Wednesday 21 November 2018

An Autumn Visit to Arnos Vale: Bristol's Victorian Garden Cemetery

I joined a local hiking group this year, which has been a huge amount of fun. I've organised a few walks in my new seaside hometown, and have gone on several others in and around Bristol (though not nearly as many as I'd have liked!).

It's really nice having a group of people to get out and walk with, and I've found that organising walks (which you're then committed to because other people are coming) is a great way to get myself out of the house and exploring. I've decided to use this as a way of kicking myself into finally visiting places which have been on my "Ooh, I want to go there!" list for ages... and this autumn the first place I've ticked off the list is Arnos Vale Cemetery.


It sounds a bit weird to say that I took my hiking group for a walk round a cemetery, but Arnos Vale is somewhere pretty special. Established in 1837, the 45 acre site is really beautiful: a veritable maze of little woodland paths with interesting gravestones and memorials around every corner.

I arrived early to get my bearings before the others arrived and it didn't take me long to get slightly spooked out walking around the site. Okay so the ghost stories I'd been reading that week probably didn't help, but this is an incredibly atmospheric place to explore (particularly on your own, first thing after it opens on a slightly misty autumn morning!).

Later, after the other ladies from the group had headed home (and after we'd had some truly delicious cake from the on-site cafe), I went for another solo wander to take photos and explore some of the smaller paths we'd missed out when following the main discovery trail.

The trail map is available via the website or as a free leaflet from the gift shop - where you can also buy self-guided trail leaflets that tell you more about the history of the cemetary, some of the people buried here, and the symbolism used in gravestones and memorials.

"What did you do on Saturday, Laura?"
"Oh, I walked around a cemetery and thought about death! It was great!"

I'm already trying to work out when I can fit in a return visit.