Battleaxe was in Bristol and loved Arnos Vale Cemetery

This is the second post out of a series of three – the last one covered our trip to Symonds Yat, and this one continues with our travels, down to Bristol. We had a slightly hectic meal in a very noisy Turkish restaurant, a lovely visit to Arnos Vale Cemetery, a yum dim-sum pig-out, not so good Bubble Tea experiment, and a good time with Battleaxe’s  step-daughter Anna and her partner Gareth. We’ll start with the cemetery…

Arnos Vale was founded in 1839 as a ‘garden cemetery’, inspired by Père-Lachaise in Paris, and later, Kensal Green in London. Bristol’s wealth ensured its buildings and burial memorials were both ornate and architecturally splendid. In the 1920s the first crematorium in the South-West of England was installed in one of the chapels. During the 1980s and 90s the cemetery fell into severe decline, and much of the 45 acre site was overgrown and derelict. Today, groups of locals are working to clear and restore much of the site, although large areas will be left natural, as plant and wildlife havens.

Battleaxe loves a romantic old cemetery – I have posted several times about our excellent Victorian one here in Hastings. Looking back at this post I’ve linked, I’m surprised to see that Hastings Cemetery covers 87 acres – actually much, much bigger than Arnos Vale.  Still, I could have happily spent all day wandering round Arnos Vale – it feels big because of all the secret, wild woodland.

One impressive Indian  temple-style tomb belongs to Rajah Ram Mohun Roy, an Indian social reformer and educationalist who died in 1833. His memorial plaque tells us that he worked to abolish the practice of suttee (widow burning). It was interesting to read about that because certainly when I was at school , we were taught that all such-like reforms were undertaken by the ‘civilising’ British. Not so.

The chapel that held the crematorium has been turned into a cafe, but downstairs, you can see the actual workings of the old crematorium, including the oven, the lift that brought the catafalque, with the coffin, down from the chapel above, and the machine that ground up cremated bones into ashes. It was all a bit grim, faintly off-putting. Apparently 123,000 people were cremated there before it was taken out of use. I still think I’ll opt for natural burial.

Here are a few more atmospheric-type photos of the cemetery. There is an excellent book on old cemeteries, which Anna had already bought me – ‘A tomb with a view’ by Peter Ross, which has a section on Arnos Vale and which Battleaxe would recommend.

The symbolism of the carving on Victorian graves is interesting – have never seen this weeping willow design in Hastings Cemetery,

Father and daughter

So, back to meals. On our first evening we went to a huge new Turkish restaurant, the Cappadocia. Very big, very up-market-Istanbul-glitzy-bling.  Anna and Gareth know we like Turkish food, and indeed the food was very good, but oh goodness was it noisy! Battleaxe and Philosopher are not as good at noisy restaurants as we were – if we ever were… Downstairs there was the obligatory blingy posing corner where you took your Instagram pics – so of course we had to do it…!

Next day we went Chinese – to Wai Yee Hong, a massive Chinese restaurant on top of an equally massive Chinese Supermarket, on an industrial estate near IKEA.  The menu was literally the size of a book, with pages and pages of different dim sum. There was a very similar place in Birmingham, Wing Yip, on an industrial estate in Nechells, which I went to a couple of times. Anyway, as with Wing Yip, the dim sum were excellent. We ordered loads and ate loads… Battleaxe would recommend. 

After our food, we staggered round the supermarket. Anna and I bought two tins of bubble tea, purely as an experiment. Well, you have to try these things, don’t you… There was a long article about it recently in the Guardian.  Here it is. Ages ago, when Philosopher and I were in India, I was very keen on Falooda – another  milk drink with bobbles in. When were in Mumbai we went many times to a cafe called Leopolds, and I had Falooda every time. I thought bubble tea would be similar.

We got one with ordinary tapioca bubbles, and another, wilder still, with popping bubbles. We were not impressed. Insipid and sugary. The ordinary tapioca bubbles just were lumps of goo, and the popping ones were quite surprising at first – but they just popped – I thought they might fizz or something…  But there you go, I’m sure little girls love the stuff.



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