A Damp Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, we didn’t walk in the cemetery last week because there the rain was blowing horizontally across the garden, but I couldn’t wait to get there this week. A fortnight is a long time when it’s spring, and already most of the dandelions are shedding their seeds. Those ‘dandelion clocks’ really are entrancing, especially if you look closely. I love the way that the seeds detach one at a time and head off to find somewhere to put down their roots…

When all the seeds are gone, I love the spirals of little holes where they were once attached. And I’d never noticed how the ‘parachutes’ of the seeds are angled backwards, maybe so that the plant can produce more seeds per seedhead?

But it was to be a day of floral and avian wonders. A magpie decided to have a bath in a muddy puddle, as one does.

There were germander speedwells….

An ocean of cow parsley…..

Lots of red campion….


English bluebells…

And the buttercups have taken over from the lesser celandine in the yellow flower competition.

The flowers on the horse chestnut are pretty much full grown now and how enticing they look!

Even the grasses have gone berserk. That combination of lots of rain and longer day length has really kicked everything off.

We walk along the narrow path that connects two parts of the cemetery, and the cow parsley has sprung up to waist high.

But then there’s one of those moments that make the cemetery so special. I hear a familiar yaffling call, and there, posing on a headstone, is a green woodpecker.

These birds always remind me a bit of tiny dragons. There is a close-mown area nearby where they often search for ants, pounding away into the earth with their beaks. Unlike the great-spotted woodpecker, they don’t drum on dead trees to establish territory. This one was exceptionally obliging. This one is a female – the ‘moustache’ at the side of the face is all black in females, but has a red stripe in males. I found this description a bit confusing as I associate a moustache as being in the middle of the face, but for ornithologists it’s more of the ‘muttonchop’ variety.



Anyhow, this was a real delight, and well worth getting damp for. I normally hear the green woodpeckers, but they rarely stand still long enough for a photo. The wet weather has kept most of the visitors away, which makes the birds bolder.

Next, it was a wander along the road which is right next to the North Circular. The traffic noise is so loud here that it’s hard to make yourself heard, but the flowers are worth it. The ragwort is in full flower…

Last year’s salsify is in flower again….

And how about this lovely tangle of vetch? Some of my favourite plants are in the pea family.

One of the pleasures of a walk like this is seeing familiar plants, but noticing something new about them. Last year I was crunching through acorns as I passed these trees, but today I saw that they were in flower. I’d never even thought about oak trees having flowers (doh). The catkins are the male flowers, and there are tiny female flowers that look like buds amongst the leaves.

The comfrey is in flower, and the bumblebees are delighted. Along by the stream there is creeping comfrey and the larger common comfrey.

Common comfrey


And for some reason, in the middle of all this wildness there is a Japanese acer, just about holding its own.

There is bugle and great stitchwort….


Greater stitchwort

Cuckoo flower and shining cranesbill…

Cuckoo flower

And a great big patch of three-cornered garlic, with its triangular stem. I can’t resist having a little nibble as we march on through the woody bits of the cemetery. Overhead a buzzard is mewing and suddenly appears above us, pursued by a huge flock of crows – I count at least thirty, and more are joining from all directions. A sparrowhawk flies over, fast and low, and goes unmolested. The crows take such glee in the mobbing that you’d almost think they enjoyed it. I wonder if it’s one of those visceral reactions to anything that looks like a bird of prey? I always wonder this, and I still have no answers. And neither does the lovely Scotsman statue, standing in the spring woods with the bluebells dying back and the greenery rising all around him.




3 thoughts on “A Damp Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    Another wonderfully educational post. (I can see that I still have a lot to learn). You did well to catch that green woodpecker, as you say, they are often heard, but rarely seen. And that horse chestnut flower is beautiful. 👍👍


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