Whether you're intrigued by life stories, or are looking for a different way to enjoy the great outdoors, there’s been a revival in cemetery tourism and conservation of old burial grounds to become havens to explore at your leisure.
From idyllic country parishes to inner-city sanctuaries reclaimed by nature, there are thousands of such beautiful outdoor spaces to discover across the UK – perfect for a weekend walk.
You may be surprised by the number of nature walks, arts events and family days that take place at cemeteries. Here’s a pick that are perfect for spotting wildlife.
Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol
Picture: DiarmuidLambert via WikiCommons
Arnos Vale cemetery is set in beautiful 45 acres of parkland dating back to the 1800s. It’s become a wildlife haven and space which attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Here, you’ll find beautiful monuments among tangles of ivy, woodland mausoleums and masses of paths to follow around the stunning grounds. Arnos Vale also has an calendar that’s jam-packed with events throughout the year, from fitness classes, to outdoor theatre, fairs and even weddings.
Many parts of the cemetery have been deliberately left to run wild, to conserve a home for creatures including badgers, deer, flycatchers, woodpeckers and a host of insect life. Nature has taken a hold, but in fact it has taken careful conservation management to achieve this glorious and biodiverse habitat.
Dalton Wood Burial Ground Burton-in-Kendal
Situated in a beautiful country estate in Cumbria Dalton Wood Burial Ground is in the midst of a beautiful and already-mature woodland.
The map above shows a walk you can take around the perimeter of the woodland burial ground, which is actively managed to encourage wildlife including woodcock and roe deer.
Tower Hamlets Cemetery, London E3
Picture: Cassie Dean
Tower Hamlets is one of London’s Big Seven cemeteries. They were developed and landscaped in the mid 1800s as spaces for public leisure, as well as final rest. They replaced the unsanitary parish burial grounds that in some cases, were literally overspilling in the city.
This cemetery park in London’s East End, is an important conservation area and haven for wildlife. If you live locally, there are opportunities to become part of a friendly community that volunteers to look after it and hosts lots of family events.
There are 27 acres of green space and woodland to wander. You can download this Sonic Map to really bring a walk around this amazing wilderness to life. Plug in your headphones to hear the sounds of London throughout the cemetery’s history and hear the stories of some of the many interesting characters who lie at rest here.
Look out for busy mason bees building nests, enormous stag beetles, newts, butterflies and hedgehogs among the trees and wildflowers here.
Brighton, Hove & Portslade Cemeteries
Picture: The Voice of the Hassocks via Flickr
Brighton & Hove’s seven cemeteries make up a combined 170 acres of wild woodlands including Brighton Extra Mural Cemetery (pictured), as well as pretty landscaped grounds and beautiful meadows.
Its Lewes Roads Cemeteries have been mapped out for walkers to explore the natural beauty of the grounds, which date back to the Victorian times.
Grantham’s Hidden Graveyard
Protected from a busy road by an old wall, Grantham’s Old Burial Ground is a hidden gem. It dates back to 1812 and was open for burials until the main town cemetery opened in 1857.
Here, you’ll find many of the different varieties of trees that were originally planted in pairs by a local tree society, as a way of creating a beautiful space for leisure as well as lamentation.
Mill Road Cemetery, Cambridge
Picture: Keith Edkins via geograph.co.uk|
A mid-19th century cholera threat in Cambridge prompted the development of a new cemetery in the fresh air of the city’s surrounding fields. Space was dedicated here to each of the city’s parishes to bury their citizens.
Now a part of the expanded urban landscape, Mill Road Cemetery is a green space with a number of mapped-out ways to help you explore.
Dedicated trails include a wildlife-spotting walk – bats, woodpeckers and butterflies are among the creatures who live here.
You can learn to identify a variety of beautiful tree species, find out more about the grounds’ listed monuments or explore a wildlife-inspired art trail. You can also downloadideas to inspire a host of fun family activities.