Your Rights and The Law
Ashes are not deemed to be a health hazard although they can be a hazard to sensitive wildflower habitats.
To some they should be classed as property but their status as property, as yet, has no precedent.
Be mindful that burying ashes in a cemetery will fall under the Burial Authority's regulations. Ashes can only be exhumed with a licence from the Ministry of Justice as interments of human remains are protected by law in these cemeteries.
It is unclear whether an urn buried on private land is protected by law in the same way.
When ashes are poured into the ground or interred in a degradable urn it will be impossible to retrieve them after a time.
Do you wish to place the ashes in the ground yourself or engage a funeral director?
Is a ceremony important to you at this stage?
Do you wish to have a special place to visit in the future where you can place flowers?
Do you need to have a plaque or stone marker?
Is marking the plot with a tree or plants important?
Be mindful that some people worry if they move they will leaving that person behind.
Burying ashes at a Natural Burial Ground
Many calls to the NDC helpline are from families seeking somewhere to bury ashes and plant a dedicated memorial tree. A positive, living tribute and legacy.
The main advantage of choosing a natural burial site, is that many plant memorial trees which will be maintained as part of a wider woodland project, benefiting wildlife and the local community, leaving a living legacy.
All bar two members of the Association of Natural Burial Grounds (ANBG) who are inspected and vetted by the NDC accept ashes for burial. Click here for the directory.
Several will allow you to purchase a burial plot large enough to support your own dedicated tree. These larger plots will give you room to bury further sets of ashes in the future; a family and friends' plot.
Some sites will only have the option to bury ashes around an existing tree. However these burial grounds may have larger, mature trees and have the feeling of a more established woodland.
All natural and woodland burial grounds will advise you which native trees they are planting and what costs are involved. ANBG members run their sites as nature reserves for the benefit of the local community, the planet and wildlife.
You are not usually able to have a memorial stone or tablet but some allow a named plaque.
Check with the manager of your local burial grounds what their policies are and also what urns they will accept. They are all different and have varying options. A list of sites can be found here.
Many people are now cremated directly without ceremony, the families instead choose to have a memorial party or service at the time of the ashes interment or tree planting. These direct cremations are one third of the normal cremation funeral cost.
Many natural burial grounds have lovely ceremonial buildings where you can take your time and are not limited to a short time slot as at the crematorium. Alternatively you can have a memorial ceremony elsewhere and go to the burial ground another day or when your guests have gone home. Some sites allow you to erect a gazebo at the grave side to shelter the mourners. There are few rules and you can be as creative or simple as you like.
Planting a memorial tree is a great idea and one that many families choose. It can represent, to some degree, life carrying on through the passage of time and provides a visual focus of remembrance.
Most natural burial sites that allow ash burials and tree planting will provide a suitable tree for you. One that will compliment the natural surroundings and ecological systems they manage, that is native to the UK and one that will grow to an appropriate size. It is not usually possible to provide your own tree from a garden centre.
The exact placement of the tree will depend on available plots. You will need to make an appointment with the manager of the site who will help you to choose an appropriate plot and explain which tree species are suitable for their nature reserve.
Each site will have their own terms and conditions regarding the maintenance and care of your tree. This is another reason that it is vital that you make an appointment with the management to discuss your individual needs.
Advice on Home Burials can be found here.
There is nothing to stop you from burying ashes on private land with the permission of the freeholder.
You would need to discuss the possibility of a memorial stone, tablet or name plaque with the landowner. Be careful that if the memorialisation is substantial it could be considered that the land has undergone a 'change of use' from a field to a cemetery for example, this may require planning permission especially if several plots are evident.
The site may not be protected into the future and your right to access the property may be withdrawn if the property changes hands.
Conventional Municipal Cemetery
Do your homework as pricing can vary tremendously between rural and urban cemeteries and the price can double or even triple if you wish to bury ashes in a borough or parish where the deceased was not living or paying council tax.
You may be able to have a memorial tablet, stone or name plaque. Check with the cemetery clerk what terms and conditions they have regarding the types of stone and wording that is acceptable.
Church Grave Yard
Many historic church yards are now full so it is imperative to speak to your local clergy regarding availability and pricing. Some also limit availability to regular worshipers.
You may be able to have a memorial stone, tablet or name plaque. Check with the sexton or vicar what their policies are regarding types of stone and wording.