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What can you do with cremated ashes?

Do you know where you can bury cremated ashes legally in the UK, or what your options are when it comes to scattering ashes after a cremation? This is a very quick overview for families who would like to scatter or bury the ashes of a loved one.

First of all, it is absolutely true – you can bury the ashes of a deceased person on any piece of private land in the UK, as long as you have the landowner’s permission. You may even decide to bury a loved one’s ashes in your garden. However (unless you are the landowner), it’s important to bear in mind that it may be difficult for you to visit the grave if the piece of land is then sold.

For the most part though, ashes are usually buried or scattered in cemeteries, crematoria gardens of remembrance, woodland burial grounds and in churchyards (although the Catholic church does not permit the scattering of ashes – preferring instead to allow burial in an area that’s been consecrated to the faith).

From the cremation to the cemetery

The funeral director will give you guidance if you’d like to bury or scatter ashes in a cemetery after a funeral service. Depending on the arrangements you’re making, you may want to speak to the cemetery directly too – many locations have a special area set aside in a garden of remembrance. 

A garden of remembrance may have memorial masonry, a calm and tranquil place to sit, and flower beds or trees that provide a discreet place to remember your loved one. Some families think about the future in advance and arrange to scatter ashes near a bench or in a particular area – near a rose or by an evergreen plant.

Some cemeteries or crematoriums also have an above the ground option, for interring ashes in a ‘niche’. Storing ashes in a niche usually incurs an annual management charge, but this is something that your funeral director can advise on.

Scattering ashes  

The Church of England is very open to having ashes buried or scattered in a respectful way, even if the family or the deceased wasn’t a regular churchgoer. Talk directly to the priest or church council or ask your funeral director to make enquiries on your behalf. Many woodland burial sites also reserve an area where ashes can be scattered or buried (although this usually incurs a small charge to secure the area for your family). 

The cost of burying cremated ashes

You might choose to scatter or bury ashes in a private location, without incurring any costs. The cost of an official ashes plot does vary according to the location, but in all likelihood, it will cost much less than buying a plot for a grave.

However, you may want to consider burying the ashes of the deceased along with the interred body of a previous member of the family – in which case there will definitely be costs involved for opening the grave and interring the ashes. This ‘committal service’ can take place as a short graveside ceremony, and it can be religious or non-religious.

If you’re feeling anxious about what to do with the cremated ashes of a loved one, do talk to your funeral director. It’s their job to help you, and they can talk through your options at a pace that’s comfortable for you and your family – there’ll be no pressure to make an immediate decision. 

Why not read our blog on being buried at sea?