Ed always raved about this cemetery and how “creepy” it was, with trees growing out of graves, ivy covering everything – the stuff of horror movies. He visited almost 30 years ago. Well, no more.
We took the tube north to the appropriate stop, knowing it would be a long walk, first uphill, then downhill to the cemetery. It is “Highgate” after all. Grabbed a quick lunch at an Italian restaurant and began our climb. It’s a quick turn at the top of the hill onto Squires Lane and back down the hill to the cemetery. Lunch all worked off. We could have grabbed a bus, but we hadn’t sussed (all of my British colloquialisms are coming back to me) those out yet.
You must book a tour to enter and we did that well in advance. Nice volunteer guide, older gent (ok, maybe five years older than I), who led us through the various parts. Highgate was founded around 1830, along with six other cemeteries spread across London to handle disposition of the middle-class dead who could afford to pay for a plot. Aristocrats are usually buried in chapels or crypts on their estates; no one could tell me how they disposed of the poor (dumped in the Thames?). Interesting factoids about the depth of the plots, as families are buried six or seven deep, and some markers seemed to have even more names. The cemetery is still in use. Anyone who can afford to pay (Upwards of £20,000) can purchase a plot, and there are even a few spaces available in the large multi-alcove crypts that hold cremated remains.
The families of the deceased, if any remain, maintain the cemetery, and volunteers for The Friends of Highgate Cemetery, who now own it. There aren’t many creepy sections today. It’s lush with trees, shrubs and wildflowers, all naturally grown. Originally it was grass and gardens. But, if you looked down the many paths, you would see that overgrowth still obscures the graves. The Friends have hundreds of bird houses throughout and encourage all the wild things that now call Highgate home.
Since we passed entrances to Waterlow Park on both our journey up and down, I asked the attendant if we could cut through the park on our way home. Takes away over half of the climb and the descent. You would think the directions to Highgate would mention this, but they don’t. So now you know.
Home in time for our favorite telly programs, dinner, reading, etc.