No, this place with the wonderful tomb is not Highgate Cemetery. Highgate is one of the supposed "hidden gems" of London, and it's certainly amazing, but "hidden" it is not - in my book, anyway. It's so famous that it's besieged by people wanting to make movies, run events and do photo shoots, and so on, and you can only visit at certain times, on guided tours.
For the true atmospheric Victorian cemeterry experience, my vote goes to Nunhead Cemetery, fifteen minutes on the train from London Bridge station. Nunhead, consecrated in 1840, was one of the seven big cemeteries opened by the London Cemetery Company in Victorian times. Many famous and distinguished people were buried there in massive, often highly decorated tombs.
We all took a walk there on Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately, the company went bust in the mid-20th century and simply abandoned Nunhead.. Trees and brambles grew up and the huge monuments and elaborate headstones vanished into the undergrowth. Can you spot the tombstone here?
Some are a little creepy, as this very large monument, caught by a stray ray of sun
There is some really beautiful sculpture, like this graceful angel
At the gate were two lodges. One is inhabited, and it has a climbing frame and toys in its well tended garden, so I conclude that a family lives there with their kids. Apparently the house was originally leased by Southwark Council (which put in a caretaker) but it was later bought under right-to-buy legislation and is now a private home.
The other lodge is in ruins, just compare! You can see a bit of its pediment poking out amidst the bushes and beneath the protective covering erected by the Friends of the Cemetery.
The Friends of Nunhead Cemetery have done great things, and turned the cemetery into a thriving nature reserve, offering guided walks, historical walks and local events. On the rather chilly and damp day that we visited, they were sitting bravely outside a ramshackle shed offering leaflets, books, a rather stylish calendar and all kinds of information to visitors.
They're hoping to find a lottery grant to restore the other lodge, to use instead of their shed, and run a visitor information centre. Click the link to visit their site, for more information.
Although it's sad to see the graves so neglected, it's good that the cemetery is no longer open house for vandals and arsonists. The latter burned down the splendid Gothic revival chapel in the 1960s, leaving only a shell. Inside it, is now some artwork, which you see here being examined by a visitor - the dog really isn't that interested.
Here's a closeup - I think it's very interesting, and was part of a series of sculptures organised by the Friends. . It's by Mike Hoath and Sara Scott. .
And as well as the care taken with woodland conservation, there are also pleasant signs of life all round the cemetery. It's a favourite spot with local families,
there are beehives in the grounds of the abandoned lodge,
and fine distant views of Greenwich through the trees....
although some people just sleep happily through it all!