Graveyards of northern London, 6 July 2008
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6 July 2008 - Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?

Arriving at Green Bridge at 9 on Sunday, I was pleased to see a few people waiting. The weather seemed threatening today and there had already been two brief showers on the way over, but it was good to see a few wouldn't be deterred by a little bit of rain. There are 9 of us today, a pretty good size for a group, enough to be nice, but not enough to be unmanageable.

Waiting for graveyards.

It is a short trip (more like a short detour) to Tower Hamlets Cemetery. It is a bit silly considering it was only a few hundred feet from the starting point, but it really is a wonderful place, a nice little wildlife reserve, and people should know what they have just off their front door step.

Peter had done lots of research about it all, so I turn that part over to him, introductions, history lessons and then being fully briefed, we walk around. Nobody all that famous here, the guy who owned the Cutty Sark, some former mayor of Poplar, and a memorial to all those people who died in the Bethnal Green incident during the war. It is a wonderful overgrown forest though. Try going back in the winter sometime, it is really nice then and a little more eerie.

In Tower Hamlets Cemetery.

Next stop then is Stoke Newington. We get onto the Regents Canal and leisurely cycle along. I must say, there has been a whole lot of debate on the Wheelers email list about all the new chicanes British Waterways have put in, I don't quite see the fuss. A slow relaxed ride on the canal is a nice Sunday morning thing to do. But we have to head north eventually, so we get off the canal and after hiding under a tree, waiting out a few minutes of rain, we make our way through the less busy roads up to Stoke Newington. Say what I might about Hackney, they have done a pretty nice job of creating a route of quieter bike routes through the borough.

Waiting out the rain somewhere south of Stoke Newington.

In Abney Park. Willam Booth's grave (founder of the Salvation Army).

As we learn later in the day, all of the seven Victorian cemeteries are in different states of repair and ownership. Abney Park is owned by the Council and they haven't done much to minimize or prevent vandalism, so there are lots of broken memorials. Poor William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army) has to suffer some indignity frequently. The cemetery (unlike Tower Hamlets) is still a working cemetery, so there are a few new graves, some of them with that horrible colored aquarium gravel on them. What's up with that, who is there that thinks that's attractive? But much of it is overgrown and there are still a bunch of magnificent monuments. We peek a sneak at the children's garden at the front entrance, but since none of us have kids along (immature adults don't count), we are not allowed in.

Bird box marked with male symbol.

Isaac Watts.

On our way out, we find a lovely gravestone. Right in the shadow of Isaac Watts, apparently wrote lots of hymns or something, there is a small gravestone with a bicycle on it, Tommy Hall. The inscription is a tribute from his cycling friends. I look up some things today about him, world record holder in 1903 of the motor paced racing (those funny guernsey races they do at Herne Hill). I become a card carrying member of Web 2.0 and make my first contribution to Wikipedia.

Lovely gravestone to Tommy Hall, and my first Wikipedia contribution.

But more important things, off to find some food then. We head over to Clissold Park. The cafe isn't super trendy like the rest of them in nearby Stoke Newington but the tea is fine as well as the bacon rolls. We sit out another short rain shower and then head off to our last cemetery. I'm getting out of familiar territory and I really should recky my rides better, sorry, so there is a bit of a misstep getting to Finsbury Park and the Parkland Walk but luckily there is some local knowledge along in the group and those mistakes get righted.

Tea stop in Clissold Park.

A bit of a hide in Finsbury Park to wait out another short shower and then onto the old rail line. It is a little bumpy but a nice way to get most of the way to Highgate. Slightly uphill the whole way but we also do miss out on some of the huge steep hills we would have to take otherwise. We are making great time and get to Highgate in time to fix two punctures before the 1 pm tour starts. A drawing pin has been particularly prolific and has put 5 holes in an inner tube.

Highgate is probably the most renowned of the Magnificent 7 and is the only one that charges admission. They tell us about 800 times that it costs �1000 a day to keep the gates open, so the admission charge is important to them. The tour is pretty nice and does seem worth what they are charging. I've been to the eastern side the year before on last year's ride, the side without the guided tour, so I'm quite interested to see the western side this time.

We spend about an hour walking around, hearing about the history, about the rise and decline of the cemetery and the eventual rescue from possibly just being bulldozed and becoming what it is today. Many of the monuments are quite amazing and the trees are wonderful. I do get scolded for accidently stepping on one of the landscape borders. We get caught in a few more rain showers, one of them pretty hard, but walking around and being under the trees, they are actually quite pleasant. But instead of going on about Highgate, just go see it, it is nice.

Going to see Highgate.

Lunch now looms high on the agenda. Highgate village is only a short distance away, although there is a large hill in between. We settle into a restaurant and have an enjoyable lunch. But if you guys are reading this, if you hadn't left us sitting for such a long time after handing out the menus again for desert before you finally came back, we would have ordered more instead of just asking for the bill, but oh well.

Heading up to the village.

And them my favorite part of the day, the swim. It does stop raining during lunch and it is vaguely sunny. So, I have to carry through on my threat to make everybody swim. I admit, I wavered slightly, especially earlier when it was raining so hard, but Hampstead Heath is only a mile or so away and most everybody seems agreeable to trying a swim. When we get there, rain seems to be threatening again, but all but one of us is up to going for a swim. And why was I worried? It was so nice. Yes, it was slightly cold and it started raining again while we were swimming, but what a great thing to do, swimming in the pond, having moor hens swimming by, herons to look at, and the rest of it. So, yeah, go see Highgate and then go for a swim. If you want to wait a day or two, that's fine.

Just before swimming in Hampstead Heath.

Ok, this last bit wasn't really planned much at all and was a bit disorganized. I sort of anticipated heading back from Highgate and not Hampstead, but plans change. So, feeling lazy, we just take big straight roads and head for Kings Cross. Somehow I acquire the aura to change all the traffic lights red right as I go through them (as opposed to my normal one to make them turn red a few seconds before I get there) and I have to stop and wait numerous times for everybody to catch up. At Kings Cross we all part ways, we head south and the rest of the group heads east back to Tower Hamlets. I think I did about 30 miles and a bit of walking. Everybody else probably did a somewhat similar amount. Thanks for coming, it was nice to indulge my cemetery interest and especially my love of swimming outdoors.