A March Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery


Dear Readers, it’s been about six weeks since I had a fall and damaged my ankle, but today it felt strong enough for me to resume my Saturday walks in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery. Regular readers will know that this is one of the UK’s largest cemeteries, with an estimated one million people buried or cremated here since it opened in 1854. It isn’t actually in Islington or St Pancras, but is instead about a ten minute walk up the road from where I live in East Finchley. Today was a cold, grey day, but there were flocks of redwings everywhere. At one point, I followed the sound of them off the path and into the woods, where the sound  of their calls seemed to come from every point of the compass. It sounded like a stream of sound, but sadly when I tried to capture it for you the sound of the North Circular Road drowned it out, so I will have to leave it to your imagination. Suffice it to say that there is a kind of urgency about these birds now, as they fatten up in preparation for heading back to Scandinavia where they will spend the summer. God speed, little thrushes!

Redwing in an ash tree.

In other news, there was a very confident fox who seemed to pop up every few minutes as he trotted around the graves looking for something edible. I suspect that he is supporting a vixen who is denned up somewhere, expecting her cubs, or maybe even with cubs already born. You could almost track him by watching the cars of some of the cemetery visitors, who often slowed down to watch him and try to get a photo. I only hope that they got a better shot than I did.

There really is so much going on at the moment – I heard a buzzard and then another one, and watched them flap away, pursued by crows as usual. There are great spotted woodpeckers drumming, green woodpeckers yaffling and goldcrests being their usual hyperactive selves in the yew trees, plus all the usual finches and tits and other little birds. And the spring ephemeral plants are coming into flower. I saw my first lesser celandines today, and noticed that many of them have variegated leaves. How had I not noticed this before? They were one of Wordsworth’s favourite flowers, and I think they’re fast winning me over too.

The snowdrops are still out in the shadier places.

But the crocuses don’t seem as prolific this year as last year – I wonder if the drought last summer, followed by a cold snap this spring, have hindered them a bit? It’s always lovely to see them nonetheless, although they all seem a bit sad and droopy.

The delicate leaves of the cow parsley are spreading themselves across the forest floor…

and the more robust leaves of the hogweed are waiting for their moment too. Interestingly, looking at the photo below I think that the stinging nettle-y plant to the right is probably a species called small nettle (Urtica urens) – the leaves are more deeply toothed than on common nettle (Urtica diocia), and the little ‘tooth’ at the end of each leaf is about the same length as the other ‘teeth’. Alas, it is every bit as ‘sting-y’ as its larger relative, but it also feeds red admiral, peacock and small tortoiseshell caterpillars, so I’m happy to see it.

One plant that is in very fine form is the cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera), which is all over the cemetery in both its wild and cultivated forms. And very pretty it is too! It is the first of the plum trees to bloom, and by the time we get to March I for one am desperate for some signs of spring.

And finally, dear Readers, in the woodland burial area there are a lot of these plants, which look most unlikely candidates for a forest floor. Any ideas about what they are? I feel that I should know, but the sight of them in this location has rather got me flummoxed. They seem to be doing rather well, but I can’t help thinking that they look a little out of place.

Fortunately there are some primroses coming through as well, which is always a cheery sight.

And then it’s time to head home to immerse myself in my cell biology. I have yet another assignment coming up on 14th March, which is less than a fortnight away, and here am I still catching up on my Cell Communication, which is fascinating but involves a lot of new vocabulary. I think if I hear about phosphorylation one more time my poor brain will combust, but I’m sure it’s good for me. Onwards!

4 thoughts on “A March Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. chrisswan94

    Your strange plant looks a little like bamboo but I’m sure it’s not. Some type of Euphorbia sp. ? I love the photos. I agree that the daytime vixen is probably hoping some kindly visitors might take pity and offer a treat. It’s a sign that spring isn’t far away when the lesser celandines are in bloom. Thanks Bugwoman, another great post.

  2. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    Could the plant be a Chinese mahonia (mahonia fortunei)? (That’s what Google lens suggested when I took a photo of your photo). Were the leaves slightly spikey? If it was that, then you can expect some yellow flowers later in the year… 😊

  3. Anne

    Having injured my knee – whilst weeding, can you believe! – I am particularly pleased to know you are mobile again.


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