Arnos Vale Cemetery

When I was looking up Bristol attractions for our festive day out, I found Arnos Vale Cemetery listed. Well, you know me! My interest was certainly piqued and a quick Google showed that it is one of the Victorian necropoles* that I love so much.

Headstones in silhouette
*Apparently necropolises is a perfectly acceptable plural of necropolis, but why would I turn down the opportunity to use necropoles?

When we arrived, we drove between the two classical-style lodges and followed the road around the cemetery to the chapel. This was interesting for me as we were driving between headstones. It was like a graveyard safari, especially as the parking is right next to graves. Surprisingly, it was really busy but I found a space for my car and set off exploring the cemetery while Rich had a nap. 
Classical architecture Arnos Vale Cemetery
As we'd driven around the entire cemetery finding a place to park, my intention was to start at the lodges and loop around the fairly small plot until I reached the car again. Things didn't quite work out that way.
Soldiers' Corner Arnos Vale
I set off through the centre towards the lodges and decided to start at Soldiers' Corner. Since Remembrance Day was only a few weeks ago, the grass markers still had poppies in place. It was a beautiful sunny day and they looked so serene lined up in front of the stunning 1920s war memorial. 
Arnos Vale Bristol War Memorial
After stopping here for a moment, I noticed a trodden path leading up the hill behind the memorial, so I popped around to see where it led. Nothing prepared me for what I was going to discover.
Stone wreath headstone
The path continued up and up, with a low brick wall on the right showing views across the city, and a steep slope to my left. As I ventured higher and higher, I began to notice the odd headstone here and there. Eventually the hill turned into a steep incline that I had to scramble up and here I stumbled upon what can only be described as the Secret Garden of Cemeteries.
Ivy covered headstone Victorian Gravestone
In every direction were clusters of headstones peeping out from overgrown woodland. From behind wild bushes, covered in ivy, cracked and lying on the ground half hidden by fallen leaves, memorials- none later than the 1940s- emerged from around me. The path (which was not really a path but more of a trodden-down track) continued upwards through these concealed graves until I reached an obstacle. At some point, a tree had fallen and was blocking my way. However, there was a slight gap between the ground and the trunk so I crawled under. 
Overgrown graveyard Gravestone hidden by overgrowth
This was when I started to get a bit worried. The undergrowth was so thick that I couldn't see anything but trees around me. It was absolutely silent and I was very aware of how difficult the path to get here had been, and how much harder it would be to follow the track back down. I also had the disadvantage of running out of time so, as much as I wanted to keep going and see how far the hidden cemetery went, I knew I had to return to the car.
Gunner E C Ford
At this point, I found a gap in the overgrowth which, after a bit of walking, led to a wide tarmac road. It was here that I realised how expansive Arnos Vale really is. To my left was the wild, overgrown hill that I had just stepped out of, and on my right was the equivalent but sloping steeply downwards. Behind me, the road continued and curved out of sight, and I could see right across the suburbs of Bristol ahead. As it turns out, Arnos Vale was purposefully built on a hill in order to give it the appearance of a Greek ampitheatre. The Victorians were very into their classics- hence the amount of classical architecture in Victorian cemeteries- and believed in providing the best possible resting place for their loved ones. A beautiful view across what would most probably have been countryside at the time would have been a huge bonus when deciding where to inter their relatives.
Arnos Vale Cemetery View
I believe that the cemetery, which was left in a state of disrepair until recently, is currently in the process of being restored (see Highgate Cemetery). This would explain why I discovered such a large part hidden away but hopefully these graves will soon be restored to their former beauty, allowing those who are buried there to live on. 
Arnos Vale Cemetery Cat
Without a shadow of a doubt, I will be back at Arnos Vale to explore further. It's a beautiful cemetery with so much to uncover. 

...Oh, and you can get married there. Yep. Inside the cemetery. Why am I already married? 

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4 comments:

  1. I live really close to Arnos Vale cemetery but I've never actually been there! My little sister went on a school trip there recently, and she was so excited to look through this post & point out the things she had seen :)

    Laurenx
    http://whatlaurendidtoday.blogspot.co.uk/

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  2. Oh wow! That's such a beautiful place!! I hope I get to visit someday :)

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  3. You could always get married again, renew the vows ;) haha. This place sounds great!
    I would love to know that my headstone was standing tall in 'proper' nature, and having wild plants growing everywhere. There's a cemetery in Carlisle that is a mixture of the normal rows of headstones and then some in a little woodland area. It's amazing!

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