Let me just say, I am not reviewing this as a place to be put to rest, but as a place to visit, to relax in and as a place to work off that Sunday lunch.
Seems a bit weird giving a review of a cemetery, they are all dull, morose and depressing right? Heeeelll no! This is a fascinating and peaceful place. As one of the 'Magnificent Seven' cemeteries in London, it marked the official boundary of old Victorian London and has the ornately carved tombs that go with it - I dub thee the 'Père Lachaise' of South-East London.
In a bit of a sad state of repair in places but this 52 acre site is wonderful place to escape and clear the mind. At the top of one of the hills (take the path on the right as you come through the main gate) there is a vantage point from which you can see right out and across to St Pauls Cathedral. They even keep the trees down at this point and have installed a bench for those with tired legs.
Row upon row of headstone march their way out of the bracken, some tripping over exposed tree roots and lay chipped and broken on the ground. These clash in stark contrast with the perfectly maintained tombs of fallen war heroes, all bunched together in plots scattered across the vast area.
A strangely lovely place, and a welcome patch of green in the London metropolis.
What an amazing location! I recently saw some site-specific theatre here on a rainy evening. Walking up the hill from the gates right at sunset was spectacular, as was roaming amongst the ruins and pathways through leafy greenery and headstones. I could have wandered for much longer if it hadn't been raining and getting dark fast! (And if the area hadn't been controlled by the piece of theatre!)
Dappled sunlight, ancient graves, scenic views of London Nunhead Cemetery is a brilliant place to let out your inner goth kid while still soaking up some rays. After an extremely relaxing Sunday afternoon stroll through this gloriously green and overgrown old place of rest, this 52-acre South London cemetery is now definitely added near the top of my things-to-do again (and again and again) list.
Indeed, if you're keen for a mortality pondering picnic, a fantastic shutter bug day out or an evocatively excellent place to jog or walk the dogs, think Nunhead Cemetery. I'll certainly be back. Although there weren't crowds of visitors when I was there, I have heard it's an especially popular destination. Since its opening in 1840, people literally have been dying to get in (sorry, couldn't resist).
By the way, I'm not sure what's up with the "difficult to find" comments in some of the other reviews. The cemetery is a very short and straightforward walk from Brockley Station, and it's not far at all from Nunhead Station either.
Nunhead is one of Magnificent Seven Victorian Cemeteries of London. While Abney Park cemetery is the better known, Nunhead is probably the one in better shape.
Nunhead is larger, perhaps grander and is the only one of the Magnificent Seven that comes close to matching Abney Park in terms of atmosphere (read:spookiness). It too has the ruins of an Abbey/Chapel near its centre, as well as a large family crypt near the front gates. Part of the cemetery is a nature reserve and much like Abney Park is overgown in tangled plant life.
Where Nunhead loses out a bit to Abney Park is the well kept half which is not a nature reserve and more typical cemetery which makes it a bit less of an interesting visit when you step out of the overgrowth onto well kept lawn.
Still, it's well worth the journey down South to see the second most atmospheric cemetery in Zone 2.
- very atmospheric cemetery
- most well preserved and grandest of Magnificent Seven
- large and good for long walks
- part is a regular cemetery
- out of the way, not the easiest to find
If you live in the Nunhead, Peckham area and find yourself in need of some fresh air and a bit of a tramp I'd recommend a wander round Nunhead cemetery. Lovers of classic Gothic Victorian cemetery architecture will no doubt want to come from much further afield for a visit as this, even to my untrained eye, is obviously one of the "jewels in the crown" in terms of London's resting places for the dearly departed.
As a chap who likes to stretch his legs, preferably going up some big hill miles from anywhere, I'm always on the look out for a bit of decent urban walking and I stumbled upon Nunhead cemetery a few years ago on a wander up to Brockley and beyond. It's not the kind of place that I would have thought would have any appeal for me but I have become a regular visitor and I probably visit once very couple of months when I want a stroll for an hour or so.
It's best approached, I would say, from Linden Grove which is a few minutes' walk from Nunhead Station. This side of the cemetery is basically a nature reserve which is fairly overgrown with crumbling tombs and statues all around. It's very atmospheric and terribly Gothic but nonetheless it makes for an enjoyable ramble. There is also something strange about the light here which helps; having visited during all the seasons I never fail to comment on its unique quality which all adds to a somewhat other worldly experience.
You make your way in through a gate at the bottom and then up the slight incline to the ruined chapel, make sure to turn round as you make your way up to take in the stunning views across the London skyline. As you make your way round the cemetery keep your eyes peeled as there are a number of points where you will be treated to some spectacular views across our great city.
There are a number of paths to choose from branching off to the left and right but most will, one way or another, enable you to make a round of the cemetery. There is plenty to see as you amble your way round, with lots of interesting flora and fauna if that's your kind of thing otherwise just check out some of the stunning monumental funereal architecture which is pretty stunning. Be warned at the far end of the cemetery it's still fully operational so you will see some freshly dug graves and bang up to date memorial furniture which can be a little strange.
Taking a variety of paths and doing a couple of rounds is going to take you probably an hour and a half. It's a popular place particularly in the summer so you will be sharing your walk with a very mixed bag which on an average day would include the dog walkers, families with kids and buggies, the occasional gothic, photography geeks and the odd wino.
If you fancy a bite to eat and a cold refreshment after your walk I would recommend a 10 minute stroll down to Nunhead Green where you will find The Old Nun's Head. It's a fine local pub which got a new landlord earlier this year and boy has that made a difference. Excellent range of well-kept ale and tasty, reasonably priced food
If you can find this place - not necessarily an easy task, as most residents arrive i with a chaffeur while clothed in a pine box - well worth a wander round on a brisk autumn morning, if you're at all interested in Victorian Gothic or the social history of London. Having done your wandering, and worked up an appetite, I'd suggest stopping in East Dulwich for a bite to eat.
Stunning and surprisingly romantic this huge cemetery is over run with wilderness and a photographers heaven! I went on a summer's day just before dusk and took some breath taking photos - it's a lovely place to walk around and to enjoy a quiet but beautiful walk.
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