A Surprising Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, it was a cold, dull January day and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to see anything out of the ordinary in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery. I was feeling a bit out of inspiration after almost two years of blogging every day, but I should have known that if I go outside and pay attention, there is always something interesting to see.

At first, it was all about the sounds. There were flocks of redwings hurrying overhead – they are always in such a rush to be somewhere else. They call to one another all the time, even though it must take up energy – is it for reassurance, I wonder? I know that they can be heard at night flying over the rooftops on their way to or from Scandinavia. You can hear them in the recording below, taken on a windy morning on Tory Island in County Donegal.

The green woodpeckers were yaffling away. It’s such a loud call that it can be startling when a bird erupts from a nearby shrub.

There seemed to be quite a lot of unease – blackbirds alarm calling, robins ‘clicking’ away – but it wasn’t until we got into the open that we could see the kestrel perched on top of a small tree. I haven’t seen any kestrels for weeks, so this was a welcome sight. Kestrels don’t hunt other birds, but of course the birds don’t know that.

After a few minutes the kestrel was chased off by a mob of crows. Corvids don’t like anything that looks like a bird of prey on their patch, however small, and they are fearless and determined. The poor kestrel disappeared over the tops of the trees, but no doubt it will be back.

I’d already seen one fox – a rather sad-looking specimen with a bit of a limp. But then I saw two. They separated, and I just got a quick shot of this one. Some foxes will still be pairing up to mate, but in others the female will already be pregnant. Certainly the ones that I hear in my garden are extremely hungry – they think nothing of knocking over the bird table to get at the suet pellets, cheeky things.

In other news, though, much is stirring. I saw my first lesser celandine – quite a small specimen, but a sign of things to come. Soon, the woods will be carpeted with these yellow star-like flowers.

Many bulbs, originally planted on the graves, have gone ‘rogue’ and expanded out into the woods. I love this patch of daffodils.

You might remember that last year a party of mallards turned up on the tiny (and, I suspect, rather polluted) stream that wends its way through the cemetery. Today there was just one male. Is he part of an advanced guard, I wonder? I love how dapper mallards look, with their orange feet and their iridescent green heads.

I hadn’t noticed this grave before either: the algae has picked out all the detail on the carving, which is beautifully preserved, but the same can’t be said for the actual inscription.  The first person mentioned on the grave is Martha Farrer, who died in 1860. When I have a minute, I shall do a bit more research.

And so, we are heading back to the main entrance when my husband grabs my arm. There, just crossing the road, is the most beautiful fox. Look at that bushy tail!

I look at the fox, and he looks at me. I love the way that foxes size you up, deciding whether you’re friend or foe on the basis of some long-standing internal algorithm.

And then the fox waited for a car bearing some mourners to pass through, before crossing the path at a gentle trot and disappearing under the fence belonging to the housing estate next door. What a splendid sight, and what a great end to my supposedly ordinary walk around the cemetery. It just goes to show that it’s always worth going out, even when you don’t feel like it.

8 thoughts on “A Surprising Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. Anne

    First of all, don’t feel obliged to blog: if inspiration or time or other commitments interfere then leave it – we certainly won’t leave you if we don’t ‘hear’ from you for a day or two. Secondly, I enjoy the things you note during your walks, your commentary and your pictures.

  2. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    Only a couple of days ago we were watching a kestrel, it’s amazing how they can remain almost stationary on the wing, it was eventually seen off by a gull.
    The fox is very handsome, we still have two of last years cubs that come to our garden, named Bass and BonBon, they’re beautiful too.

  3. Ann Bronkhorst

    Enlarging his face, I wondered if there are traces of a scar. Could he be ‘Frank’ who was terribly scarred last year?

  4. Andrea Stephenson

    I’ve found inspiration lacking because I’m not going anywhere very much – Winston can’t go very far at the minute – but I went to the dene today and even though nothing much happened, it gives inspiration for writing!


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