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Nature watch: Sheltering in a labyrinth park

PUBLISHED: 08:31 14 November 2020

Alice Bonifacio, environmental campaigner and nature writer, has been exploring Abney Park.

Alice Bonifacio, environmental campaigner and nature writer, has been exploring Abney Park.

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Known as one of The Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London, Abney Park is rich with biodiversity and history.

Tucked away from Stoke Newington Church Street and Stamford Hill, Abney Park invites you to get lost.

On my first visit, I place myself in the capable hands of my friend Penny, who acts as my guide through the labyrinthine woodland. We challenge ourselves to rely on our inner compasses, deliberately avoiding the peripheries of the park. It is a welcome relief to ditch the phone and the GPS. Better for the brain, too. I am struck by how green the cemetery is at this time of year, while trees elsewhere start to burn red and ochre. Penny mentions that during the scorching summer of 2018, people would seek refuge in the leafy coolness of the park.

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Many avian conversations can be heard in Abney Park. Going deeper into the heart of the cemetery, the sound of cars is replaced by birdsong: tits, wrens and robins overlap each other in a sweet weaving of sound that emanates from veteran canopies, some trees almost 200 years old.

As a dedicated site for the congregation and burial of non-conformists, I muse on how younger trees jut out of uneven burial ground, bone, soil and root mingling together.

Wonderful varieties of fungi are visible in the autumn, contributing to a rich ecosystem. The recent Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IBPES) report suggests that any loss of biodiversity will inevitably lead to future pandemics.

I think of this beautiful park’s value as a place of shelter for our current lockdown and for our shared future.


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