Kensal Green Cemetery (KGC) — officially the General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green —is one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” Victorian garden cemeteries. It is a 31-hectare (77-acre) oasis of peace in an otherwise crowded, urban environment. It is the oldest of London's public burial grounds and has more mausoleums than any other cemetery in Britain. The cemetery is owned and run by the General Cemetery Company. Much of it is managed as a nature reserve.
For birding purposes, the local patch also includes St Mary’s Cemetery (Roman Catholic), which abuts KGC on its west side. The whole site is bounded by Harrow Road to the north, Scrubs Lane to the west, Ladbroke Grove to the east and the Grand Union Canal to the south.
The eastern part of Kensal Green Cemetery is within the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the western part and St Mary’s Cemetery are in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
Address: Kensal Green Cemetery, Harrow Road, London W10 4RA (Map:; OS grid reference TQ232825).
Kensal Green Cemetery was the first of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries to open, in 1832. Uniquely, is still managed by the General Cemetery Company, which was set up to administer it in 1830.
Kensal Green Cemetery’s main habitat is rich neutral grassland, of which about 70 per cent is managed with mowing and the rest left as designated conservation areas. The grassland between the gravestones includes several regionally rare and uncommon plants, such as Great Burnet, Common Bistort, Common Valerian, Sneezewort, Pepper-Saxifrage and Grey Sedge. Drier grassland in the north-west of the cemetery includes Wild Basil and Rough Hawkbit — both untypical of north London. The site includes a wealth of mature trees and many scrub and bramble thickets, especially on the avenue bordering the canal. Another important habitat is the vegetated masonry, where a diverse community of ferns, mosses and lichens is found. The east end of KGC is set aside as a butterfly and bee garden. St Mary’s Cemetery, with few trees, is bleak in comparison to KGC.
More than 33 species of bird have been recorded nesting at Kensal Green Cemetery. Among the regularly seen species (including common migrants) are Cormorant, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Goldcrest, Redwing, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Meadow Pipit and Linnet. Rarer birds seen at the site in recent years have included Shag, Firecrest, Nightingale, Pied Flycatcher, Yellow Wagtail and Common Redstart. A full site list appears below.
The scrub and bramble thickets are the best places to look for migrant warblers. The many mature trees hold many woodpeckers. With far less tree cover than KGC, St Mary's Cemetery can produce Pipits, Linnet flocks and the occasional Wheatear.
Mammals, reptiles and amphibians Grey Squirrel and Red Fox are regularly seen in the cemetery. Is anyone aware of any survey of mammals at the site?
The site has a good butterfly list, including Common Blue and the nationally declining Wall Brown, which is particularly scarce in London.
The cemetery is adjacent to Harrow Road in Kensal Green, London NW10. The nearest railway station is Kensal Green, across Harrow Road on the north side of the cemetery. It is served by London Overground (Euston to Watford) and London Underground (Bakerloo line). From Kensal Rise station (North London Line), which is 750m (half a mile) further north, walk west on Purves Road and then south on College Road to reach the cemetery’s west gate. Bus route 18 passes along Harrow Road and route 220 along Scrubs Lane. Buses 28, 52, 316 and 452 pass the eastern edge of the site on Ladbroke Grove/Kilburn Lane and cross Harrow Road near the cemetery’s main gate.
The cemetery is open daily. Opening times are seasonal but as a guide: winter, 9am to 4pm; summer, 8am to 5.30pm. The top gate (100m west of Kensal Green station) admits both cars and pedestrians. The main gate (junction of Harrow Road and Ladbroke Grove) is pedestrian only. Facilities
Food and drink can be obtained nearly at the Masons Arms, 665 Harrow Road, NW10 5NU (tel 0871 258 6473), which is owned by the Real Pub Company and which is a short walk from the Top Gate.
The William IV, 786 Harrow Road, London, NW10 5JX is closer to the main entrance and serves excellent Tapas and other Spanish food as well as offering other entertainment in the evening.
Patch Lists Edit
FULL SITE LIST
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Shag (2008), Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Snipe, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Tern, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, Tawny Owl (2008), Swift, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Skylark, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler (2008), Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Firecrest (2008), Goldcrest, Wren, Starling, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Brambling, Greenfinch, Siskin, Goldfinch, Redpoll, Linnet, Bullfinch, (86 species)
DAVE RENHAM’S PATCHLIST 2008
Canada Goose, Mallard, Cormorant, Shag, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Tern, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, Tawny Owl, Swift, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Firecrest, Goldcrest, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet (63 species)
This page was created by Dave Renham in 2008 and the information was expanded by Andrew Haynes in 2010, using material cobbled together from various internet sources. Thanks to David Lindo, whose efforts have supplied many sightings for KGC and for all the invaluable historical birding info supplied. See his Urban Birder site for birding at KGC and Wormwood Scrubs.