Yup, you read that correctly. In the middle of a busy Sydney suburb, next to the Pacific Highway, is a snapshot of Victoriana, the discovery of which was totally startling.It is the Gore Hill Cemetery. The last person buried was interred in 1974 although the majority of the residents here were buried in the 1920s. The site is Heritage listed for all the right reasons but it is striking for its ambiance and seclusion, hidden in the open beside the busy Pacific Highway, beside the Royal North Shore Hospital and among numerous business buildings. The graves are overgrown although the paths and borders are well maintained. The effect is of a wild garden somehow cocooned from all that is rushing past outside.
I discovered it on Monday – we moved our offices and we are now opposite one of the gated entrances. I had never heard of the place so, ever being the curious traveler, even in my own backyard, I dropped over in my lunch break to have a look. I could barely contain my surprise and meandered in wonder past angels half hidden in overgrowth, past weed covered plots, peered at tiny graves from 1915 marking toddler deaths (always the toughest to handle), and marveled at the serene seclusion of it all. The first autumn blackberries are out and there was the added pleasure of sampling sun warmed soft fruit as I took it all in.
The place is a photographers delight so I alerted one of my team, talented with the camera, of what was over the road. We have not been here a week yet but already they are sharing the wonder of this place. It is a slice of a Victorian mix of the maudlin with the victorious, with some local history thrown in. Its allure is underscored by the bizarre contrast of wild undergrowth, sunning lizards, spinning spiders and mossy headstones, compared with what you can barely see through the high fig trees that shade this place – glass, steel and bitumen fueling our living busyness. The dead and the living could hardly be better contrasted.
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