Friday, 4 January 2008
Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery
Despite having lived here for five years, I had never visited the cemetery that is five minutes walk from our front door. Just before Christmas, I took our baby, T, out for his morning walk on a very foggy day. Instead of heading up Hilly Fields as per usual, I went to Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery.
It was incredible. The mist hid all of the surrounding houses and it felt as if T and I were in some wood far from anywhere with gravestones providing the undergrowth.
As a resource for local wildlife, the value of the cemetery is obvious. But are the community appreciative of what is on their doorstep? There were few people there when we visited, nor on subsequent trips but local interest there obviously is. The question is, I suppose, what is the benefit that it brings and how to best secure that?
The renewal of Ladywell Fields shows that the Council is investing in our open spaces, but the purpose of a park is a lot more obvious than a largely disused cemetery. Of course, it is important to the local environment, but its value goes beyond that. It tells the story of this area for a period of its history, and that is an essential underpinning to any sense of identity for a place.
However, given the changing population of this place, and the declining numbers visiting the graves of their loved ones, Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery is increasingly cut off from the life of the community around it as much as it was from sight by the fog on the day of my visit.
I hope that the various community activists focusing their attention upon it are successful in their ambition, and I hope they, and the council, sensitively manage the tension between the cultural and the environmental value of the cemetery.