One of the great delights of my work as an independent funeral celebrant is the fact that it takes me all over Liverpool and, sometimes, further north to Southport and Ormskirk and even over to the Wirral. Of course, I am no stranger to the Wirral, I grew up there, my family moved there from Birmingham in the late 1960s. We first lived in Birkenhead. And I went to this school, Bidston Avenue.
In that same playground back in 1975 the ‘leavers who passed their eleven plus’ are photographed. And I am one of them.
In the background of this photograph you can see the gatepost and clipped holly trees – they are the entrance to Flaybrick Hill Cemetery.
The cemetery is now called Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, which I think is wrong. It’s a cemetery. The definition of cemetery is:
‘A spatially defined area where the remains of dead people are buried or otherwise interred. The word cemetery is from the Greek meaning sleeping place.’
I didn’t know that actually – sleeping place. An interesting concept – that we are sleeping after we die.
It is a delightful place. And I could have meandered in the golden evening, but I have an appointment to keep, plus I am here for a specific reason. A monkey.
Doesn’t take me long to find this lovely monkey.
And sort of more magnificent for its setting.
Just along from the monkey puzzle, there is a central building. I remember this when I was at school. There was a dire warning that if you stood under the clock when it struck midnight, something terrible would happen to you… I remember it seemed all rather frightening and derelict.
Sadly the chapel is now fenced off, and in a sorry state of repair.
I find it very sad that so often chapels in cemeteries are derelict like this. What a fabulous gothic building. These two chapels, linked by the clock tower were for the Non-conformists and the Church of England – they were last used in 1975, which is when the cemetery stopped being active,except for burials within existing family plots. There was a third chapel for Catholics, but that’s been demolished.
Flaybrick Cemetery Conservation Area was designated in 1990. I’d noticed when I came into the cemetery on the board it said that there were 140 species of trees here – an nowhere on the Wirral, apart from Ness Botanic Gardens, has more. The noticeboard also tells me there plans to develop this place as an arboretum and open the chapels as a visitor centre. I hope they do.
I climb the steps up to the railings and look in at the War Memorial.
I can’t ever visit a cemetery without imagining the number of people who have tread here before me. The sorrow, and love, that has been felt in these places. It is steeped into every molecule of this place. It is gorgeous.
Time for me to go now.
I hadn’t noticed this on the way in. It’s huge. What is it? It looks sort of like an oak, but sort of like a beech too.
I think at first this must be an oak, as it’s leaves are serrated. But the ground underneath it is covered with tell-tale beech masts. A cut leaved beech? I am not familiar with this. When I get home I look it up – it is indeed a ‘Fern Leaved Beech’ (Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’). And it turns out it is one of the ‘Great Trees of Wirral‘, described as ‘A Green Jewel’. It certainly is.
Really time for me to go now… I take a last look at the paths that I will certainly come back to explore and discover more of these lovely graves and trees.
Thanks to @JaneSoup on Twitter for telling me about this monkey.