Monkeys ‘in excelsis’

I’ve been looking forward to doing this post for a long time. In fact I have so many photographs from several visits to these trees, it’s taken me a long time to make the selection. Prepare yourself for a monkey puzzle feast.

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Gorgeous monkeys.

This is Allerton Cemetery, in south Liverpool.

Allerton cemetery,date.

Allerton cemetery, January 2014.

This is one of six cemeteries managed by Liverpool City Council. It’s 150 acres, and currently has nearly 75,000 graves here. 399 people from both world wars are buried here. As you drive into the cemetery from Springwood Avenue – as I often do before I am going to take a service at Springwood crematorium – this is the view that greets you. That monkey puzzle tree is one of my favourite places here. I have always enjoyed walking and being in cemeteries, but now with my work as a funeral celebrant they have become more important to me. I often park here, under that monkey puzzle tree, as I prepare to take a service. It’s a magical place. Calm and sacred. I often observe other people in there. Sometimes they are walking or cycling through the grounds. Sometimes they are visiting graves. I saw a man kiss a grave here one day and my eyes filled with tears. Sometimes people are putting fresh flowers on the graves of those they love. It has become an important ritual to me, to spend time here both before and sometimes after a service. It is calming and grounding.

And it is home to a wonderful collection of 13, yes 13, monkey puzzle trees. (I did find the first 9 trees here, and have to thank Agent Jeff who went to see them himself, finding a further 4 trees, bringing the total to 13 – thanks Jeff!)

AllertonCemetery_map2

 

Allerton is a suburb of Liverpool, it was entirely rural until the middle of the 19th century, and then became dotted with the homes of wealthy merchants. There is a favourite walk that me and Ronnie do that takes you through the lanes and parkland of Allerton, where the mansions are still visible in various states. Ronnie’s post from last summer gives a great overview of the area – it’s here.

The land that became Allerton cemetery in 1909 was farmland, and the buildings of Shorts Butts Farm are still there, but it is no longer a farm, they are residential properties now with a large gate. On one of our Saturday rambles in January me and Ronnie came here and explored a bit more. I was not disappointed.

This monkey puzzle tree presides over a baby's grave.

This, the first monkey puzzle tree, presides over a baby’s grave – ‘A tiny flower lent not given’. This is tree L22.

The branches sweep down gracefully.

The branches sweep down gracefully.

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Close up of monkey branch, surprisingly spiky.

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I often park here before and after taking a funeral service.

But today I am monkeying around under L23.

But today I am monkeying around under L23.

L23 is a male tree, these are its cones.

L23 is a male tree, these are its cones.

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L24.

Trees L24 and L25 are both situated on the road that circles the centre chapel here. This is one of three chapels, all of which are disused.

Allerton_chapel

Allerton Cemetery, January 2014.

You can’t help wondering what a marvellous and grand occasion a funeral service here must have been. Many of the graves here are large monuments, of another era.

Allerton_Watts

In fact, I could easily be diverted into doing a blog just of gravestones… it is such a beautiful place.

Allerton Cemetery, section 'Gen 1', April 2014.

Allerton Cemetery, section ‘Gen 1’, April 2014.

Back to the monkeys…

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L24 close up.

When I first visited Allerton Cemetery looking for monkeys, I was delighted enough to find these first four trees, and then I spotted these…

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I saw this cluster…

Four trees together, L26 to L29.

Four trees together, L26 to L29.

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With the old branches…

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…. becoming grave ornaments.

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And so on our visit in January, sated, satisfied and delighted with monkeys, we leave, and I am overjoyed to have found so many in one place.

And think that’s all there are. Eight. Until I get an email from my regular monkey correspondent, Jeff Jones, titled ’13?’. He has counted 13 monkeys at Allerton cemetery. And, by jove, he is right! I have missed another cluster of four on the opposite side of the path to the four I found, and another solo one.

And of course I return to see them for myself. Here’s the ‘first’ cluster of four that I spotted:

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L26-L29 April 2014.

And across the main drive….

Main drive

Main drive at Allerton Cemetery.

In perfect symmetry, are another four:

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L30 to L33.

As I am photographing these monkeys, a City Council maintenance van passes. Its inhabitants, two workers, ask if I need any help, and obviously think that with my map in hand I am looking for a specific grave. I thank them, and tell them what I’m doing. I ask them if they know why there are so many monkey puzzle trees here. They don’t know, but one of them says they are ‘easy on the eye’. They then tell me that we are near to the site of the first interment here and offer to take me there.

allerton2cem03

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Thomas George Walsh, who died on Christmas Day 1909, and is the first person to be buried here.

Looking round at the hundreds of graves, trees and hedges you can see now, I tried to imagine what it must have been like the day he was buried. Perhaps this was just like a huge open field? Imagine, with one freshly dug grave. And now, it’s a mature graveyard.

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Monkeys L30 to L33, from Thomas George’s grave.

My companions seem bemused by the idea of recording monkey puzzle trees, I show them my map and notebook. They realise I am serious and so I get out my iPhone and show them the blog. One of them seems quite interested, the other one laughs and says, ‘I wouldn’t like to be alone in a room with you.’ And then says, ‘What is it you do then?’ And I’m not sure if he believes me when I tell him I take funeral services… and starts to back away, although he is laughing. His colleague suggests we could put some monkey puzzle cones on the top of his coffin… they both cackle and disappear back to their van. Alone again, I continue photographing these lovely trees.

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L34, the final monkey, in section ‘Roman Catholic 4’.

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One of the smaller disused chapels.

Splendid monkey puzzle branches and horse chestnut leaves just opening.

Splendid monkey puzzle branches and horse chestnut leaves just opening.

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Spring at Allerton Cemetery.

So there we have the 13 monkeys of Allerton Cemetery. A splendid collection. And also adds to my curiosity about monkeys and graveyards, they are often found in them. Another theory? For now, I’m just happy to enjoy the fact that they are there to be enjoyed by all.

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