8 AM 10 June 2012 Nunhead Heights
There was a consultation over the past year on what do to with Southwark’s cemeteries. They are running out of space for burials, the Council told us. It’s an emergency.
[To read the first article in the series "Will we regret cutting down the new forests of Southwark?" click here.]
The Southwark Council announced they were considering using the sports fields at Honor Oak Recreation Ground to bury dead. “Virgin Land,” they called it, I believe, since dead people weren’t buried there and there weren’t any trees that needed planning permission to remove. Very easy solution.
Most of the people using the Rec are from neighboring Lewisham, the Council pointed out. The land is on the other side of One Tree Hill and not easily accessible by either East Dulwich or Nunhead people – and only some use it. And the pitches are on Camberwell New Cemetery grounds – the land was bought for the purpose of burying bodies – and the Council had done local people a favour by letting residents play on it for the last 50 years. Time’s up.
“Please, Sir. Not the Rec.” The people pleaded. “How is England going to win the World Cup without places for our children to play?” You beg for your little bowl of gruel when you’re starving.
“Let’s see what we can do” the nice Council man says nicely. “Maybe if the Southwark-siders in Nunhead and East Dulwich let us reuse 3300 old graves in the Camberwell Old Cemetery? We’ll only remove the ‘scrub’ and a few trees above the graves – not all. We’ll take out the ‘bad’ trees and put in ‘higher quality’ trees. The soil is ‘contaminated’ anyway. ” [All dialogue is made up but that sounds about right to me.]
No one screamed at the Council people:
“Are you out of your frigging minds? You have no intention of using the land where our children play to bury dead bodies. You’re playing politics.” Maybe it is an English thing – seeming hoodwinked but knowing better.
I didn’t hear “This must be a ploy. A red herring. No Council wants to be known as selling off a playing field, it’s Thatcherite and that won’t get you elected in Southwark.”
No one said: “The Council must want to get money from Lewisham Council for the Rec’s upkeep. Or maybe they want to get the residents to go for removing 3300 plots of trees, bushes, flowers, bird’s homes by presenting a far worse alternative.”
If the council actually considered taking away a playing field than that would be worse than playing any kind of political game. It would be morally repugnant. Politicians often – insert the benign word for ‘lie’ – but if they think the dead are more important than our children, whoa, that’s not good.
On the 22nd of June the Council will probably get the permission to strip the foliage from above 3300 abandoned graves. It is probably what they wanted in the first place.
A lovely wood, with birds and flowers and seventy-five-year-old trees, will be destroyed. It is wrong to rip up a forest in London in 2012.
Camberwell Old Cemetery Wood is a place of outstanding beauty in the middle of London. Look at how people now travel from all over London to see the overgrown graves of Nunhead Cemetery – wouldn’t they visit a protected Camberwell Old Cemetery, too?
In twenty years, when and if they do programme on the loss of Camberwell Old Cemetery Wood – like the kind they did on Deptford’s destruction – the Council people will be able to look into the camera and state
“We had a consultation and the local people wanted it that way.”
Please let me know if this is rubbish or brilliant, right or wrong, or something else. Leave a comment.
Another article about our cemeteries. “The Delightfully Dead Nunhead Cemetery is Buried Alive”
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