A Sunny Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, after last week’s trudge through a downpour it was lovely to see some sun this week. The cemetery was positively abuzz with people tidying up the graves after the mud and leaves of the past few weeks, and I was even lucky enough to bump into my friend A who had found some most interesting fungi.

The crows were out in force, and even they seem more relaxed when the weather is not as unwelcoming.

I popped over to the woodland burial area to see ‘my’ swamp cypress, and very fine it looked too. Isn’t it funny how sometimes we’re just drawn to particular plants? I honestly love this tree, even though it bears a passing resemblance to Chewbacca from Star Wars.

And look at this beautiful bark, it looks as if someone has given the trunk a good old polish with a chamois leather. The photo doesn’t do justice to the high gloss effect, and I can’t wait to pop back in spring to verify my ID.  I’m thinking that it’s Tibetan Cherry (Prunus serrula), and a very fine example it is too.

Tibetan Cherry (Prunus serrula) (Fingers crossed)

I have a kind of mental block about the difference between the English Oak and the Sessile Oak, even though I have posted about it here on the blog – as soon as I’m out and about, I know that one has stalked leaves and unstalked acorns, and the other has the reverse, but I can’t remember which is which. I took some photos of the leaves on this tree, and as they appear to have stalks I am going to say that it’s a sessile oak. Feel free to correct me :-).

There is another fine batch of fungi popping up in the grass – I am relying on my friend A for a rough ID, as my closest guess would be some way off.

There are still a surprising number of plants in flower – there’s prickly oxtongue, Oxford ragwort and lots of yarrow, with its tiny white flowers, all set off by the leaves of cow parsley and what looks rather like chervil.

And as we stroll back, it suddenly hits me how many of the smaller trees in the cemetery are ash. Look at all these. All of the many-stemmed grey-trunked trees are ash. What will happen if and when ash dieback takes hold, and so many of them are gone? In other parts of the cemetery there are some large ashes too. Maybe I’ll write to the Cemetery Management people and see what their plans are.

On one of the woodier paths, a woodpigeon seems to have met with an untimely end, though the feathers on these birds are so loosely attached that they can sometimes escape even with the loss of a few primaries. Certainly there’s no actual corpse.

As we walk back towards home, via the overgrown Tram Path (there used to be a tram in the cemetery for shuffling the coffins about) we come across two chaps with magnifying glasses, cleaning cloths, water sprays and a bucket. I ask them what they’re up to, and a tale unfolds. It appears that they are looking for the grave of a music hall performer, A. P. Hollingsworth, who died in 1865 and is thought to be buried in the cemetery. They have tracked the possible grave site down, and are now cleaning up the overgrown memorials at the side of the track. How I wish I’d asked what their connection was! But we shall see next time we go if they’ve managed to restore Mr Hollingsworth to his former glory. The cemetery is full of mysteries, every stone representing a life lived and now largely forgotten. I cheer inwardly every time a story is unearthed and remembered.

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

  1. Anne

    I also cheer for that reason and was delighted when, some months ago, a photograph of a grave from the Anglo-Boer War which I featured on my blog was picked up by a distant relative! I was given some detail about the soldier who died there. Cemeteries are repositories of a lot of social history.

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  2. Ann Bronkhorst

    Here’s another source of fascinating info about people buried in the St P. cemetery: Studied Monuments, a blog by a local resident. Maybe he was one of the men you saw.

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    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Thanks Ann! I am looking forward to a jaunt this week, I met them on Tram Path – they were looking at some very overgrown graves on the left hand side as you head back towards the main entrance, so have a look if you get there before me!

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  3. ringg1

    I find cemeteries poignant places and, like you, I wonder about the lives of Their occupants.
    I agree that the Cherry looks like Prunus serrula. The coppery bark is kept bright by rubbing, so don’t forget to touch the trunk when you visit.
    I remember the difference between oaks by focusing on the acorn stalk. English oak is also called pedunculate oak, because it has a peduncle (an acorn stalk). Sessile oaks don’t have peduncles. Sessile means ‘no acorn stalk’. (It’s really unhelpful that pedunculate oaks don’t have leaf stalks, but sessile oaks do.)

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  4. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    My wife loves walking around cemeteries. Behind every headstone there is a story (or three) to be told I’m sure. As for the remembering, I’d concentrate on the leaves and sessile has 3 s’s, which says, to me, stalks… The rest follows. 🤔

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