I can’t be the only person who actually enjoys spending time in cemeteries and graveyards. Often they’re portrayed as frightening or gloomy places, but I have found them to be places of peace and rest even for the living.
During a recent choral festival at St Oswald’s in Ashbourne, I spent some time in the graveyard there taking pictures. Rather than being a place for the dead, it was more like a meadow. With the grass and the flowers left to grow wild, it opened out onto glebe land and a herd of quietly grazing cattle.
I regularly play the organ at the small and very old church of All Saints in Turnditch in the Derbyshire countryside. This has to win the prize for most picturesque place for one’s mortal remains to rest, looking out as it does across the fields and hills. Sadly it wasn’t quite such a sunny day when I took these photos and I couldn’t quite manage to include the whole sweeping vista, but it is so beautiful.
Last week I took a trip to Belper cemetery. Created in the 1850s to deal with the huge increase in population following the growth of industry in the town, it is full of the most beautiful Victorian memorials and exotic trees. It has a gatehouse now in private ownership, public toilets and a pair of Gothic style chapels designed by Edward Holmes and built back to back. The North chapel was originally for use by Nonconformists and the South chapel was Church of England.
The whole site is a real credit to Amber Valley Borough Council (and I don’t normally say things like that!) who treat the area as parkland and they have done some great work in securing the site for the future. They have extended the cemetery to include further burial plots and also restored one of the chapels which had been damaged by rabbits so that it is now once again in use, and take good care of the Commonwealth War Graves which can be found there – including the one of Gunner Edwin Stone who received the VC.
Belper and the Amber Valley have much to offer the visitor – the mills and beautiful stone cottages and the surrounding countryside – but I really do recommend a trip to the cemetery for some of the best views of the valley and the most ‘Beautiful Retreat’ of the entire town.