Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

Meg Johannessen: Landscape Architect, Advisor to Natural England

This park is one of the only places in London where I can forget I’m in London. I love my little patch of East London but, having grown up in the countryside, I often feel a need to escape the noise of the city. Luckily, I have the cemetery on my doorstep.

Many greenspaces in London are very formal, but the cemetery feels wild, unruly and overgrown. I feel a sense of calm the moment I step through the gates. It is enveloped in trees, buzzing with wildlife, and echoing with the memories of the dead below my feet. I am just a guest here. 

I have this deep urge to lie down under the gravestones, letting the ivy grow over and consume me. I don’t mean this in a morbid way – I think it’s that instinct to connect with nature, and maybe even to submit to its will. 

I saw this inherent instinct to connect with nature whilst co-designing a child-friendly neighbourhood in South London. The children were drawn to nature, understanding this part of themselves as I think adults sometimes forget. We often feel separate to nature, but humans are as much a part of it as wildflowers or bees.

This is why I am so passionate about increasing access to nature, whether through greening our streets or improving access to the countryside. It is both a human need and right.