Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The Best View in Sydney

Waverley Cemetery occupies the headland between Bronte beach and Clovelly beach, just a couple of headlands south of Bondi Beach. The vast tract (42 acres) was set aside in 1875; the first interment took place in 1877. Several significant Australians are buried there, from poets to politicians.

On a hot, humid afternoon we escaped the confines of our stuffy little house to pay it a visit, enjoying the sea breeze while we wandered among the graves. Why didn't we go for a swim instead? Because beaches were closed along the coast due to a heavy and dangerous ocean swell. From the boardwalk that runs along the cliffs below the cemetery, we could see the waves foaming against the rocks.

Predictions are that Waverley Cemetery will run out of grave sites in about fifteen years. As we approach, it does appear that there's not much room left.


Yet, on closer inspection, the graves are actually well-spaced, allowing visitors to stroll easily between the rows.


One of the models for the site was supposedly the famous Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Here in the Antipodes, presumably due to climate and poor soil, and perhaps also to the salt spray, there are no trees of any significant size.

There are, however, magnificent views of the ocean, and some elaborate and beautiful monuments.



Best of them all, for both sculpture and location, is this angel.

According to its website, in an average year Waverley cemetery:
  • conducts 190 interments,
  • records 80 new reservations,
  • provides 11 guided tours,
  • hosts 5 major film shoots,
  • gives 4 public lectures,
  • carries out 650 grave searches,
  • receives 6000 hits on the web site,
  • and receives more than 36,000 public visitors through the main gates.

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