The scattering of ashes in the UK is not governed by as many rules and regulations as a burial. The primary rule when finding the perfect spot to scatter ashes is to make sure that you have the permission of the landowner, whoever that may be. This rule applies to national parks, public spaces, burial grounds and cemeteries too. If you’re not sure who owns the land, its best to check first. Alongside that overarching condition, there are some other practical considerations that need to be thought through. For example, whilst scattering ashes over bodies of water (sea, rivers and lakes) doesn’t need specific permission you should consider where that water flows to e.g. managed fisheries or water works.
Finding a meaningful spot
Aside from any regulations about where you can scatter ashes, the main priority is finding the right spot. If your loved one didn’t leave specific instructions for where they wanted to be scattered, then you might want to consider the following points:
- Did they have a favourite place such as a town or village, attraction, view, walk, sports club etc.
- Is there a place that means a lot to both of you and the wider family?
- Do you want somewhere that you and others can visit in the future?
- Do you or others also want your ashes to be scattered at the same place and if so, will that be an option in time to come?
Whilst private gardens or the family home may have been a favoured location and have deep sentimental value, if you have to move away in the future it may make it impossible to go back to that spot. For many, spending time in the final resting place can form part of the grieving and healing process, so you want to try and avoid picking somewhere that might become ‘out of bounds’. Simply put it’s helpful to carefully consider somewhere that may allow you to say another goodbye in the future.
Can I scatter ashes wherever I like?
As long as you have the landowner’s permission, generally it’s possible to scatter ashes wherever you choose. However, some places which may seem obvious, will not always be that straightforward. Churches, cemeteries and burial grounds will require you to seek permission, but they may have further rules prohibiting the disturbance of ground – for instance scattering ashes over a grave. Some may have dedicated areas – gardens of rest – set aside for ashes. There may also be fees. Your funeral director can normally make enquiries on your behalf.
Some bigger landowners and sporting institutions will have specific policies around the scattering of ashes and in many cases you’ll be able to find this by contacting the organisation or club or visiting their website
When should I scatter ashes?
Choosing when to scatter ashes is an entirely personal decision. You may take comfort from having your loved ones remains with you for a period whilst you grieve, whilst others may be focussed on a particular date. It’s worth remembering that significant times, such as a birthday or anniversary of death, can be times of heightened emotion anyway, especially when it is the first instances of each. So be careful not to heap on added pressure if you are still struggling with your loss. Sometimes, an arbitrary date is best.
Also, these occasions can either be very discreet and private or you may want to get together with a larger group of family and friends and make it into more of a celebration. Therefore, the date may have to be when the majority of those wishing to attend can do so.
Finally, consider the time of year and conditions before scattering ashes. Given that its likely to include an outdoor location, Autumn and Winter months can leave you open to the quirks of wind and rain, neither of which are conducive to standing in the open or taking to the water to scatter ashes.
Choosing when, how and where to scatter ashes is an important step in the grieving process. Your decisions may come easily, or you may need more time to consider the practicalities of taking the final physical step in saying goodbye to your loved one.
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