Southeast London has two fantastic examples: Nunhead and Brockley & Ladywell.
Nunhead is one of London’s Magnificent Seven, nothing to do with the classic 1960s Western with Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, but the series of large Victorian Cemeteries created in the 1840s around the, then, periphery of London, as the city’s churchyards became full.
Nunhead was sadly neglected and closed for decades by its private owners before being restored by Southwark Council with Heritage Lottery funding and re-opened in 2001. It is a lovely mixture of heavily over-grown, quite formal and some fantastic vistas, such as this one of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Brockely and Ladywell was originally two cemeteries that opened in 1858 within a month or two of each other. Serving two neighbouring local authorities, they were originally separated by a wall and became a single unit after WWII. There are around 17,000 graves there.
When I run at Brockley and Ladywell I rarely have a route in my mind, I just ‘drift’ and see where my feet take me, pausing to either try to find a particular grave or to look at an inscription.
Follow the main ‘road’ back into the cemetery, keeping slightly to the right of the ‘cross of sacrifice’ WWI memorial to another low walled WWI memorial around some carefully manicured grass—somewhere I always pause. It includes the names of Alfred Figes (who served as William Word) and may well have been the oldest WWI soldier, and Charles Cox, an Army Cyclist, whom I wrote about in Running Past.
The same route is never the same run; a path that can seem bleak in the winter, may have naturalised flowers climbing and tumbling over graves in the summer, a golden carpet of fallen leaves in the autumn that requires a little more care when running or have a mass of croci in the spring.
I’m a club runner with Beckenham RC and Veterans AC and have been running for over 20 years racing distances from 5k to marathon, but as I have got older (and slowed down) I use my longer runs to explore the history of southeast London which I blog about at Running Past.
Nearest Stations: Crofton Park about 5 minutes walk away from the Brockley Road entrance, Brockley is about 10 minutes from the same entrance, and Ladywell Stations is about 10 minutes walk from the Ladywell Road entrance.
Buses: The buses convenient for the Brockley Road entrance are: 122, 171, 172; P4 and 122 with a short from Prendergast School down St Cyprians Passage and then left along Ivy Road) are those best for the Ladywell Road gate.
Car: There is limited parking at the Ladywell Road entrance – the postcode for satnavs is SE13 7HY.
March to October: 10am–4.30 pm daily
November to February: 10am–3.30pm daily
FINDING OUT MORE
If you want to find out more about London cemeteries a great place to start is one of my favourite blogs, Flickering Lamps. As for Ladywell and Brockley, their ‘Friends’ have an excellent website, as do Nunhead’s Friends.