An August Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

‘My’ swamp cypress

Dear Readers, I didn’t get to the cemetery last week because of the interminable rain, so it was a real pleasure to see what was going on this week. For a start, the swamp cypress was looking extremely fine. I know you’re not meant to have favourites, but this tree is very close to my heart.

But then, how about the trunk on this oak? It seems to have been much-lopped in its early years, and it’s covered in puckers and scars, but is no less characterful for its troubles. It reminds me of one of those many-breasted statues of Artemis that you can see in museums, and, like all oaks, this tree probably has been ‘mother’ to many, many other species. Or maybe it’s just me. See what you think

Photo One by Son of Groucho from Scotland, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Statue of Artemis from the Ephesus Museum (Photo One)

In other news, one of the cherry laurels has become a refuge for snails of all kinds. I guess that the waxy leaves provide an excellent protection against drying out, though the snails don’t appear to be eating them. This brown-lipped banded snail (Cepaea nemoralis) reminds me rather of a mint humbug.

I think that this is probably a rather worn garden snail (Cornu aspersum). It looks like an elderly snail to me, battered by life but clinging on.

And this is another brown-lipped snail, though not quite as pristine as the first one. Isn’t it interesting how we (generally) view snails as small characters, rather lovable in their way, but don’t extend the same tolerance to slugs? Maybe the shells help to offset the general sliminess.

Late summer is already shading into autumn, with bountiful supplies of conkers…


And rosehips….

But there are some new plants in flower as well, such as this musk mallow (Malva moschata)…

and these lovely common toadflax (Linaria vulgaris). I love this plant, with its lemon and orange flowers. In fact, I have a great fondness for all toadflaxes – they are often great for pollinators and their flowers just ask for a bee to land on them.

There has been a whole lot of strimming going on on the banks where I’ve seen green woodpeckers in the past, but at the moment the magpies are there, working over the dried grass for tasty insects.

We take a quick run around the field and have a look at the Himalayan balsam. This is such an attractive, showy plant. I can see why people planted it in the past – it’s like having a giant moth orchid in your back garden. What a shame it’s such a thug – the bees seem to love it.

I spot a sparrowhawk flying overhead. I also see a recently-fledged blackbird, looking very small and vulnerable. Fortunately I could hear at least one adult bird in the tree overhead, so I moved quickly on, keeping my fingers crossed that this little one would soon be fully equipped for life in the cemetery. At least there are very few cats.

This crow was pecking at a piece of cellophane that had been used to wrap flowers with great determination, and even tried to fly off with it when we approached.

We couldn’t see anything of food value, and so my husband put the cellophane back in the bin. I reminded him that experiments have shown that corvids don’t forget someone who has done them a disservice – it’s been shown that they can identify someone who has wronged them even if they change their clothes and wear a mask. Let’s hope that this act of kindness won’t be misinterpreted, or our walks in the cemetery are about to become much more ‘interesting’.

Photo Credit

Photo One by Son of Groucho from Scotland, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

4 thoughts on “An August Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. Anne

    I like the beautifully descriptive phrase you have used,”late summer is already shading into autumn”. Winter has clamped down hard on us this week, just in case we became too optimistic about the arrival of spring! This has been an enjoyable walk with you.

  2. Ann Bronkhorst

    Those banded snails have lovely and quite varied shells. Agreed, we respond to snails more positively than we do to slugs, on the whole, perhaps because of shell versus slime. I’m becoming more interested in slugs just by watching them. But NOT in my kitchen.

  3. gertloveday

    Your magpies look more slender than the variety we have here. We have a couple of big ones making mincemeat of our door mat (for nest building we assume.) Australian ones have a beautiful warbling song.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Your magpies are amazing – I follow a woman on Facebook who looked after an orphaned magpie and they are such cheeky, intelligent birds! Our magpies cackle like machine guns.


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