Scents and Sounds of Brompton Cemetery

I lived around the corner from West London’s Brompton Cemetery about two or three years ago.

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it didn’t seem quite as wild or untamed as it does now.

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I like it this way, less groomed, equally inviting.

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It feels more natural, more like a nature reserve that just happens to be a cemetery.

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Now, there are more tousled vines engulfing crooked gravestones.

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There are delicate pink wildflowers poking up in between hard surfaces.

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Wild berries hang, juicy and ripening in the Summer sun.

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Tangled plants sweep over the untidy edges of trails that deviate through the grass off of the main walkways.

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The main strip is still pretty orderly, but there are large patches that have been left to grow as nature intended.

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Weather-worn gravestones are marked with brown patches of moss and bird droppings faded in the sun.

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The names are becoming more difficult to decipher on some of the older inscriptions.

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Despite being a cemetery – one of the Magnificent Seven in London – it’s full of life.

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I used to run here, as do many others.

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People come to settle on benches and spend their lunch breaks or early mornings with a newspaper.

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Others walk, slowly and contemplatively, without the sense of rush that goes on beyond the cemetery walls.

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I settle in on the steps across from the domed chapel in the middle.

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It’s easy to think back to three years ago and how much life has changed since.

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I have a completely different set of friends now.

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Many have moved away – to Toronto, to Sydney, to Mongolia, to the US, to the countryside.

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I’m in a different relationship, happier.

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I went off to Colombia for six months and New York for three and then came back and have been back for almost two years again now.

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I’m happier at work with a different and more interesting, creative and fulfilling job.

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I thought not so much about the death all around me but about the different cycles that life takes us through, the many changes that come year after year, especially living in a huge global city like London.

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A slight breeze stirs the ferns and a train faintly clacks over the tracks beyond the wall.

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There’s a background hum of soaring planes above, but it’s muffled here.

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What stands out most is the buzz of crickets and other insects.

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You can actually hear the breeze slip through the leaves.

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Squirrels sniff at the ground.

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Pigeons grovel.

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No dogs in sight though.

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There are what seems to be a million stoic black crows stand still, glaring our from their headstone perches.

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It smells of earth.

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It sounds like peacefulness of death.

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But it feels quite alive.

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If you’re a cemetery fan, check out some previous posts from Nunhead, Plumstead and Woolwich!