Photo Essay: Cemetery Cats and other wildlife

The nice thing about gravehunting is that you don’t only see graves, you see so many other things too, as well as small wildlife or animals. The one animal that I tend to spot quite often in cemeteries are cats. Realistically they are the perfect environment for a hunter like the cat because of the abundance of rodents and insects that make the local cemetery their home. I always photograph them whenever I see them because they usually park off and keep a beady eye on you, sometimes they disappear into the undergrowth or sometimes they just continue doing what they do best.

These are some of the cats I have seen, and that I can remember seeing. There are others, and I will add to this collection as I find the pics.

This pair I spotted in Arnos Vale in Bristol

This beauty was in Holy Souls Cemetery in Bristol.

While this friendly moggy came to see what I was up to at Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery

and this black and white moggy gave me the gimlet eye in Highgate East Cemetery

This stunning fellow was a bit shy and would not come close. I was fortunate to get the image that I did. I photographed him in St Johns Terrace Cemetery in Chasetown.

This puss I photographed at the old Baptist Chapel burial ground in Tewkesbury.

One of my work colleagues sent me this one from Tewkesbury Cemetery. Thanks Graham.

And this one, while not crossing my path was enjoying the day at Brenthurst Cemetery in Brakpan.

Of course, it is not only cats that I encounter, but dogs too. Cemeteries make a perfect place to walk your faithful mutt.  There was this really stunning dog at Abbey Cemetery in Bath

Then there were these two doggies out on their walkies in Holy Ghost Cemetery in Basingstoke

and this nice mutt in Brompton

and I saw Fred Bassett in Sarum St Martin in Salisbury. Ok, maybe it was a distant relative of Fred

Oddly enough I have almost no images of cats in South African cemeteries, although do recall seeing this doggie in the New Roodepoort Cemetery

and I have been lucky to see foxes on two separate occasions. The first time in Tower Hamlets

And my next encounter was in West Norwood

and there was a bunny in Belgrave

I have seen deer in 3 separate cemeteries but have never been able to photograph them, and of course squirrels and birds galore. So far though no elephants have been spotted, that is because they are past masters of camouflage. I would hate to have to bump into one hiding in a tree, it could be dangerous.

Cemeteries are really mini ecosystems of their own; they provide shelter for small critters and bring a touch of greenery to the city. And, they are fascinating places to visit.

I rest my case

© DRW 2017-2020. Created 27/01/2017 

Photo Essay: Dick Whittington and His Cat

Now when I was a wee lad in school, they told us a story about Dick Whittington’s Cat. I seem to vaguely remember that he became the Lord Mayor Of London (Dick Whittington, not the cat). Naturally old age has made me forget the whole story and frankly I do not recall it even after reading about it on Wikipedia. So why am I raising the subject? On the way to Highgate Cemetery from Archway Tube Station there is a long hill (appropriately called “Highgate Hill”) to climb, and at Google Earth co-ordinates  51° 33.993’N,   0° 8.211’W  you will find Dick Whittington’s Cat, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. 

I have to admit I was puzzled when I first saw it, but then the grey matter kicked in (briefly). 

The only real markings on the statue that I saw was a plaque,

and the stone that the cat is on has a worn engraving that I could not get a clear photograph of but which identifies this as the Whittington Stone.

Apparently, the Whittington Stone marks the spot where Dick Whittington is said to have heard the Bow Bells prophesying his good fortune: “Turn again Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London!”.  In fact there is a whole conflab about this humble moggy and the stone he is sitting on,  All I remember was Highgate Hill stretching endlessly in front of me. 

Out of curiosity, the Bow Bells are those of St Mary-Le-Bow near St Paul’s Cathedral, although whether you could hear them 6,5 kilometres away is debatable. According to tradition a true Cockney must be born within earshot of the sound of Bow Bells. Family lore says that my Grandmother was born in earshot of the bells (only 750 metres away).  

Actually I preferred the moggy I saw in Highgate Cemetery, he was much nicer looking anyway. Meow.

DRW ©  2013-2020. Retrospectively created 15/06/2016 

London Highgate (East) Cemetery

I suppose we all have places we want to see before we die. Some of us have places we want to see before we die and then get buried in them! Highgate Cemetery is definitely on my list. Situated in walking distance from Archway underground station on the Northern Line, it is well worth taking a trip to. The cemetery is divided into an East Side and West Side, although on this occasion my trip only covered the East Side. Google Earth co-ordinates are:  51.566900°,  -0.146533° 

Once past the gates there are just graves, tangled undergrowth, trees and more graves. It seems to be as if somebody randomly buried people, but I do believe there is some sort of sense to what is going on there. The first grave, is that of Mary Ann Webster,  who was buried here on 12 June 1860. 26 years before Johannesburg was founded!

Bear in mind that way back in 1860 people still used horse drawn hearses and the Victorians were doing their best at mourning. I don’t know how quickly it filled, but it soon became THE place to be seen when you died. I did expect a lot of artistic statuary, but strangely enough there wasn’t too much, instead I did see a lot of similar headstones, and some had incredibly long inscriptions too. 
In parts the undergrowth has completely covered the graves, and moss and lichens abound. In fact the cemetery seems to be its own ecosystem. Given the amount of rain and fertile soil the dominant colour is green. 
And there is abundant birdlife and I even saw squirrels going about their business amongst the dead. The cemetery has seen the Boer War, and both World Wars, and I saw graves from all three of these conflicts. There is even the grave of a Victoria Cross Holder, Sergeant Robert Grant, (1837-1867), who won his VC during the Indian Rebellion.   
There are supposedly 316 identified Casualties listed by the Commonwealth War Graves in the cemetery  Most that I saw were easily identified by the familiar white headstone, 
A Cross of Sacrifice is situated in the West Side of the Cemetery, but I could not access it and ended up photographing it through the fence.   
The rich and famous have also found their repose here, amongst others are Karl Marx, Sir Ralph Richardson, Douglas Adams, and Dr Yusuf Dadoo from South Africa. Karl Marx seems to garner the most attention, but I was much happier to see the grave of Douglas Adams. “Don’t Panic” was all I could say to him.   
Of course the weather was variable during my visit, and I experienced rain and sunshine, but I can just imagine what it must look like during a snow storm. This is not a cemetery that is easy to visit. While there are tarred main roads inside it, there are also very treacherous paths between the graves that are really like a series of connected mud patches. The moss and lichen is also growing on everything, and what interested me was how it would often grow in the shape of the inscriptions on the headstones.
The cemetery is still in use and is operated by Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust.  Tours of the West Side are run from Monday to Sunday and I am definitely going to do one before I leave London. In fact, I will probably redo the East Side again just because it is so beautiful. 
London Fire Brigade Memorial
This is Joyce, she is one of my favourite children’s statues. It seems as if she was 5 years old when she died, but even though I have many photographs of her I do not have a picture of her plinth. She is pretty though, in a battered and weathered fashion, and that is true for many of the statues and angels in this cemetery.
Except it may not be true for this fellow, I had missed seeing him the first time I was here, but spotted him the second time around.
A lot of the artwork just overflows with emotion and beauty, and there are another two pieces I am very fond of in this cemetery:

I have never really understood art for arts sake, but some of these works that I see in cemeteries are all about emotion and devotion. They can be very powerful.

Highgate, as the first of the “Magnificent Seven” would unfairly become the yardstick by which I would measure the other six of these famous cemeteries in London. In all fairness though, it should be the Magnificent Eight because Highgate West is really a cemetery in it’s own right. With retrospect these two places are very different, even though they are across the road from each other.
In all likelihood, the next time I go to Highgate I will see different headstones to what I saw in March 2013, and hopefully by then I will have all 7 (or 8) of the Magnificent Seven under my belt, and I will see it once again through new eyes.  And because there is so much to see at Highgate East I have created a whole page dedicated to photographs of Highgate East. This can be accessed by turning the page. 

DRW © 2013-2020. Reviewed 21/01/2015, recreated images 28/02/2016