Ashes to ashes… and where you can scatter them

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Trusts & Probate on Thursday, May 10th, 2018

While many of us grew up thinking of burial as the way in which we say farewell to the deceased, statistics from the Cremation Society of Great Britain show that around 75 per cent of people are now choosing cremation rather than burial.

Deciding what to do with the ashes

In the 1970s, only about 12 per cent of ashes were taken away from the crematorium, but now the figure is nearer to 70 per cent. Scattering the ashes gives loved ones the opportunity to remember the deceased in a way of their choosing. Ashes can be stored in urns, shared among family members, interred in a designated area of a graveyard, scattered in a memorial garden or other place with significance for the loved one and their mourners. The law on scattering ashes in the UK is relatively relaxed. There is nothing explicit in legislation to stop people scattering ashes over water or land, but you do need the landowner’s permission.

Choosing a suitable place

Well-known beauty spots have long been a popular choice. However, with more people opting for cremation many sites have become overused, leading to restrictions being put in place. Plus, you need to consider other visitors enjoying the site, and you may not get the privacy you need.

If you want to dispose of ashes in a river or waterway, this is permissible, but there are restrictions in place, so you should contact the Environment Agency to ensure the site you wish to use is suitable. For instance, you must avoid places where people bathe, or sites near buildings, marinas, or drinking water sources. The Environment Agency also has concerns about personal items and wreaths that might be used as part of your ceremony, and people are requested not to use plastic and metal items that might cause litter and harm wildlife.

Mountains and hilltops can provide a dramatic backdrop and may be full of memories, but you need to choose your site carefully. Ashes are high in potash which can damage fragile eco-systems; windy sites could make scattering the ashes difficult for you and other visitors. It’s always best to seek advice from local authorities before deciding on a location.

Sporting venues such as football pitches, golf courses, cricket pitches, rugby grounds and race courses are also favoured places. However, scattering ashes at these venues depends on the policy adopted by the ground owners, so you will need to seek their permission. It’s also important to consider future access to the site, this could be a problem if, for instance you choose a golf course but aren’t a member.

At sea, ashes can be cast into the water from the shoreline or from a boat. It’s advisable to use a biodegradable urn to avoid pollution.

It you decide to opt for a site overseas, whilst there is no law that restricts people from taking ashes outside the country, you will need to make a few checks. Firstly, you’ll need to contact the airline to ensure you can take the urn on board, and secondly, you’ll need to investigate the laws surrounding scattering ashes in the country you’re travelling to.

Incorporating ashes into fireworks is also a possibility. There are companies who will arrange to do this, using one or several fireworks as part of a display. Some people go one step further. Gene Roddenberry’s ashes were flown into space and returned to earth on the space shuttle Columbia, a fitting tribute to the creator of Star Trek.

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