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Spring Flowers At Bow Cemetery

March 5, 2016
by the gentle author

The Winter has taken it out of me, but feeling the warmth of the sun today and seeing these sprouting bulbs in such profusion restored my hope that benign weather will come before too long.

Some of my earliest crayon drawings are of snowdrops, and the annual miracle of Spring bulbs erupting out of the barren earth never ceases to touch my heart – an emotionalism amplified in a cemetery to see life spring abundant and graceful in the landscape of death. The numberless dead of East London – the poor folk buried for the most part in unmarked communal graves – are coming back to us as perfect tiny flowers of white, purple and yellow, and the sober background of grey tombs and stones serves to emphasis the curious delicate life of these vibrant blooms, glowing in the sunshine.

Here within the shelter of the old walls, the Spring bulbs are further ahead than elsewhere the East End and I arrived at Bow Cemetery just as the Snowdrops were coming to an end and the Crocuses were in full flower. Thus a sequence of flowers is set in motion, with bulbs continuing through until April when the Bluebells will come leading us through to the acceleration of Summer growth, blanketing the cemetery in lush foliage again.

I found myself alone in the vast cemetery save a few Magpies, Crows and some errant Squirrels, chasing each other around. Walking further into the woodland, I found yellow Winter Aconites gleaming bright against the grey tombstones and, crouching down, I discovered wild Violets in flower too. Beneath an intense blue sky, to the chorus of birdsong echoing among the trees, Spring was making a persuasive showing.

Stepping into a clearing, I came upon a Red Admiral butterfly basking upon a broken tombstone, as if to draw my attention to the text upon it, “Sadly Missed,” commenting upon this precious day of sunshine. Butterflies are rare in the city in any season, but to see a Red Admiral, which is a sight of high Summer, this early in the year is extraordinary.

My first assumption was that I was witnessing the single day in the tenuous life of this vulnerable creature, but in fact the hardy Red Admiral is one of the last to be seen before the onset of frost and can emerge from months of hibernation to enjoy single days of sunlight. Such is the solemn poetry of a lone butterfly in Winter.

It may be a few weeks yet before it is officially Spring, but we are at the beginning now, and I offer you my pictures as evidence, should you require inducement to believe it.

Bulbs awakening from their Winter sleep.

A single Red Admiral butterfly, out of season  – “sadly missed”

Find out more at Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

You may also like to read about

The Variety Artistes of Abney Park Cemetery

At St Pancras Old Churchyard

16 Responses leave one →
  1. March 5, 2016


  2. gabrielle permalink
    March 5, 2016

    Yes, even out of death comes art. Incredibly powerful images. Thank you.

  3. Carol Gilham permalink
    March 5, 2016

    Thank you for this timely message of renewal. It is good to be reminded of the interlinking circles/cycles of life.

  4. Robert permalink
    March 5, 2016

    Winter is tiring me too but like yourself. I enjoy watching the bulbs emerge from the earth. I only have a tiny strip of front garden measuring 4 x 6 feet but it’s full of bulbs that will flower for many weeks.

  5. Elizabeth Mellen permalink
    March 5, 2016

    Beautiful and so consoling. Where is the Bow Cemetery? Is it now known as the Mile End cemetery?

  6. Chris Ryan permalink
    March 5, 2016

    Thank you……….made my day.

  7. March 5, 2016

    Light returns after the relentless winter bringing new growth. Recently your blog has focused on harsher things: realistic depictions of poverty, sometimes squalid, occasionally moving. You have taken us to old dilapidated buildings in need of renovation or demolition but today you have brought new life and a touch of joy.

  8. March 5, 2016

    Spring in one of my favourite London spots, lovely. Beautiful pictures.

  9. March 5, 2016

    Yet more thought provoking words and photo’s.One thing is that the average age of death was 50 making me think of how I have spent or wasted the extra years I have been given.Registering a village green,research that helped save our local house and park from becoming a hotel and a house thought to be Nash’s last from demolition etc but for myself what? plans to rebuild my house and sell to rebuild a Spitafields house,too late,so thank you for this blog for keeping dreams alive.

  10. Liz L permalink
    March 5, 2016

    Touchingly … poignantly beautiful.

  11. Annie G permalink
    March 5, 2016

    Spring flowers are such a happy sight, just when you need it. And now, having watched Gardeners World last night, I know why they are small, yellow, blue or purple. To do with bees and being able to stand inclement weather! Makes me love them all the more. On we go, GA, into another year. Warm weather just around the corner. Hope Mr P is moving into the sunlight as my cat is.

  12. pauline taylor permalink
    March 5, 2016

    Wonderful to see a cemetery so full of life. Like you GA I love to see bulbs coming up every year and these photos of them doing just that are lovely, thank you.

  13. March 6, 2016

    Such an up-beat feeling… and love the lighting. Hope your sojourn was deeply restorative.

  14. March 6, 2016

    Really lovely!

    Love & Peace

  15. Joy permalink
    March 6, 2016

    I visited the cemetery last week, your photo and story are a very true picture of this very alive place . Children with their parents , couples out walking alongside the wonders of nature .

  16. leisel von kogler permalink
    March 8, 2016

    Love this! How evocative the delicately sweet aromas of these early seasonal blooms- especially the wild violet. As ever, Thank you TGA 🙂

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