A Winter Walk in East Finchley Cemetery

The view along Cypress Avenue

Dear Readers, Christmas was pretty much cancelled for lots of people yesterday at 4 p.m. in the UK, just as most people had stocked up on food for the people who were allowed to travel to see their relatives for five days over the holidays. Instead, in areas with Tier 4 (pretty much all of the south-east including London) no household mixing is allowed (unless you have formed a support bubble) and everything except essential retail is closed. In other parts of the country, 2 households can mix on Christmas Day only. If you’re in Tier 4 you shouldn’t travel to lower tiers, but of course everyone jumped onto a train or into a car and headed off to escape the lockdown which started at midnight last night. My heart goes out to everyone who had made plans and wanted to finally be with the ones they loved after this terrible year. The numbers of cases are frightening, though. My main ire is with the powers that be, who have ignored calls from scientists for London to be completely locked down since October. Only a few days ago, Boris Johnson was mocking Kier Starmer when he called for household mixing restrictions to be cancelled.

Anyhow, here we are. For me personally it makes very little difference, what with having no parents left. We were planning a quiet Christmas, and that’s exactly what we’ll have. I am planning to get out for a walk whenever the weather cooperates even a tiny bit, however, and so today we found ourselves back in East Finchley Cemetery (which confusingly is largely owned by Westminster City Council). Maybe it’s this Westminster connection rather than the Barnet one which makes it such a posh place – everywhere is well manicured and there are a plethora of graves with extravagant headstones. Angels and Celtic crosses abound.

I found this headstone particularly interesting – I’ve not seen anything like it before. The wheel at the bottom looks like a Buddhist symbol for the wheel of reincarnation, but I’m not sure about the boss in the middle – could it be a lotus? Let me know if you have any thoughts, I haven’t included the details of the person buried because there weren’t any clues, and also I try not to be too personal out of respect.

There is some very fine carving, particularly of plants, as in the headstones below. What patience must have been required to create them!

But what I like most are the ones that are intensely personal. Have a look at this cricket-themed gravestone, for example.

And who was ‘Harry’? And why is this all that is on his gravestone? Did his family run out of money to put more details, or was his name all that you needed to know about him? So many mysteries….

And then there is that magnificent Italianate crematorium which is still largely fenced off, and probably will be until the pandemic is over.

But look at the trees! This is the home of some fine Cedars of Lebanon, some of which are covered in pine cones this year.

A gnarled and ancient-looking tree  has what looks to me very much like home for a woodpecker – I will have to check it later in the year to see if anyone has taken up residence.

Small flocks of redwings go twinkling away as soon as I get within a hundred metres. Was there ever a shyer thrush? I am even prouder of my devastatingly good portrait captured in the other cemetery yesterday.

I am very fond of this fine angel who is one of a row of very fine tombs beside the entrance. I think that the ivy rather enhances the overall effect.

But before I forget, here is a rather surprising sight. It’s 46 degrees and the middle of December, and yet, on Bedford Road in East Finchley, two bumblebees are collecting pollen from Mahonia- these are not queens, but workers. The nests of buff-tailed bumblebees sometimes survive throughout the winter these days – normally all the adults except the queens, who hibernate, die. But you can clearly see the pollen in the leg baskets in the second photo – a queen at this time of year would just be gathering nectar to keep herself fed until she started laying eggs in the spring. These workers still have a nest to go back to, and if we don’t have severe weather, who knows but that they might survive right through? The impacts of climate change are unpredictable, for sure.


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