Respect for the dead, Woods for the living – Save Southwark Woods

B8STOQlCQAUPO79.jpg-largeSouthwark Council wants to destroy beautiful wild woodlands at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries, felling dozens of trees, clearing woodland and undergrowth, and excavating acres of old graves, to make way for over 4,800 burial plots.

Woodlands are the lungs of London. We want the cemeteries turned into local Nature Reserves, as with Nunhead Cemetery. Both cemeteries are part of the London Green Chain Walk and Camberwell Old Cemetery is a Grade 1 Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation. These wonderful woodlands are home to protected species, a wild tangle of trees and undergrowth, a haven of habitats and they are valuable to nature, to people and to the future.

CGuWkKxXIAA0iuoThe woodlands provide many valuable benefits locally, cleaning the air, absorbing and filtering storm water, keeping the neighbourhood cool in summer, and providing beautiful, natural places for our mental and physical well-being.

Save Southwark Woods formed in January 2015 to request Southwark create 100 acres of protected wildness with respect for the dead and their memorials, and woodland for the living.

On July 8th we will be presenting the petition and our case to the full Southwark Council Assembly.

Over 7,300 have already signed online and on paper – help make it 10,000 by July.

Please sign and help Save Southwark Woods – for nature, for people and for the future!

Want to do more?
Join the Facebook Page and tell your friends – Save Southwark Woods!
Follow the campaign on twitter @SouthwarkWoods

You can also email the London Borough of Southwark to protest the potential loss of this woodland which is a Grade 1 Site of Borough Importance: and

About this article

Shapa Begum

About Shapa Begum

Hi, I’m Shapa Begum, Blog Editor. Born and raised in East Dulwich, I love what I do here at Dulwich OnView, I’m absolutely passionate about south London and reaching out to local communities – you can read about my favourite Dulwich spots on Time Out London and Completely London blog. My role goes beyond editing, I write, review, participate in conferences/events, attend local happenings and oversee the marketing. There’s no rest for the wicked! When not working, I love to read, write, visit museums and spend time with my loved ones.
Other articles by


  1. Nicki 11 Jun 2015

    I’d like to respond to some of the points and inaccuracies in your article.
    I’m a resident of Southwark and also work as a funeral director.
    Historically there is no such place as ‘Southwark Woods’. This name has been chosen by a few people who try to use emotive language to make this piece of land seem more significant. In fact, this is land in Camberwell Old Cemetery and Camberwell New Cemetery that has been used as cemetery for over 100 years. The areas concerned already contain thousands of burials and were intended to take more.
    These so-called ‘woods’ are for the most part self-seeded sycamore trees that have grown on a spoil-heap which was put there when the Council was preparing for burial plots a few years ago.
    From what I can see from the extensive plans and from the meetings I’ve attended, there is no intention to ‘destroy’. Saying that there is a plan to excavate acres of graves is simply a lie! This is not up for discussion.
    Using such emotive language in your article is ill-informed and unduly sensationalist. It smells of NIMBYism and isn’t a balanced point of view. This isn’t the Daily Mail!
    Those who have seen the plans will see that that the Council are planning to make more burial spaces available to residents in Southwark because existing sites have run out of space. By sympathetically planning around the important areas such as those with mature trees and wildlife areas it is possible for the new burial sites to exist with nature and locals alike. Nature is marvellous and it adapts. Have a look at Nunhead and Brockley cemeteries to see how nature and burials can work in harmony. The dog walkers who are complaining about the land being re-used are more likely to cause damage to the environment by leaving their dog mess behind.
    I love our open spaces in Southwark. Luckily we have over 130 parks and open spaces in the Borough, however we only have three cemeteries and they are again running out of space. Within a mile of Camberwell Old cemetery are Nunhead Cemetery, Camberwell New One Tree Hill, Aquarius, The Reservoir, Honor Oak sport ground (The Rec -cemetery land in reserve – but that’s another issue!), Peckham Rye Park and Common, Brenchley Gardens, the allotments, Hornimans gardens and Dulwich Park plus numerous other green spaces. Moving some self-seeded sycamores, which are widely regarded as weeds, is hardly ripping the lungs out of London!
    The level of cremations versus burials in this area is very similar to that of 30 years ago; residents in our Borough clearly still want burials. In my job I’ve already had to tell a heartbroken family that their young son couldn’t be buried near his grandparents in Camberwell New Cemetery and a daughter was told she couldn’t bury her father near her mother because the cemetery was full.
    Despite the high cost of burial families still choose it because it is very important to some people. In fact, for some cultures it is essential. Muslims and some Christians are not allowed cremation as part of their doctrine or custom and it isn’t an option for them. For those of us who are atheist or agnostic it may simply be seen as a ‘greener’ ending or a matter of personal choice.
    If burial space is made unavailable in Southwark, we’re not ‘future-proofing’. If there is no space in Southwark, residents will have to pay to go to other boroughs and pay the prohibitively expensive non-resident fees. This then in turn puts increased pressure on neighbouring boroughs who are also already facing the problem of lack of space. A non-resident burial fee in Lewisham is currently between £11,500:00 and £14,160 compared to resident fees in Southwark of £2577:00 and £3246:00
    In Lewisham in 2014, 31.2% of funerals were burials. In Southwark it was over 33%. In my company 51% of our funerals last year were burials plus we repatriated many bodies abroad and to other parts of the UK for burial. This is a large percentage of the population who expect a burial in their local borough. There were many more families who would have preferred burial but found the cost prohibitive. These are the silent people. We don’t see them protesting at meetings because they simply presume that when the time comes to arrange a funeral, the cemetery will be available to them.
    The majority of people at the meetings and who are protesting about the works at the cemeteries are white, middle class, middle aged and resident of Southwark or Lewisham. This isn’t representative of the population of Southwark who are increasingly of African and West Indian heritage – the people who ultimately will want burial at their time of need.
    As I said at the beginning, I’m a funeral director. I have no vested interest in whether burials are stopped in Southwark. From a purely business point of view, I’d prefer everybody to be cremated. It’s cheaper, quicker and easier. However, it’s by no means what everybody wants for themselves or their loved ones.

    • Shapa Begum 23 Jun 2015

      Hi Nicki,

      Thank you so much for your informative comment. It’s worth a read and you’ve raised some interesting points. I’ve been trying to follow the campaign but I’ve not attended a meeting in person. Vast majority of information is from the website itself
      You can contact the organisers direct if you wish to raise your concerns. Of course, if you wish to contribute an article about this matter, we’ll be more than happy to publish.

      Many thanks,

  2. Stephen Henden 20 Jun 2015

    This is nonsense. There is no such thing as “Southwark woods’ The name has been invented by nimbies to make the issue sound more dramatic. This is simply an area where trees have grown up on unused areas of the Cemetery and not ancient woodland. Southwark urgently needs more burial space, many people wish to be buried for religious or other reasons and it seems perfectly reasonable to use this area for further burial sites. We have a huge amount of green space in the area already and it is not unreasonable to sacrifice a little for a much needed purpose. I really think peoples campaigns would be better focussed on really pressing issues and not get distracted with stuff like this.

    • Shapa Begum 23 Jun 2015

      Hi Stephen,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’ve been trying to follow the campaign but I’ve not attended a meeting in person. Vast majority of information is from the website itself and we also receive email alerts from the campaign.
      You can contact the organisers direct if you wish to raise your concerns. Of course, if you wish to contribute an article about this matter, we’ll be more than happy to publish.

      Many thanks,


Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *