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Category Archives: 21st Century
In an utterly shameless bit of SEOery, here are a couple of old (2005 I think) photos of Edgwarebury Jewish Cemetery, where Amy Winehouse's funeral took place today. The cemetery was opened in 1974, and controversial plans for its expansion onto green belt land were approved on appeal last year.
Amy was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, where her grandmother was also cremated.
Congratulations to the City of London, Croydon, Westminster Hanwell, East Finchley, Gunnersbury, Margravine, Mill Hill and Wood Green cemeteries, who have been awarded a Green Flag for 2011. City of London was also named as a Green Heritage Site. My favourite green burial site, Epping Forest, also won a Green Flag.
Green Flags are awarded by Keep Britain Tidy, to recognise and reward the best green spaces in the country, judged against eight criteria, including being welcoming, safe and secure, well-maintained and - delightfully - having a marketing strategy in place (for those who don't know, I wear a marketing hat when I'm not wearing a cemetery hat).
Congratulations to London's cems winners - all of whom also won a Green Flag last year. Let's see a few more London cemeteries joining them next year.
Starring Abney Park Cemetery as well as Amy Winehouse. Love the song, love the vid, love (obviously) the cemetery.
I had an excellent tour of the above-ground cemetery with David, and saw a few things I'd never seen before in Brompton: Sioux chief Long Wolf, who died in London while on tour with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and was buried in Brompton until he went home in 1997; Director of Continental Journeys to Queen Victoria, Joseph Julius Kanné's stone erected by the Queen and Prince of Wales; professional soldier Colonel Henry Byrne, who fought in three campaigns and rather nicely has replicas of his medals on his tomb.
Then it was time for a (yes, I'm going to use the s-word) spooky look at the catacombs with Terence. Kensal Green's catacombs have electric lights fitted, at least in the bit you're taken to see. Brompton's, on the other hand, have tea lights. It is very, very dark and my imagination jumped immediately to tripping in the dark and putting my hand through the side of a coffin, and wondering just what, exactly, I was standing on. Fun, all the same - and my guess from KG that catacombs are never a commercial success with the English was bourne out by the swathes of empty space in Brompton's.
Exhibitors included the Met's "stopping drugs and cottaging in the Parks" department, who were all very jolly - as well as the Friends of Nunhead and the Friends of Kensal Green. All in all, a fun day out, if only it hadn't rained quite so hard.
Inevitably, there are more photos...
When people find out I hang around in cemeteries, one question that's inevitable is: "where do you want to be buried?" The answer, for a very long time, has been "nowhere". I didn't want to be buried at all, because - forgive me for being blunt here - I couldn't stand the thought of rotting (severe eczema in childhood will have that effect). I like cremation: it's quick, it's easy and - with a bit of luck - there's no memorial spot for my friends and relations to neglect after I'm gone. And I like fire.
But I'm really worried about the environmental impact. Assuming that the Natural Death Centre have their figure right, I don't want my last act on earth to be the equivalent of a 500 mile car journey. What to do?
Chums, I've figured out what to do. Woodland burial is it. Here's how I found out.
I spent an utterly brilliant day at the London Funeral Exhibition at Epping Forest Burial Park (no indeed; Epping is definitely not London). Burial at the park is done in an environmentally sustainable way: that means biodegradable coffins, wooden memorials only, in land that - once it's full - will revert to natural woodland.
It's a gorgeous site, which just feels like part of Epping Forest. Until, that is, you're walking through the woodland and come across small clearings with wooden markers, some decorated, many not, then you spot the newer graves... And it feels like being buried there would be returning my atoms to the dust whence they came: I like the idea of feeding trees very much.
Many thanks to the following for an excellent time:
- Paula and Kevin for lifts to the station and not telling me I'm crazy
- the other staff of the Woodland Burial Parks Group for their obvious love of their jobs
- Dr Hannah Rumble for the lecture on natural burial
- Rosie from the Natural Death Centre: let's get open-air cremation in the UK!
- Mervyn from the Institute of Civil Funerals for explaining why they're not humanists (and calling me "dogmatic" - he's right)
- the horses for an excellent trip round the park.
Visiting: Epping tube station and a cab, or drive. Kinda ironic that an environmentally sensitive burial site can only be reached by car. But also inevitable. Photography not an issue (be sensitive to livings, of which there were a few): on finding out about my website, at least three members of staff asked me "have you brought your camera?"