The Bear of Bunhill Fields

by Julie Alpine-Crabtree

Did you read in the weekend papers about the Beast of Bushy Park? In an article in Saturday’s Guardian Patrick Barkham explains that we have now entered deer rutting season and, as such, anyone who unwittingly gets in between two warring stags is liable to end up in hospital. A young girl and a couple in their 50s have already been unlucky enough to discover this the hard way. As has a swan.

There are no deer in our local ‘park’, which is actually Bunhill Fields Burial Ground. Some people look at me strangely when I say we’re on our way to play there, but it’s our nearest open green space and a source of great pleasure. Many people use it as a thoroughfare – it connects City Road with Bunhill Row – but there’s also a big lawned area shaded by ancient trees and surrounded by benches. This is enjoyed by school kids and office workers alike, as well as the odd, discreet spliff smoker. The place is an oasis of calm, complete with mulberry tree (warning: those berries stain indelibly) and fig tree, super-friendly squirrels and fat, healthy-looking wood pigeons. It just happens to also be the final resting place of an estimated 120,000 bodies, including three of Britain’s most eminent nonconformists: William Blake, John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe.

Anyway, jumping on the alliterative animal story bandwagon, I wanted to draw your attention to this bear (top left of photo), who has recently appeared on the resident bee-friendly wooden ‘hive’ (something to do with the London Wildlife Trust).

The groundskeeper I spoke to today said the bear was news to him. He did find a bear in a tree last week, but that bear is now sitting on his desk. In fact, he is fast becoming quite attached to that bear. This second bear, however, currently gracing the eco-friendly bug hotel, is a mystery.

Can you help?

Is he or she your child’s special friend, dropped during a game of hide-and-seek, picked up and put on display by a helpful passer-by?

Was it placed there by a prankster? To prove that the metal railings are not impenetrable to one intent on scaling them?

Or is something more sinister afoot? Halloween, after all, is just around the corner, and this is, after all, a burial ground.

Hang on tight to your Jack Russell. Keep your toddler close. At time of writing, the Bear of Bunhill Fields remains at large.