Two days of wildlife, culture and commemoration in and around London

At the weekend, we spent a very happy couple of days exploring parts of London we haven’t been to before as well as some old favourites, and a foray out into the Surrey countryside. Here are some of the photos from our travels, with words kept to a bare minimum…

First stop, just after emerging from the Jubilee Line at London Bridge was the Hop Exchange, a remarkable building which a friendly security man was very happy to tell us all about – as he said, ‘what is the point of learning if you keep it to yourself’! The similarities with  the Halifax Piece Hall we explored on one of our visits earlier in the year – same function, different commodity –  were very apparent.

On emerging back into the street, we noticed the Shard looking over our shoulder, a looming but kindly presence throughout our time in Southwark:

A wander around the streets took us to the delightful Red Cross Garden which gave us a nymphal Southern Green Shieldbug…

…and then to Crossbones Cemetery, one of our main reasons for this trip. With a rich but shocking history as a last resting ground for thousands of those on the fringes of society, it is a tiny haven from city life, despite its proximity to numerous landmark features.


Lunch at The George, with its galleries, before more walking the streets, peering wherever fancy took us in the manner of all good psychogeography. And of course spending as much time with the new – the incredible Shard – as the old…

Peckham next for more of the (relatively) new, with the Pioneer Centre, from the 1930s Peckham Experiment approach to community and social welfare, and Peckham Library, the product of millennial modernity:

Overnight in the Barking Ibis gave us chance for a lovely walk at dawn along Barking Creek, one of our favourite parts of the Metropolitan Essex coastline, with Jersey Cudweed, Cormorants and Cetti’s Warblers to guide our way:

Then it was back to Waterloo, and a jaunt down the Necropolis Line, or the modern equivalent thereof, to Brookwood Cemetery in deepest Surrey.

Brookwood may have been established to satisfy an urgent need in the heart of the city, but its size is so vast (it is the largest cemetery in the UK) that it is still under-utilized, with lovely acid heathland habitats within its bounds.

Special plants, such as Devil’s-bit Scabious and Dwarf Gorse, abound ..

.. along with all manner of animal life, including Small Copper, Fork-palped Harvestman, Alder Leaf-beetle. Rhododendron Leafhopper and the green spider Nigma walckenaeri …

… and a whole lot more.

A large section of the cemetery is given over to military burials; the most thought-provoking part of the whole site is the American section, the gleaming gravestones being laid out with such precision, and eliciting many conflicting emotions around the futility of war within the beauty of the natural world…

After the cemetery, there was just time for a stroll along the Basingstoke Canal….

…before heading back to Crossbones for the monthly vigil, a rather moving plea for social justice, sadly as relevant nowadays as when the cemetery was in operation.

Two cemeteries, from two eras: when will we ever learn?