A Walk of Small Pleasures

St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, I haven’t been to St Pancras and Islington Cemetery for months – we went every Saturday during the two years of lockdown, but since then the pace of life has picked up and we seem to be doing so much ‘stuff’ that the simpler pleasures have been squeezed out. But today we returned, and nature has been just doing her ‘stuff’ the whole time.

The dandelions have gone, but the catsears and nipplewort are still in full flower.

I love the way that the leaves of the nipplewort are going purple from the tip, as if gently dipped in ink.

I love this very characterful small tree – I suspect that it’s dead, but with the sun behind it it looked rather like a cartoon character with a particularly hairy wig.

In the woodland graveyard area the ragwort is still in full flower too – I went looking for cinnabar moth caterpillars but couldn’t find any. Still, this plant is extremely popular with all sorts of pollinators. In the countryside it’s reviled for poisoning horses and cattle, but this is really only a problem if it gets mixed up with other hay plants. No chance of poisoning any livestock here.

And the rosebay willowherb is coming into flower – always worth a look in case there are any hawk moth caterpillars. In fact, it’s always worth a look anyway.

I said hello to the swamp cypress, my favourite tree. Soon she’ll be turning the colour of rust before she sheds her leaves (an unusual case of a conifer that’s deciduous).

I stopped to admire the flowers on the burr, another popular plant with pollinators (there’s a common carder bumblebee on this one).

And then we had a walk around the new area close to the rear of the cemetery, where a meadow has been cut and re-turfed, and a tarmac path popped in. Just look at the cracks that are appearing already! Nature will have its way, for sure. It’s just a shame that the central area of this path is so bland compared to what was there before. I imagine that some new graves will be going in soon.

But there’s still a wild area at the back of the site, where some teasel is attracting the bumblebees.

I have a friend who has lovingly grown 200 teasel seedlings. She wasn’t impressed when I told her that my crop of teasels has grown from a single teasel that I planted two years ago. Once you have one of these pollinator-friendly plants, you’ll have them forever :-). The only good thing is that the seedlings are relatively easy to identify and remove if surplus to requirements.

An abundance of teasel in the back garden

At the back end of the cemetery path, the brambles are extending their eager fingers across the tarmac. I noticed that in some places the blackberries are already ripe, which is good news for foragers of all species.

And look at the thistledown – it always astonishes me how much can be packed into a single seedhead. No wonder creeping thistle is such a successful plant.

And it’s been a good year for the ash trees too, which is good to see in the light of ash dieback. How many of these ‘keys’ will make it to adulthood is anyone’s guess.

Late July/August is a time for a pause: the birds are moulting, many plants have already flowered, and the heavy labour of spring and early summer is done. It’s time for many creatures to have a rest, and I know how they feel – at work so many people are on holiday and there’s a sense of pause and taking stock. Let’s enjoy this time if we’re able to, before the world turns again towards the work of autumn, with its new academic term and general increase in pace. And let’s take pleasure in the small things. There are plenty around if we give ourselves time to look.

4 thoughts on “A Walk of Small Pleasures

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      So many yellow daisy-type flowers around at the moment, Mike – send me a pic and I’ll see if I can id it, but as they sometimes hybridise I wouldn’t hold out too much hope 🙂

  1. Liz Norbury

    I do love that feeling of pause at this time of year, and the abundance of berries. At Friends of the Towans, we’re taking a break from thinning out the ragwort forest which springs up each year around some of the highest towans (dunes), now we’ve spotted some cinnabar moth caterpillars in residence.


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