Remembrance, flowers, graves and grass cutting

15 June 2019

Yesterday, after Commando’s Running School appointment we drove into town to get something from the bike shop in Cumberland Place. There was a coffee in it for me so I didn’t much mind. It was also a chance to walk through East Park and have a look at the Cenotaph.

Over the last couple of weeks there has been a great deal of online griping about Southampton Council not organising a 75th anniversary event to remember D-Day. As a massive event was planned a few miles away on Southsea Common with heads of state from all the nations involved, including Germany and a controversial visit from Donald Trump, I kind of understood why. Even so, Southampton was the embarkation port for British and Canadian troops and two thirds of the entire British assault forced passed through the port en route for the Normandy beaches. It was also the embarkation port for reinforcement troops over the following weeks. It seemed a shame not to have some kind of ceremony, albeit small, in the city where so many of the soldiers departed never to return.

On 3 June a gentleman called Bill Reynolds took matters into his own hands. Instead of grumbling he did something. He cleaned the area around the cenotaph and posted online urging all the moaners to fill the empty space in front of the cenotaph with flowers from their gardens to honour all the lost men. It was a beautiful idea. It also galvanised the powers that be into action and a small remembrance service was hastily organised. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend but I’d seen photographs of the floral tributes and knew people were changing them regularly to keep the idea going. Yesterday was the first chance I’d had to see the flowers and I was delighted at just how beautiful they looked, even in the hot sun.

This morning I found myself looking at flowers of a different kind. While Commando was running parkrun, I took my usual Saturday morning stroll around the Old Cemetery. It was a breathtakingly beautiful riot of wildflowers and greenery. At least at first…

Every week I try to walk along different paths, stopping now and then to look at interesting graves, read an inscription or two or just see what Mother Nature has been up to. Today, as I approached the oldest part of the cemetery, I realised something looked very different. It took me a little while to realise what it was, probably because of the early hour and the lack of caffeine.

The cemetery was opened in 1846 and is one of England’s earliest municipal cemeteries. The majority of the graves are very old and, as many of the occupants have no one left to remember them, remain largely untended. There are still a handful of burials in family plots each year but, today, the cemetery is part graveyard, part historical curiosity and part nature reserve. It covers twenty seven acres and is maintained to preserve the diversity of wildlife and wildflowers. Grass cutting and other general cutting back are carried out at different times of year and varying frequencies in different areas depending on the species prevalent in each part. The oldest part of the cemetery appears to have had its turn to be spruced up and trimmed fairly recently.

Those who like to moan and grumble can often be heard complaining about the overgrown state of the place. Personally I love that is is partly wild. There is something comforting in seeing the way nature reclaims everything eventually. Yes, it does mean that some graves are hard to find, as I discovered last summer when I tried to find photographer Francis Godolphin Osbourne Stuart’s grave. It took weeks of searching and, when I did find it, it was so overgrown by brambles I had a terrible job getting close. Patience is a virtue in this case though, as is a little persistence. As each area has its turn to be cleared previously hidden graves reappear. Today Stuart’s grave was one of them.

With no brambles to trip me and no long grass to hide potholes, ruts and mounds it was a simple job to walk between the graves. When I reached the photographers grave I found I could easily get right round it and frame just the shots I wanted. It was even possible to get a close up shot of the inscription.

In terms of grave hunting the trimming back and bramble clearing is a great success. Having said that, I think I prefer the wildness to the cut back look any day. Still the wildness will soon return and I suppose things do need a little taming from time to time or we would probably not be able to find the cemetery at all, never mind walk the paths.

Despite getting my long awaited pictures of the photographer’s grave I was glad to get back to the unmown area. The chapel, at least from the front, looked stunning with pink roses clambering around its green doors. The ground around was sprinkled with fallen petals like confetti after a wedding.

The owners of the graves in this oldest of cemeteries may be long forgotten but Mother Nature is happy to provide flowers to cover them. At this time of year, especially after a cold, wet spring, those flowers are a joy to behold.

Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures. If you’re worried about privacy or data protection, please see my privacy policy here.

Postcards from Victoria Country Park

13 September 2018

We left the beautiful new benches and set off across the park, our heads filled with the lost and wounded soldiers of so many wars. Neither of us said much as we walked across the grass of the cricket pitches towards the distant chapel. We were too busy thinking of all those past sacrifices made so we could live in freedom. War is neither good nor glorious but, when the alternative is to sit back and let evil and injustice prevail, it becomes an unpleasant necessity. Today we would be remembering those who gave so much.  Continue reading Postcards from Victoria Country Park

The lost estates Weston, Weston Grove

17 January 2018

We’d walked from the top of Weston Lane to the bottom and the closer we got to the shore the more the wind buffeted us. We were now walking on what would once have been part of the Weston Grove Estate. Of course, the whole of Weston once belonged to the Chamberlayne family. The exact history is unclear but in 1424, Alice, the wife of Ralph Chamberlayne, inherited an estate on the east bank of the River Itchen. By the late 1700’s all the land between Itchen Ferry and Hamble belonged to William Chamberlayne, in part inherited from his father’s friend and client, Thomas Dummer.Things have changed beyond recognition since the Chamberlayne family owned this land. What was once the domain of one family is now home to thousands of people and the word Estate has a whole different meaning. Continue reading The lost estates Weston, Weston Grove

A postcard from Highfield and a wild goose chase

26 October 2017

The area directly outside the south door of Highfield Church is dominated by a war memorial, dedicated in 1921 to men of the parish lost during the First World War. For such a small parish, there seem to be an awful lot of names inscribed upon it. Their loss must have been a terrible blow to the area. We stopped for a moment to read and think. No doubt, a wreath of poppies will be laid here soon to remember them, although it’s doubtful if there is anyone alive now who knew them personally.  Continue reading A postcard from Highfield and a wild goose chase

More than one way to cross the Itchen – a postcard from Crosshouse

28 March 2017

We’d had an adventure in Eling and I’d given my knee a good testing, but the walking wasn’t quite over for the day. This evening I had a meeting to attend close to the town end of the Itchen Bridge. Commando needed the car for work but he offered to drop me off in Woolston on his way.  The timings were a little out, meaning I’d be more than a little early, but at least I’d only have to walk across the bridge. Time to kill down by the water there is never time wasted so I didn’t much mind being early.  Continue reading More than one way to cross the Itchen – a postcard from Crosshouse

A postcard or two from Eling church

28 March 2017

On the far side of Eling Causeway we passed the modern sluices that have kept it safe since the 1940’s. These days it’s hard to imagine the tide washing away the bridge across Bartley Water, which is probably a good job or we could have been stuck in Eling for a long time.  We’d successfully crossed Hampshire’s only surviving medieval toll bridge, in use since at least 1418, without having to pay a penny, now it was time to explore.  Continue reading A postcard or two from Eling church

A Postcard from Woodmill

16 March 2017

It seems like ages since I last walked along the river and, with spring bursting out all over the place, I thought a stroll along the Itchen was well overdue. There were bound to be some new flowers to see along the way, maybe even some new leaves starting on the trees. There was an F.G.O. Stuart postcard of Woodmill and I had an idea I knew exactly where the shot had been taken. Recreating it might involve a tiny bit of trespassing but it was trespassing I’d done before so I was fairly confident it wouldn’t be a problem.  Continue reading A Postcard from Woodmill

Postcards from Watts Park

7 March 2017

The day seemed to be getting warmer and warmer and, even though I’d taken my coat off and stuffed it in my bag near the start of our walk, I was overheating. After yomping into town, running an errand and wandering all over Andrews Park taking photographs, CJ and I were in need of a coffee. We both agreed to head for Artisan Coffee in Guildhall Square. Maybe we’d even have a cake.

Continue reading Postcards from Watts Park

Postcards from Andrews Park

7 March 2017

Today I had an errand to run. It involved a walk to the top end of town and, while I was there, I thought I’d have a wander round the parks. After my recent search for signs of spring at Millers Pond I was fairly sure they weren’t going to be exactly bursting with flowers but a walk in the parks is always a welcome thing, flowers or not. Besides, there were a few F.G.O. Stuart postcards from the area to recreate.  Continue reading Postcards from Andrews Park

Searching for signs of spring at Millers Pond

28 February 2017

Meteorological spring starts tomorrow, although the vernal equinox and the real, official first day of spring is a few weeks away yet. In the spirit of positive thinking CJ and I set out for Millers Pond this morning in search of signs of spring. It might be considered jumping the gun just a tad but we had high hopes as we set off along Spring Road.  Continue reading Searching for signs of spring at Millers Pond