Overgrown Walthamstow cemetery set for September clean up

Queens Road Cemetery is one of many areas in Waltham Forest that will benefit from a “September Clean” as visitors complain of a lack of maintenance.

Cheryl Johnston, 54, who visits the Walthamstow cemetery regularly to remember her parents and sister said she struggled to find their graves due to plants almost as tall as her.

The clean, scheduled for Spring, but postponed due to the pandemic, will last from September 11 to 27 and involve litter picking, the planting of wildflower meadows and other improvements.

Contractors Urbaser will clear space for the meadows at Queens Road Cemetery and a number of other parks and green spaces so they can be planted by schools and community groups.

Cheryl Johnston said: “I was shocked when I went over there because you can’t get to the graves at all. It’s not fair really for those who still visit their loved ones.

“It’s not as if I don’t go quite regularly, I have got a lot of family in there.

“This happened a few years ago and they started to cut it back but now the plants are taller than me.”

While Cheryl, at only 4’10”, is shorter than average height, she said she was concerned for the many elderly visitors who may struggle to find their way through the plant growth.

When contacted, deputy leader Cllr Clyde Loakes, responsible for the environment, said the cemetery was “maintained to encourage biodiversity”.

He said: “This is common practice in cemeteries where burials can no longer take place. Allowing longer grass and wildflowers to grow is beneficial to the environment and gives native flowers and animals a safe habitat to thrive.

“Local residents who volunteer to help the council care for Queens Road Cemetery will create a new wildflower meadow as part of the September Clean fortnight, sowing seeds of plant species that boost biodiversity in between the plots.

“The grass will be cut before this work takes place. Later in the year, new trees will be planted at Queens Road Cemetery by our team. 

“We know how important this open space is for residents as an oasis of calm and a place they can remember loved ones in peace and tranquillity.”

Earlier this year, more than 400 residents signed a petition calling on the council to level the cemetery’s graves, which Cllr Loakes said would be “neither practical nor possible”.

The council hopes that planting wildflowers will boost the number of pollinators, such as bees, and reduce the borough’s impact on the environment.

Those who wish to volunteer can contact the team by emailing [email protected] for seeds and equipment.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter