Tuesday, 31 January 2012


Hiding behind a PDSA veterinary clinic off a long and lonely wind of road in Ilford, Essex lies a poignant patch of ground, overshadowed by electricity pylons and studded with diminutive graves. Ilford Animal Cemetery was established in the 1920's and has a distinct topographical lore all of its very own. The cemetery is a very singular, quiet place only interrupted occasionally by the sounds of a speeding car or ripple of Eucalyptus leaves. Amongst the headstones, plaques, stone dogs and carved rabbit memorials, nestle older partly rotting wooden crosses from the pet cemetery's earliest days, these weather-tested signs flake paint and memory in equal measure. Besides beloved companions, the 3000 plots here also find final resting places for 12 animals who were awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery, including Able Seacat Simon and the wonderfully titled carrier pigeon Mary Of Exeter, who made several trips behind enemy lines in WWII delivering secret messages to the resistance. However, for all the glory of their graves, at the back of the site where a creosoted fence shields conifers from the elements you can just about make out a wooden sign hidden beneath a landslide of dried leaves and pine needles. This humble square of painted wood remembers all the "strays and ill-treated creatures" who don't have graves, or thoughts spent on them and certainly packs the most powerful emotional punch. Forgotten and decaying on the outermost perimeter this tiny sign makes you acutely aware the unwanted animals are watching and waiting.

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