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New Meadow Area Celebration Sunday 31st July

05 July 2022

On Sunday 31st July, join local residents and campaigners for an opening ceremony to celebrate hard-won battles for people and nature at Camberwell Old Cemetery, south-east London.

Commonwealth War Grave memorials
Some of the 48 new Commonwealth War Grave memorials erected to mark CWGC graves from WW1 and WW2 at Camberwell Old Cemetery

After a long campaign supported by more than 15,000 people, a new burial area is to be managed as a meadow, with new native hedgerow and trees, as well as a large wilder area left aside on the northern boundary.

A new entrance on Underhll Road leads up the hill to the meadow area, which Southwark Council is calling ‘The Oaks and The Glades’. There is a great view north to the City of London and St Paul’s Cathedral from the top.

Until recently, this was two acres of young woodland, with over 200 new trees establishing well, over the last 15 years. Residents and campaigners fought hard to save the woodland from the chainsaws.

But burial is a lucrative business. Southwark clear-felled the area to sell a thousand burial plots over the 30,000 people already buried here. The council intended to cram in as many burial plots for sale as possible, even omitting to mark most of the Commonwealth War Graves on their own planning application drawings.

But residents revealed there were 48 Commonwealth War Graves in total here, the majority from the First World War, and went public. These servicemen and women might have had new burial plots sold over them, their lives forgotten and with no CWGC memorial gravestone erected to mark their service and sacrifice.

Instead, Southwark and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission were held to account to protect the graves and erect the CWGC memorial gravestones not only here – but across the rest of Camberwell Old Cemetery too.

the meadow at Camberwell Old Cemetery
Two of the 48 Commonwealth War Graves memorial stones standing in the meadow at Camberwell Old Cemetery, marking graves of WW1 and WW2 servicemen and women

And instead of conventional Southwark cemetery lawn with minimal biodiversity, campaigners also won a battle for the two acres to be managed as a wildflower meadow, cut only a couple of times a year, with big benefits for people and wildlife.

It shows what can be done when residents work together to save really valuable, beautiful biodiverse places, meadows, woodland, for health, to relax, to marvel at the wonders of nature and its power to help us.

To the east of the meadow, ten acres of beautiful, long-established native broadleaf woodland are still under threat from Southwark Council, who plan to clear them, dig up or mound over the graves, to sell new burial plots over them.

Let’s make sure this beautiful, shady, cool, buzzing woodland humming with life is not forgotten either.

Join on Sunday 31st July to celebrate these amazing community victories and to continue to protect these beautiful cemeteries and nature – and the memorials and graves of the tens of thousands of people lying buried between their roots.

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