Skip to content

Bluebells At Bow Cemetery

April 21, 2020
by the gentle author

With a few bluebells in flower in my garden in Spitalfields, I was inspired make a visit to Bow Cemetery and view the display of bluebells sprouting under the tall forest canopy that has grown over the graves of the numberless East Enders buried there. In each season of the the year, this hallowed ground offers me an arcadian refuge from the city streets and my spirits always lift as I pass between the ancient brick walls that enclose it, setting out to lose myself among the winding paths, lined by tombstones and overarched with trees.

Equivocal weather rendered the timing of my trip as a gamble, and I was at the mercy of chance whether I should get there and back in sunshine. Yet I tried to hedge my bets by setting out after a shower and walking quickly down the Whitechapel Rd beneath a blue sky of small fast-moving clouds – though, even as I reached Mile End, a dark thunderhead came eastwards from the City casting gloom upon the land. It was too late to retrace my steps and instead I unfurled my umbrella in the cemetery as the first raindrops fell, taking shelter under a horse chestnut, newly in leaf, as the shower became a downpour.

Standing beneath the dripping tree in the half-light of the storm, I took a survey of the wildflowers around me, primroses spangling the green, the white star-like stitchwort adorning graves, a scattering of palest pink ladies smock highlighting the ground cover, yellow celandines sharp and bright against the dark green leaves, violets and wild strawberries nestling close to the earth and may blossom and cherry blossom up above – and, of course, the bluebells’ hazy azure mist shimmering between the lines of stones tilting at irregular angles. Alone beneath the umbrella under the tree in the heart of the vast graveyard, I waited. It was the place of death, but all around me there was new growth.

Once the rain relented sufficiently for me to leave my shelter, I turned towards the entrance in acceptance that my visit was curtailed. The pungent aroma of wild garlic filled the damp air. But then – demonstrating the quick-changing weather that is characteristic of April – the clouds were gone and dazzling sunshine descended in shafts through the forest canopy turning the wet leaves into a million tiny mirrors, reflecting light in a vision of phantasmagoric luminosity. Each fresh leaf and petal and branch glowed with intense colour after the rain. I stood still and cast my eyes around to absorb every detail in this sacred place. It was a moment of recognition that has recurred throughout my life, the awe-inspiring rush of growth of plant life in England in spring.

You may also like to read about

At Bow Cemetery

Snowfall at Bow Cemetery

Spring Bulbs at Bow Cemetery

Find out more at

35 Responses leave one →
  1. Susan Levinson permalink
    April 21, 2020

    Lovely photos!

  2. April 21, 2020

    Such Lovely Pictures of Bow Cemetery!! Thank You So Very Much!!??????????

  3. April 21, 2020

    Thank you for taking us with you to this resting place bursting with new growth. I love your description of the wild flowers. I have noticed the coming of Spring more intently during this time when I am walking on the Heath every day. I wrote about a moment alone in Hampstead parish churchyard last week on my blog and am touched to be asked this morning to go back to visit the grave of my neighbour Piers’ mother. He is in isolation and has been unable to visit for a month now. When I go I will be thinking about phantasmagoric luminosity’.

  4. Jill Wilson permalink
    April 21, 2020

    One of the plus sides of the ‘lock down’ has that it has given us the extra time to really appreciate the miracle of Spring this year. I am lucky enough to be able to walk through woods to get to the village shop to pick up the paper and they are awash with bluebells at the moment which is a glorious site.

    I have also been very aware of the buds on the trees bursting not life – at the beginning of the lock down there were only bare branches but by now nearly all the trees are coming into leaf in deliciously fresh and refreshing light green colours.

    Added to that the unusually sunny April weather and the sound track of birdsong and there is a lot to be thankful for…

  5. david whittaker permalink
    April 21, 2020

    BEAUTIFUL Thank You.

  6. Joan Isaac permalink
    April 21, 2020

    Beautiful – just beautiful- thank you

  7. April 21, 2020

    These are really beautiful photographs! Thank you for giving others the chance to see them.

  8. Jillian Foley permalink
    April 21, 2020

    What lovely photos. Unable to get out into the countryside to see the bluebells in the Sussex wood this year with my son Paul – it was a great comfort to see these bluebells. Such peaceful surroundings – a beautiful place to escape to. Thank you.

  9. Kitschnkarma permalink
    April 21, 2020

    Beautiful photos, I can almost smell the bluebells!

  10. Wendy Lowe permalink
    April 21, 2020

    Beautiful – photos and description. Thank you.

  11. Leana Pooley permalink
    April 21, 2020

    It has been a real treat to be transported away from urban lockdown to a place of trees and grass and flowers. Wonderful photographs and lyrical descriptions. And I liked the country boy lists of wildflowers.

  12. April 21, 2020

    What a wonderful cemetery. It takes you back in time. Wonderful photos. I didn’t know you were allowed to take walks in Great Britain. In Spain it is a total quarantine, we can only go out to shop for food at the nearest grocery store.

  13. Richard Smith permalink
    April 21, 2020

    Wonderful pictures GA thank you for posting. A haven of peace and tranquility and refuge for wild life.

  14. Christopher permalink
    April 21, 2020

    Lovely photos and love the greenness and freshness of Spring

  15. Josephihe Rogers permalink
    April 21, 2020

    What an incredible haven so close to the City! The benefit to wildlife must be immense and thank Goodness the area is ,we hope, sacrosanct and can’t be used for anything else. The variety of plants is amazing, and a fabulous habitat for birds. I look forward to visiting it – one day when it’s possible!

  16. Stella Herbert permalink
    April 21, 2020

    That brings back memories! During the war my mother & I went to visit my uncle’s girl friend who lived near what is now Heathrow – uncle away in India in the Army.
    We passed a church yard & through the railings I could see just a few bluebells – oh, I did so want to pick them!
    Now have a garden with many, many bluebells -but sadly all the Spanish variety!!
    He married a different girl after the war – but I still have the poetry book he once gave to his first love!!

  17. April 21, 2020

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, as we in Boston are “reaching our peak” in this terrible epidemic, your beautifully written and illustrated ode to spring in Bow Cemetery was much appreciated.

    Reminded me of Browning’s poem “Home Thoughts from Abroad”

    Oh, to be in England
    Now that April’s there,
    And whoever wakes in England
    Sees, some morning, unaware,
    That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
    Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
    While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
    In England—now!

    Be safe all …

  18. April 21, 2020

    GA, thank you, as ever, for beauty and optimism.
    Here in our small town in the Hudson River Valley, we have seven cemeteries. One is (for whatever reason) known as the Free ground Cemetery, and dates back to Revolutionary War times. Another, our Union Cemetery, is the largest and, alas, is now full. However the rest of the cemeteries are so-called family plots. Often in remote off-the-path locations, within a larger
    farm……One can walk in and visit, but be mindful of deer ticks, etc. The one nearest me is right alongside a narrow road, and in recent years many of the headstones had fallen and the stone wall was overgrown. Well! A neighbor took the initiative to have the little cemetery totally rehabilitated, and it looks so stalwart and proud. Every head stone is upright, brush has been cleared away and the wall is orderly and historic once more. The kindness of one man is viewed every day by those of us who use the quiet narrow road, and it always brings a smile.

  19. Saba permalink
    April 21, 2020

    While I may at first seem disrespectful to the dead, I very much appreciated that the cemetery has been allowed to grow wild. The resulting to the park is, I find, a memorial to those who have died.

  20. paul loften permalink
    April 21, 2020

    Thank you for bringing a sense of eternity and tranquility into our troubled minds.

  21. April 21, 2020

    As a child, I used to be frightened of graveyards – and would certainly never have dared walk through one on my own. As I got older, I grew to love the sense of peace and contemplation in them, and where snowdrops pierce through frozen earth at the start of the year, or turn the garden into a sea of blue a few months later, my heart fills to bursting with joy.

  22. Gayle permalink
    April 21, 2020

    I’m an ocean away, but thanks to your masterful description and gorgeous photos, I feel like I was there with you. I can almost smell the rain!

  23. April 21, 2020

    Inspiring and uplifting! Thank you Gentle Author.

  24. Jane Heavyside Vancouver British Columbia permalink
    April 21, 2020

    Gentle Author, with your words, you brought me to the space and the profound mood this wonderful spot inspired. Although unlikely I will ever be able to visit, I feel I actually have.
    Thank you.

  25. Carol Himmelman-Christopher permalink
    April 21, 2020

    Thank you! I look forward every year to seeing your story of the bluebells. This year did not disappoint. This such a joy, always but especially this year during these bizarre times. Stay safe.

  26. April 21, 2020

    Thank you GA for sharing such beautiful photos from this oasis of calm, just what we all need right now.
    My uncle Harry is resting there…so that place is special to me, I feel I have paid him a visit albeit from afar.

  27. April 21, 2020

    Lovely photos – a nice cheer-me-up for today. It’s nice to see nature recapture the graveyard.
    I so look forward to reading your articles and seeing photos daily. It makes my morning better than it otherwise would be. Thank you

  28. ja Woolf permalink
    April 21, 2020

    Lovely photos of a lovely place. we went before the lockdown and it was pretty then but there were no leaves out. I wish we could get to see it now but your pictures were the next best thing.

  29. April 22, 2020

    so beautiful… thank you!
    i am in wisconsin usa and we are a month or so behind you all nature & weather-wise. just a few buds showing on trees here, but there are some dandelions blooming, and there are crocuses and two early tulips blooming in my yard. it is so comforting to see nature continuing on, flowers blooming, despite all the craziness in the world…

  30. April 22, 2020

    My father was born (1914) and brought up in Bow…..just wondering how many of his relatives are buried there. Will have to investigate. Thank you GA.

  31. Prue Briggs permalink
    April 22, 2020

    So lovely and peaceful at Bow Cemetery. We go there with our son and daughter-in-law when we visit them, wish we were there now! Beautiful photos of a beautiful place

  32. Mary permalink
    April 22, 2020

    I like to think of my grandmother’s grave surrounded by bluebells. She was buried there in 1960–taken there in a horse-drawn, glass-enclosed black hearse. I was ten years old and have memories of walking behind it to the grave. Living over the Pond, I haven’t had a chance to visit it for quite some time so thank you for your photos.

  33. jennifer newbold permalink
    April 23, 2020

    Although I doubt it will matter to me where I’m buried, such a place appeals to me. Men and monuments decay, but flowers resurrect themselves every spring.

  34. Kate permalink
    April 26, 2020

    How lucky we are to live in England. Your photographs are absolutely ravishing.

  35. Bella permalink
    April 27, 2020

    My great-grandparents’ house backed onto the cemetery. Arts & Crafts but must have been bombed in the war, long after they’d moved south. Their half of the street is now council flats. My grandfather talked about the cemetery, a child’s adventure playground, I suppose. So on an East End tour one spring, I paid my respects and was duly rewarded with swathes of daffodils, snowdrops and hellebores among the tumbling old stones. As someone has already commented, your photographs are absolutely ravishing. A secret garden, with many stories to tell.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS