Nature-ist: Tower Hamlets Cemetery

By Hazel Last edited 99 months ago
Nature-ist: Tower Hamlets Cemetery
Photo by Hazel Tsoi-WIles
Photo by Hazel Tsoi-WIles
Photo by Hazel Tsoi-Wiles
Photo by Hazel Tsoi-Wiles
Photo by Hazel Tsoi-Wiles
Photo by Hazel Tsoi-Wiles
Photo by Hazel Tsoi-Wiles
Photo by Hazel Tsoi-Wiles
Photo by W P Wiles
Photo by W P Wiles
Photo by W P Wiles
Photo by W P Wiles
Photo by W P Wiles
Photo by W P Wiles

What is it?

33 acres of woodland and meadow in east London! Originally opened in 1841, Tower Hamlets Cemetery (or Bow Cemetery as preferred by some locals) has not had any burials since 1966. The layout was an orderly set of identical squares so that graves could be easy to locate - but it's a wild and unruly place now, and was renamed a Local Nature Reserve in 2001. More land was added just before the millennium and there is a 'greenlink' to Mile End park.

Where is it?

Between Mile End and Bow Road stations, east London. Look for St Clement's hospital, an enormous, gated, abandoned old Victorian building that brilliantly sets the tone for the cemetery lurking behind, which has basically the same old, abandoned feel. It's somewhat disorientating to emerge back on to Bow Road, heaving with traffic, after only a few minutes in the verdant quiet of the cemetery.

Why has it tickled our fancy?

It's massive and very wild. No pretty, over-cared for, trimmed and trussed up planting here; this is a cemetery that is dark and gloomy in some places, sunny and meadow-like in others. It is also dripping with history and is used by schools, community groups and locals for walks, talks and generally getting to know green stuff.

Nature notes:

Check out the gallery of all the nature photographed in the cemetery. Since it became a nature reserve, it's been a haven not just for flowers, butterflies and birds but also a haven for eastenders looking for some wildness that doesn't involve fried chicken, buy one get one free alcohol offers or knives. (Though that's not saying those things have never appeared in the park...) A beautiful place to visit, with just enough traditional graveyard spookiness to add an edge to a walk through the space.

Find out more from the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park or take a walk around it yourself. The park is open every day.

Last Updated 09 August 2009