A Tale of Two Trees in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, what a cold, damp and grey day it was in the cemetery today! The wind was blowing a gale – we are getting the edge of Storm Arwen, who has been a real beast in the northern parts of the UK. Yesterday, the Meteorological Office issued a most unusual red warning for parts of Scotland and northern England – this means severe and imminent danger of loss of life and substantial property damage, and at least one person in Northern Ireland was killed in the high winds. Lest you think we are being imprudent by walking in the woods, I can assure you that the gusts are much less severe so far than elsewhere, but it was very chilly. We trudged along with our thermals on and our heads down, but as usual there was something to see.

First of all, I noticed this little ginkgo, a spot of sunshine in the relentless grey. This infant tree seems to be hanging on to its leaves, probably because it’s well protected by the cedars of Lebanon and the swamp cypresses (of which more shortly).

But then we drifted a little off piste, and came across this extraordinary sight.

An older ginkgo just across the way must have given up all its leaves at once. Look at this carpet of gold! They are rumoured to do this, but I’d never seen it before. How beautiful.

And what is that magnificent russet tree in the background? Regular readers will know that this is my favourite tree in the cemetery, the swamp cypress.

My husband was pondering why I loved it so much, and we came to the conclusion that it’s because it seems to stand between two worlds. It’s a conifer, and so you’d expect it to keep its leaves, but instead it’s deciduous. Conifers are so often trees of cold regions, but this tree is found in Texas and Louisiana. Although it can grow in swamps, it actually prefers dry soils. In other words, this is a tree that eludes categories and neat classification, like all my favourite people and animals. But more than that, it has a fairy-tale quality that is easy to see once you tiptoe under the low-hanging branches and stand under the canopy of soft leaves.

And here is a little cone, just forming. They are rather like medieval maces with their tiny plates.

My Collins Tree Guide describes the trunk as ‘sinuous’. I know what they mean.

There’s just something about this tree that somehow makes me feel loved and protected. It’s difficult to explain, but I could just nestle down on this bed of fallen leaves and sleep for a week. I know ‘tree-huggers’ have a bad name, but I have put my arms around this one more than once when unobserved.

Do you have a favourite tree? Or am I alone in thinking that, if you pay attention, they have character? Let me know, Readers!

3 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Trees in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. Anne

    I definitely have favourite trees – many formed important anchors in my growing up world. As for touching, stroking or hugging a tree, go for it no matter who is watching. Who knows, someone may copy your actions and be surprised by their experience!

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  2. gertloveday

    The big peppercorn tree in our garden was always a safe and welcoming place for me. I used to climb up to my favourite cleft and hide when I was supposed to do the washing-up.

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