I was not entirely sure if it was me or my two-wheeled vehicle that felt the need for some inner city exploration. But out we went as I pedalled through the city, crossing a muddy Thames to reach Stoke Newington via the City of London and a Shoreditch that’s ever creeping north into Dalston. Our destination: Abney Park Cemetery. As I locked my vehicle to the gate for it to witness the passing of Stoke Newington life on the high street, I entered the urban oasis.
Abney Park Cemetery has been a final non-denominational resting place, garden and educational institute since the 1840s. It was considered a pioneering project for its time and was the first cemetery in Europe that also functioned as an arboretum. It’s been a local nature reserve since 2000 and indeed, when you enter Abney Park Cemetery you enter an oasis of inner city woodland, with unpaved paths and uneven foot ways leading you past overgrown tombs.
You’ll also discover an abandoned chapel that clearly hasn’t been used for years. Originally open to all, it had been the cemetery’s centrepiece for religious tolerance. A mix of notable people, including the founders of the Salvation Army, William and Catherine Booth, and prominent horticulturists, philanthropists, and religious, cultural and political non-conformists are buried in its grounds.