Pet Semetery

Not even people who visit Hornfair Park regularly necessarily know about this place. Sadly some people know it all too well.

Charlton Pet Cemetery seems to have been at its zenith in the 1930s – when, I’m guessing, so was the Lido. Memorials carved with all the sincerity as for human loved ones, noteable as being of the furry variety only because in the 1920s and 30s there weren’t too many people in Charlton called Chu-Chu, Ickety Man and Ming Zee.

It must have been a charming corner of the park, and I’m guessing that – what – about 10-15 years ago, someone thought it could be charming again. What I’m assuming were by that point badly-overgrown graves were ripped up and a little patio made from the headstones, with a couple of (cherry?) trees overhanging some rather sinister-looking low concrete benches.

These days, sadly, a good half of said benches have been knocked over. Around the edge, other headstones line beds with a few shrubs dotted around them, now also populated with ground elder and brambles. Oh – and something else…

I found it an intensely depressing experience, wandering round, looking at memorials to much-loved pets – Mike, Rex, Floss, Roy, Mickey, Buntie – and a couple of names that would be, ahem, less acceptable these days – cracked and forgotten, broken and left to moulder.

In human cemeteries, like Nunhead and yes, even areas of Charlton’s own, decay is a natural and beautiful part of Life. Plants growing out of graves are to be ooh-ed and ahh-ed at with an indulgent sense of the bucolic.
This, with its municipal, concrete paving, grim, flower-less railings and dusty, empty beds, is just downright sad. Bizarrely, it’s actually very photogenic, though. The photo above makes it look quite cute. It isn’t. I get no feeling that this is visited for any kind of happy reason. At my feet I saw smashed memorials and signs of a fire. Around the edges was another kind of litter. Take a look at this memorial to Susan:
Now take another look – at the bottom left. Click on it if you can’t see properly.
This place could be lovely again – but whoever designed it – I’m guessing in the 1980s – has made it a hard area to love. There’s just so much concrete. And I’m guessing that most of the Council’s cash goes on looking after that superb area in front of the lido that, admittedly, looks wonderful just now.

I don’t think it would take very much to keep this area looked-after – after all, it’s 90% hard-paving – but if it was made a little more inviting, perhaps it would be used by someone other than drug addicts…

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