Why “scattering ashes” is more complicated than it sounds (and what to do about it)

We get enquiries from people whose late relative loved Kelston Roundhill. Can they scatter their ashes up in the clump?

First: it’s always good to hear from people who love the place. Second: it’s nice of people to ask, because not all do (though it’s a clear legal requirement to seek permission from the landowner before scattering ashes on private land).

But third: it’s more complicated than it sounds.

“Ashes” is a euphemism for what cremains really are (hint: it’s not like the wood ash from a fire). What’s left after cremation is very alkaline. Frequent scattering in a small space (eg inside the clump) would affect the ecology quite severely and kill plants. Even burying instead of scattering doesn’t really help. This is well set out at the Living Memorial web site; the approach they recommend as best practice is to blend the cremains with a soil blend, and then to scatter over quite a wide area.

There’s a fair amount of cost in making Kelston Roundhill open and accessible (fencing, keeping trees safe, insurance). Our priorities are supporting viable farming, appropriate amenity use and improving biodiversity across the farm. We’re not in the business of making it a garden of remembrance, and certainly don’t want permanent memorials of any sort (metal, plastic, stone etc).

People sometimes kindly offer trees and benches, but trees require proper planting with protection and also maintenance (watering in first couple of years when it’s dry). Maybe we should accept a bench, but it would not be an improvement to make this special remote place more municipal.

We do rent Roundhill Barn out for events. That helps balance the books. Roundhill Barn is extremely well suited to funeral and memorial events (with unattended cremation elsewhere). It is a great place to say goodbye. We’d certainly consider offering people who rent the barn for memorial events the chance of scattering responsibly as part of the package: be in touch.

We appreciate this land has strong emotional ties for many people and that death is difficult to deal with. It’s a legal requirement to have the owner’s permission before you scatter cremains on private land, and it’s reasonable for us to insist at the least that any scattering is done responsibly blending the cremains with a specialist soil mix to render it less damaging to the soil and ecology.

Post-cremation “ashes” are more like cat litter than wood ash. Mixing cremains with a bucket of specialist soil like this before scattering can reduce ecological damage.

Who wants a stuffy, municipal funeral with the imposition of meaningless language and symbolism and a sense that the next cortege is waiting and you have to move on soon? No-one. Take your time; do it as you want. There are better options available.

Footnote: Many “local” funeral directors or undertakers are in reality subsidiaries of the publicly quoted national market leader Dignity plc. Exceptions are Clarksons, one excellent local independent undertaker. Divine based in Bristol is first rate for a really contemporary style of service.

Pro tip: if you want to choose a good undertaker, ask a GP. And if you want to choose a good GP, ask the undertaker.

We’re happy to work with any funeral director that offers good service, good value and genuinely puts the needs of the bereaved first. You can also do natural burial at Clearbrook Farm, a beautiful resting place. It’s 25 minutes’ drive but would combine well with a funeral or memorial event at Roundhill Barn.

About williamheath

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