Dear Readers, it was with some trepidation that I headed off for my usual walk in St. Pancras and Islington cemetery. Storm Eunice was said to have been the worst storm for over 30 years, with four people killed in the UK, including one poor young woman less than a mile from where I live. A few trees had been damaged in the streets of East Finchley, some fence panels had been blown out and there was a general call for glaziers and tree surgeons, but I was most concerned about trees on open ground, such as those in the cemetery or places like Hampstead Heath.
It was still fairly breezy when we arrived at the cemetery but it was open, and the magnificent cedars of Lebanon at the entrance looked intact. Some of their huge, barrel-shaped cones had been blown off before their time, however – normally they literally fall to pieces on the tree, scattering their seeds everywhere.
I had never really looked at one properly before – the cone has a kind of architectural quality that I rather like, with its bands of silver and chocolate.
The blossom continues to increase, from just a few flowers on the crab apples and cherry-crabs to hundreds, with more and more buds bursting open. If the storm had been a few weeks later I have no doubt that it would have stripped the trees bare of their flowers. As it is, they’ve hung on.
What the wind seems to have done is found all the weak points, ripping damaged and old twigs and branches from the older and more exposed trees.
The woodland grave site is guarded by some of the cemetery workers – there are some huge trees here (including ‘my’ swamp cypress, which seems mercifully unharmed). The cedar of Lebanon here is surrounded by police tape, and one poor man is told off for venturing in to one of the graves. Elsewhere in the cemetery, another gigantic cedar of Lebanon has lost an entire branch, which would certainly have severely injured anyone passing underneath, so you can understand the need for caution.
As we approach the edge of the cemetery, closest to the North Circular Road, I can see how the wind has whipped through this stand of willow. It’s a visible manifestation of the direction and strength of the wind.
Further along, two trees from an avenue of young cherry-crabs have been blown over completely.
The birds have largely gone to ground, though the robins are still singing. But I see a big flock of nervous redwings tearing through the ash trees, and a flock of about forty chaffinches, buffeted by the wind and seeming to dare one another when the time comes to move on to the next tree.
And just in case you can’t tell from the blurry photos, it now starts to absolutely pour with rain. I try to keep cleaning my camera lens but I can’t keep up with the deluge.
And so, like any sensible people, we head for home, which proves not to be as straightforward as you’d think – along Kew and Withington Road, our usual route, there are several trees down, and so we have to zig zag through the undergrowth. But here, for your delectation, are a few damp, rain-smeared photos. Hopefully things will be a bit drier next week.