I can somehow feel his presence here. He was always at home amongst plants and trees, and in another life I think he’d have been a gardener, or a farmer. He was never happier than when he was digging up potatoes, preferably without his shirt on and with the sun blazing down. Wherever he is now, I hope that there are beans and strawberries for him and Mum to pick.


9 thoughts on “A Windy Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. aldercarr

    Love the cemetery. I used to collect ivy cuttings on morning dog walks from the variety the Victorians planted until they overran the garden

    1. Bug Woman

      Hi aldercarr! I have a friend who is forever foraging bits and pieces from the woody parts of the cemetery. She can’t wait for mushroom season…

  2. aldercarr

    Foxes: yesterday one was very active on my allotment next to the cemetery – stole my peanut butter sandwich!
    Left me with no lunch & a long day weeding!

    1. Bug Woman

      They do love a sandwich, don’t they….what a shame to leave you sandwichless though. Maybe they’ll bring you a mouse or somesuch to make up for it.

  3. Andrea Stephenson

    A lovely walk! I thought of you today on my walk as I noticed lots of galls on some of the lime trees – I never knew about galls until I read your blog, but I knew instantly what they were – I had to look up the insect – lime nail mite, but otherwise I would have thought they were some kind of strange little buds.

    1. Bug Woman

      I love those little galls! In fact I love lime trees full stop. I don’t mind the honeydew, I just love the smell of the blossom on a hot summer’s day….

  4. Sarah Ann Bronkhorst

    So nice to be able to re-do my own walk, through your eyes and photos. Hadn’t realised before how spring into summer could be gauged by cow parsley giving way to hogweed: a useful tip.


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