A Sunny Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, like many places in the UK, St Pancras and Islington Cemetery seems to have been trialling ‘no-mow May’ in some of lawns, and very pretty it looks too. I love the buttercups and ox-eye daisies that are left standing in this area, and I’m sure the pollinators appreciate it too. It must be hard managing the cemetery, where the needs of mourners must come first but there’s also a responsibility to the wider community, and to the creatures that use the many habitats that it provides.

Sadly, the hinoki cypress in the woodland grave area finally toppled during Storm Eunice a few months ago – I suspect that it has been more or less dead for several years. I do love the seed capsules, though – they remind me of armadillos.

And just to prove that I never notice anything, I suddenly realised that this magnificent tree, also in the woodland grave area, is a tulip tree!

I shall have to pay more attention going forward.

There is an awful lot of plastic in the cemetery, with all manner of plastic flowers, plastic decorations and general plastic bits and bobs. So I rather liked these ceramic flowers – they will hopefully stay put, rather than blowing all around the cemetery, and maybe they’ll be less attractive to the foxes who are always moving things about.

And how I love the extravagant fluffy heads of the salsify. Some are still in bud, and some have finished, but at every stage they are extraordinary. I always think that the buds look like someone trying to make a goose ‘shadow’ with their hand to entertain some children.

In the wooded areas, the speedwell is coming into flower. I love the intense blue-lilac flowers.

And the hogweed has taken over from the cow parsley now. What a boon it is to little pollinators of all kinds! Just look at the mass of little flies on this flowerhead.

And here is a St Marks fly coming into land…notice those dangly legs, which are so characteristic of this genus. This group of flies is very important for pollinating all manner of open-headed flowers such as hogweed, but also some of our garden plants, such as Achillea.

And it’s not just flies taking advantage of the bounty. This handsome bumblebee is an Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum), which tends to be about from as early as March.

You can tell an Early Bumblebee by the ginger colour at the end of its abdomen, as nicely illustrated below.

And finally, here’s another type of fly, a hoverfly (probably one of the Eristalis genus). These are such underrated pollinators, and their behaviour can be fascinating – some adult males hold three-dimensional territories close to spots where females might be feeding, for example. And they are such dapper insects, especially the bee and wasp mimics with their intricate patterns in black, yellow and orange. This photo also gives us a chance to admire the irregular petal shape on the hogweed – I imagine that the flowers close to the centre have the shortest petals, while those around the edge of the inflorescence have more room to grow.

So, it was a lovely walk, with much to admire for those inclined to dawdling, something I seem to do more and more as I get older. No longer do I want to zip along at speed, intent on my destination. The whole notion of ‘pottering’ gets more and more inviting. There are so many little things to enjoy, and they are so easily missed.


2 thoughts on “A Sunny Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    We get lots of St.Mark’s flies where we walk, they really are the most fascinating creatures, like something from science fiction.


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