A canal, a cemetery, and a clockwork nightingale: how I spent my Saturday

Firstly, look what appeared in the post yesterday! I’d had a fairly tough week and these thrilled me. If you want to get a copy of that delicious cover art yourself,  Steamed Up will be released on October 21st. I’m very excited about it The Clockwork Nightingale’s Song was my very first attempt at steampunk, and I’m thrilled to be included.


That excitement done, and a few of my deadlines ticked off on time, I was delighted to wake up this morning to sunshine. I’d been anticipating a weekend of rain against the windows, hot tea and red wine, but actual sunshine was too good to waste, even if I hadn’t crawled out of bed until after nine, so I grabbed my bag, shoved on my walking boots, and headed off down the towpath. The trees are just starting to turn now, and we’ve had lovely misty mornings all week. The canal is barely used by boats, even on the odd days when the full length is open, so the water tends to be still, dark and full of reflections. So, I took photos…





005 Gnomes

006 balsam

Pretty, but evil. This is Himalayan balsam, an invasive species which clogs up many British waterways. Isaac, my lengthsman character from last year’s Advent story, would not approve of me taking pretty pictures of it.

007 barge

An abandoned barge. The canal was never a huge commercial success, and the last commercial barge stopped sailing in about 1910. There are abandoned barges moored all along the banks, most of which now support significant wildlife.

008 rowan

009 lock

One of the locks in the Deepcut Flight, which crams fourteen locks into about five miles of canal.

010 towpath

011 lock


Edit: Okay, so I forgot all about the cemetery I mentioned in the title. My walk ended at Brookwood. As I’d just missed a train, I walked on into the cemetery, which you can access right from the station. Brookwood cemetery is the biggest in the UK, iirc, and dates from the 1850s, when it was part of an effort to find burial space outside London. It once had its own dedicated railway, the Necropolis Railway, which operated from a special station near Waterloo Station in London until 1942, when its London terminus was bombed during the Blitz. It’s unusual because it contains a number of subsections – there are a number of military cemeteries inside its grounds, including a tiny set of fourteen simple graves of members of the Turkish Air Force killed in World War Two. My wanderings brought me into the Zoroastrian cemetery, which dates back to 1863. One wonders if the sleepers there ever dreamt they would end up buried in suburban Surrey. I passed a woman born in Bombay who had married an English doctor and died in 1935 in London, aged 42; a 25 year old medical student from India who had died in Glasgow in 1905; a respected Indian magistrate who died in Marseilles; the doctor from Shanghai, who was shot trying to get between Indian freedom fighter Madan Lal Dhingra and his target, Indian Office Official Sir Curzon-Wylie (the doctor’s name was Cawas Lalkaka and I found a blogpost about him here). Many of the older graves had their epitaphs and dates laboriously translated into English and western dating systems in neat brackets beside the original. When I got home, I discovered that this is still the only Zoroastrian cemetery in the UK. I think what fascinates me about old graves is not the morbid awareness of death’s inevitability, but the lives they hint at and the stories they don’t quite tell.

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4 Responses to A canal, a cemetery, and a clockwork nightingale: how I spent my Saturday

  1. Amazon Doc says:

    Wonderful pics, Amy, thanks for posting them!

  2. Sue Adams says:

    Beautiful pictures. Autumn can be lovely. Alas, up here in Lincolnshire it’s been a thoroughly wet weekend. I caught a glimpse of sun today, but it was fleeting.
    My drainpipes are not coping at all.

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