*I have no official evidence for this but the website does say it’s one of the largest in Europe.
Open since 1856, the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium is a vast Grade 1 listed landscape in Newham. With over 200 acres of parkland it provides a valuable haven for a wide range of city wildlife and the wildflowers, tree-lined avenues and formal gardens, provide an excellent place for a peaceful stroll.
Speckled Woods danced along the shaded cast iron railings leading to the grand main entrance which also houses a flower shop and café. In the area to the right of the café, where some of the oldest headstones can be found, wildflowers have created ribbons of colour between the grey stonework. Common Blues and Green Hairstreaks dipped in and out Bird’s-foot trefoil clusters and a pristine Painted Lady probed one of the copious Ox-eye daisies with its long proboscis. I was a bit worried for her safety as a large Emperor dragonfly was on patrol helicoptering closer and closer. These larger dragonfly species will often snatch butterflies in mid-flight but luckily, the Painted Lady fluttered off before he could make a meal of her.
I startled a fox who must have been snoozing in the shade and it shot off as if I’d scorched its tail, in turn sending a green woodpecker zipping from ground to tree, yaffling as it went. A Silver-Y moth bumbled around the grass, its wings a blur of movement and yet it hardly seemed able to raise its chunky body more than few centimetres off the ground. A scarlet Cinnabar moth whizzed past mockingly, like a Red Arrow.
Hedgerows chock-full of native hawthorn and blackthorn surrounded perfumed rose gardens where several Peacocks were chasing each other in a literal game of ‘Ring-a-ring-a-roses’. Beyond the gardens the burial areas roll on and on and it’s hard to take in the enormity of the site.
As I explored one of the more secluded woodland areas, away from the graves, I spotted a deflated helium balloon tangled in the grass. These can play havoc with wildlife if they are accidentally ingested or become tangled around limbs, so I picked it up to put in the next bin I saw. It turned out, the bin I found was already quite full and the balloon still had a fair bit of air inside. I glanced around to check no one was watching and tried to release the air by piercing the balloon with my keys. It wasn't as flimsy as I'd hoped. At this point I should probably mention that the balloon in question was Peppa Pig-shaped. And I was mid-stab of this children's icon, a head popped up from behind a headstone and gave me a look of astonishment. Peppa exhaled her last puff of air and I quickly folded her into the bin and scuttled off, mortified.
I decided it was a good time to leave and wandered back towards the entrance past large mausolea and monuments. A very tatty Small Copper accompanied me, resting periodically on daisy heads.
The fact that this site is a public cemetery means it isn’t included in the private Magnificent Seven but from what I saw, its scale, grandeur and abundant wildlife means it should be considered the eighth wonder of the London cemetery world.