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5 dog-friendly cemeteries in London for a different dog walk

By January 30, 2020 No Comments
Photo of two small dogs walk on a path among grave headstones at dog-friendly cemetery in London

If you have ever considered visiting a dog-friendly cemetery in London, or you already a regular at any of them and looking for another one to visit, this guide is for you. Here you will find all about the best dog-friendly cemeteries to visit with your pooch for a great dog adventure: those with faded headstones, wild vegetation and intriguing paths, for a different stroll or dog day out. Which also happens to be a great free thing to do with your dog in London!

The perfect dog walk at one of 6 dog-friendly cemeteries in London

Dog running at cemeteryEach country has very different customs regarding cemeteries and burial grounds. Coming from a Catholic European country, cemeteries may look unexpectedly “lively” in the UK: in London, in particular, there seems to be an almost nonchalant approach, mixing life and death and in cemeteries you find people going there to jog, cycle, admire nature or… walk their dog.  In many cemeteries, wild vegetation and an undisturbed environment has  attracted a great biodiversity. Squirrels, birds of so many species, bugs and insects, foxes, bats, all populate this micro-habitat.

The most beautiful cemeteries in London are those known as the “Magnificent Seven”, built during the Victorian age. A few of them do not allow new burials and are dotted with monuments and traditional stone tombs, with inscription that start fading away or leave room for your imagination where moss or ivy have grown over them. Some of these seven cemeteries, such as Highgate Cemetery and Kensal Green Cemetery, do not all allow dogs in their grounds, but don’t despair: there are some even better ones that do welcome them and are a favourite destination for many local dog walkers!

Nunhead Cemetery

Sign with map of Nunhead CemeteryNunhead Cemetery, in Nunhead, South London, is probably our favourite dog-friendly cemetery. It was open in 1840 and is the second largest Victorian cemetery in London (the first being Kensal Green, in case you are wondering, which does not allow dogs), but the largest one among the dog-friendly ones.

Depending on the path you take, you may find yourself around war graves or those of weathly families of the past. With its monumental tombs, the dense and overgrown vegetation and paths running uphill, with unexpected clearings opening among the wood, it is not surprising to meet so many dog walkers enjoying a stroll with their canines there.

Paths at dog-friendly Nunhead Cemetery

War gravesDogs are welcome in all parts of the cemetery, but some restrictions apply: in some areas they can be let off-leash, in others they must be kept on a leash. To make the rules clear, there are wooden poles carrying signs on the paths: a green band facing you means that from there on your dog can stay off-leash; where an orange band is what faces you, you will have to put your dog on a lead from there. Make sure you are not mistaken: rules are enforced across the cemetery!

Dog near sign of dogs on lead at Nunhead Cemetery

Nunhead Cemetery is free to visit and a really lovely one for a day out. If you would like to learn more about its history or curiosities, the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery run general tours (they are free but donations are welcome) on the last Sunday of every month at 2.15pm; they also host woodland trees walks and special interests tours. Check out the full list of the 2020 tours here. The meeting point is at the Linden Grove gates and the tours normally last an hour and a half or two. It could be a nice one to take your dog on!

Dog and owner walk near monument at Nunhead Cemetery

Address: Nunhead Cemetery, Linden Grove, SE15 3LP, South London
Dog rules: Dogs are allowed on leads in certain areas and off-leash in others as explained above
Opening times: daily (including weekends) from 08:30 am to 4pm in the winter months, 5pm in March and October, 7pm from 1st April to 30th October.
Nearest station: Nunhead train station; Peckham Rye is at walking distance.

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

Dog near stone graves at Tower Hamlets Cemetery ParkAn oasis of green, where bulbs grow in abundance, meadows give dogs a great place to run and walks among the graves are an exciting adventure. At Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park you can roam around ponds, meadows, woodland, for almost 11 hectars of land.  Open in 1841, as one of London’s Victorian cemeteries, burials in this cemetery ceased in 1966, when the site was closed as a cemetery and declared a Park. It was later designated as Local Nature Reserve and a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation.

View of path among graves at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

At Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park you can enjoy a great programme of community-led events (they also have bee hives – which are fenced off, in the middle of the cemetery -), children activities and more! The public events programme is dense and includes free guided walks every third Sunday of the month 2pm – 4pm, a children “Bow Beastie’s Wildlife Club” every third Saturday of the month 10am – 12.30pm, as well as… evening bat walks! You can find all upcoming events on their dedicated page. There are some self-guided tours you can find on the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park’s website, like the Heritage Trail, which are perfect for independent explorations.

Being us East Londoners, we may be biased, but we are particular fond of this one. Dogs are welcome also off-leash, but watch out for wild animals: the cemetery is full of foxes and even during the day you can meet 3-4 during a single walk!

Large dog sits in the sun among grave headstones

The main entrance to the park is in Southern Grove, 5 minutes far from Mile End underground, but there is also a South entrance which is directly on the meadows.

Pond at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

Facilities: there are toilets on site at the Soane Centre (when open)
Opening times: The park is open from dawn till dusk and it is free to visit.
Dog policy: dogs are allowed off-leash
Getting there: There is street parking at weekends only. Mile End tube station (District and Central line) is a 5-minute walk.
Price: Free to visit; tours may have an associated cost

Abney Park Cemetery

Dog on bench at Abney Park Cemetery

In the lovely setting of Stoke Newington, not far from Clissold Park, there is dog-friendly Abney Park Cemetery. Dating to the same age of Nunhead and Tower Hamlets cemeteries, Abney Park Cemetery has a ruined picturesque gothic chapel from 1840 at the crossroads of its paths. This urban wilderness has something quite extraordinary and was originally laid out as an arboretum with an impressive number of plants varieties.

Also in this cemetery you can take tours. These are free but suggested £5 donation welcome. You can find the next tours, along with other events, listed in Abney Park Cemetery events page.

Dog among graves

Opening times: Daily opening at 8am, closing time depends from time of the year (see calendar here)

Address: Abney Park Cemetery, 215 Stoke Newington High Street, London, N16 0LH
Dog policy: Dogs are allowed off-leash, but must be put on a lead if directed to do so. Dogs must be cleaned after.
Price: Free to visit
Closest station: Stoke Newington Overground station/trains, or by bus.
Official website: abneypark.org

Brompton Cemetery

Brompton CemeteryIf you live in West London, Brompton Cemetery will be the closest one to bring your dog to for a walk. Much more orderly and well maintained than other cemeteries (and less wild), its charm is quite different, with its elegant Victorian Great Circle and Colonnades. Today it is a Grade I listes site, part of the Royal Parks and has been recently refurbished.

Before permanently moving to London, for a period I rented a room in Earls Court and my walks would often bring me to Brompton Cemetery. At the time I found it spectacular, and I was struck by seeing people jogging or cycling through the cemetery; after visiting the other cemeteries mentioned in this guide, though, while I still find Brompton Cemetery beautiful, I can’t say that it is my favourite. The tarmac of the tree-lined central avenue is not quite attractive…

Guided tours and events are hosted at the cemetery and you can find more information on their events page.

Address: Brompton Cemetery, Fulham Road, London SW10 9UG
Opening times: open from 7am daily, closing times table here
Dog policy: dogs are allowed provided they are kept on a lead at all times and stay on designated paths. Owners are required to clean their dogs’ mess.
Price: Free to visit
Closest station: West Brompton (Overground), Fulham Broadway (District line), Earl’s Court (District and Piccadilly lines)

Barnes Old Cemetery

Dog at Barnes Old Cemetery

Barnes Old Cemetery also dates back to the Victorian age, though it was not one of the “Magnificent Seven”. This small disused cemetery is very curated and hosts a number of war graves. Dogs are allowed in the cemetery on a lead, and as you stroll on the footpaths among the headstones, passing by the small church, the feeling is that of a small and quiet village, where you can take some time for reflection.

Just outside the cemetery there is Barnes Common, so you can combine your visit with a dog walk.

Church at Barnes Old Cemetery

Graves with red tree

Address: Barnes Old Cemetery, Rocks Lane, Barnes SW13 0BY, South West London
Entry: Free to visit
Dog policy: Dogs must be kept on a lead
Closest station: Barnes (trains from Waterloo)

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground is a very unusual cemetery, nestled between City Road and Bunhill Row, not far from the busy Old Street roundabout. A path cuts through the field of fenced off graves and there is a wider field at the back, on the North side. Here are buried famous people like William Blake and Daniel Defoe. It is definitely a lovely destination for a lunch break, if you work in the area. Dogs must stay on leash and squirrels are the true masters of the place.

Entrance is free. Guided tours are available on Wednesdays at 12.30 for £10.

Address: 38 City Road/Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 2BG
Dog policy: Dogs on leads
Price: Free to visit
Website: cityoflondon.gov.uk/Bunhill-Fields
Closest station: Old Street (Northern line)

Tips for visiting a cemetery with your dog

Husky dog on bench at dog-friendly cemetery

To get the most out of your cemetery trip, the same tips apply that for any other park walk:

– Sturdy and mud-proof shoes are a good idea, especially after it rained. Long trousers are advisable if you venture on less beaten paths.

– Bring poo bags and clean after your dog. In some of the cemeteries, bins may be located at the entrance, so good to get organised

Don’t let your dogs pee/poo on the graves, or sitting on them (this is also expressly called out by some cemeteries). This said, the cemetery can be a great celebration of how life and death coexist; if look closely, you will spot woodpeckers, bees, and so many little animals thriving. Make the most of your dog walk in such a timeless and fascinating places!

Large dog among graves at dog-friendly cemetery park in London

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