Cremated Remains Information Bureau

Ashes Scattering

 

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Your Rights and the Law

The law surrounding the disposal of ashes is not clear, largely because the Cremation Act, 1902 assumed that ashes would be buried following a cremation and not scattered.  

Once you have decided where you wish to scatter the ashes you will need to gain permission.

It may be an offence if you do not gain permission from the land owner.

It may also be an offence to scatter cremated remains on public or community owned land.   Some landowners and even some cemeteries may remove 'illegal' ashes and dump them.

General considerations

  1. Do you wish to witness the scattering?

  2. Do you wish to have some kind if ceremony?

  3. Do you wish to have a special place to visit in the future or place flowers?

  4. Do you need to have a plaque?

  5. When strewing cremated remains it is a nice idea to include flower petals.

  6. Be mindful of the wind direction.

  7. Do you want the ashes placed beneath the turf or scattered on the surface over a larger area.


Natural Burial Sites

with or without a tree

There are hundreds of green burial sites throughout the UK.  Many members of the Association of Natural Burial Grounds (ANBG), who are inspected and vetted by the NDC, will allow both scattering and burial of ashes.  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. This benefits wildlife, the local community, and leaves a living legacy.

There are various options available to you. You can lift the turf and scatter ashes under the canopy of an existing tree. These existing trees may be larger, more mature trees and give the feeling of a more established woodland.  Some sites allow you to buy a larger plot with your own tree that can accommodate several sets of remains over the coming years; a family and friend’s plot.

All natural or 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.  

Some of these natural sites have flower meadows where you can scatter or bury ashes.  Many will allow a plaque to mark the plot. 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 scattering 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 to shelter the mourners.  There are few rules and you can be as creative or simple as you like.


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Private Land

Ensure you gain permission and double check visiting is possible. The site may not be protected into the future and your right to access the property may be withdrawn if the property changes hands.

More information can be found on the National Parks and National Trust websites.


Memorial Tree

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.


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Common Land

Do not assume that you are entitled to scatter cremated remains on common land, unlike your rights to walk, play or have a picnic.

If in any doubt always check with your local council.


Sporting Venues

Football and Rugby grounds, racecourses, cricket grounds and golf courses sometimes accommodate scattering of cremated remains. Speak to the management, always ask permission and find out what their individual club's policy is and don't forget to check if visiting the site is possible.  

How would you feel if in the future it was sold for development?


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Mountain and Hill Tops

Cremated remains contain a lot of phosphates which can upset the local soil ecology. Plant species found in remote areas on impoverished soils are often very sensitive to change. So too many sets of ashes in the same place may suppress the wild flora and encourage aggressive, dominant species like nettles.


Public Spaces and Beauty Spots

In recent times there has been a problem with excessive use of beauty spots to scatter cremated remains as it can disturb the soil ecology.  If a beauty spot is very popular many families may choose it as a place to scatter ashes. Finding a time when others are not visiting a popular place might prove to be problematic if privacy for a ceremony of some sort is desired.


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At Sea

You can scatter cremated remains from a boat, shoreline, pier or beach. It is important to remember not to litter with plastic or florist's foam within flower wreaths or other tributes.


On Water

The Environmental Agency says that it is ‘acceptable’ to scatter cremated remains into a river, lake or canal but please be mindful that you do not put anything that is not degradable e.g. plastics into the water.  More information can be found in the leaflet Scattering Ashes in Rivers.


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Religions and Cremated Remains

Many beliefs systems will have their own view point when it comes to cremation  We can only provide an overview of some of their practices. If you are looking for specific views we would recommend that you speak directly to the relevant faith leaders.

Buddhism

Buddhists usually cremate their dead.  However, in some Buddhist communities burial may be preferred, especially if the deceased’s parents are still among the living.   Ashes are usually buried.

Catholic Church

Catholic Priests are now allowed to officiate at cremation ceremonies although the Church's preference still remains the traditional burial of a body.  The Catholic Church make it very clear that it does not accept scattering of ashes and that the ashes should be treated as a whole by being interred complete in an urn.

Church of England

The Church of England (C of E) permits cremation and indicates that cremated remains should be buried and only scattered on land used solely for the deposal of ashes.  In order to find out what land may have been designated locally we recommend you contact your church for further advice.

Hinduism

Cremation is fundamental to the Hindu belief system.  It purifies the person before passage to a new life. Traditionally scattering of ashes is carried out before the next dusk or dawn which ever is first.  It is traditional for the ashes to be cast into a river, preferably the Ganges in India. Ashes are often sent or a family member will travel to India with the ashes.  More recently in the UK rivers or a body of water are used. We would recommend you check with your local authority first to make sure the scattering is legal.

Judaism

Traditionally Judaism disapproves of cremation although more recently cremation has gained acceptance.  Burial remains the preferred option.

Islam

Islamic beliefs emphatically disapprove of cremation having specific rites for the treatment of a body after death.  

Sikhism

Once again cremation is fundamental to the Sikh belief system, although there are differences within this faith.  It is traditional for the Ashes to be cast over water with many families traveling back to India in order to carry this out.