Esther messaged me.

“Do you fancy going to Highgate Cemetery on Saturday? They’ve got -”

“Yes! I’m in!”

So we met at the tube and walked up, and then down, the hill, past the world’s poshest charity shops, to the cemetery.

It’s split into two sides – east (the older) and west. You can only see east on a guided tour, so we booked ourselves on the next one and did the west side first.

We paid a visit to Karl Marx and Eric Hobsbawm. It was a beautiful autumn day and the leaves were falling, golden, all around us.

Then over the road to the older cemetery, where a small, vivacious lady called Julia gave us and 18 others a tour.

The entrance was built like a fortress on purpose – to deter Victorian grave robbers and body snatchers. (There was a lot of that.)

This is the grave of a carriage driver. You can see his carriage horn and whip on the cross. The three slabs under the cross symbolise, from the bottom up, faith, hope and charity. They’re commonplace in graveyards – we saw a lot of them at Highgate.

The up-ended horseshoe is a symbol of life ending. Julia taught us so much about how to read graves and their symbols. Wreaths, columns, obelisks and pelicans all have different meanings.

Egyptian Avenue is a long line of mausoleums that used to be roofed. It was dark and is home to a colony of rare spiders. (Verified by London Zoo, no less.) I was quite glad we didn’t see any today.

At the end of the avenue is the Circle of Lebanon, one of the most desirable spots to be buried in Victorian times.

Some of the mausoleums still show signs of vandalism from when the cemetery was neglected.

We heard the sad story of Mabel Batten and Marguerite Radclyffe Hall ? …

And saw the grave of Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian spy, who was murdered with a dose of plutonium …

We saw the first grave to be installed at the cemetery – modest, with a sad story behind it …

And this gorgeous sleeping lion. Doesn’t he have a lovely face.

He had a pair of friends doing very important jobs – here’s one …

This horse’s master had a very royal client ?

Then we went into the catacombs ? which were very dark and spooky, lit only by tiny holes in the ceiling …

… to see coffins. Eek! (This was Esther’s favourite part. She wanted to open them. ?)

Back out into the sunshine. Phew!

Nature has taken over in places.

The twisted roots look pretty creepy.

Even the angels are at peace here.

They’re very beautiful. (But don’t blink.)

This little figure, on author Beryl Bainbridge’s grave, is so pretty and carefree.

This little one looks so pensive.

This is Swain’s Angel, my favourite. She is beautiful. Look at the star on her head! She has been restored to her original beauty by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery.

Obligatory selfie with the old man.

“It’s a cemetery so I’m pulling my serious face. See? Very serious.”

Yes, very serious, Esther.

Highgate Cemetery is a fascinating day out. It’s one of the most interesting places I’ve visited in London and Julia’s tour was excellent. We both loved it and learnt so much. Do go. Find full details on their website.