Should we scatter ashes? What impact does scattering ashes have on our environment?

14th June 2021#environmental
Should we scatter ashes? What impact does scattering ashes have on our environment?

Sarah Wickham

Marketing Coordinator/Landowner

Recently, we have been exploring the impact of scattering ashes.

Scattering ashes in meaningful areas has become very popular. This is due to the rise in cremation and the fact we want the people we love to be somewhere special. If there is a place you shared special memories this may seem like the perfect idea. However, we need to realise that scattering ashes can harm surrounding habitats.

We have seen the impact ashes have had on some of our woodland, native wildlife and wildflowers. It was one of the reasons we decided we needed to find environmentally friendly ways to scatter ashes. This doesn’t mean we can’t scatter ashes, but there are things we need to consider.

Why scattering ashes can be a problem

People love the idea of scattering ashes in beauty or historical hot spots. These include mountains, coastal paths, ancient woodland and areas of natural beauty. These areas can have very fragile ecosystems. Some even support rare and wonderful wildlife and often this is why they are popular. When we scatter ashes the phosphates affect these ecosystems and can damage habitats.

Maybe one scatter of ashes won’t cause too much harm, but what happens when we all start doing it? This is the problem. There is only so much change to its soil an ecosystem can take. We choose these spots for their beauty, wildlife, meaning and our love of them. We have been able to enjoy them for what they are, the last things we want to do is damage them.

How ashes have affected environments?

Over scattering of ashes became a big problem at Jane Austin’s house. We can understand why people wanted to be in a place as meaningful as this. She is inspirational and her books have inspired many lives. It’s easy to think scattered ashes combine with an area without harm. Yet the reality can be very different. In 2009 they pleaded for people to stop scattering ashes. This is because of the damage they were doing to her English garden. It’s this realisation that has led to organisations banning the scattering of ashes.

To some, this may seem harsh, but it’s easier to respect why they have taken these steps when we know the reason behind it. Even more so when we realise they want to protect and preserve the places we love, which we should be grateful for.

When we understand the impact ashes have on the soil, its chemistry and PH. Realise the potential damage they can cause to plants, wildlife or historical monuments. See how their presence can impact areas we loved like golf courses or football pitches. It makes us realise we have to think about how we do things. Would you really want your final legacy to be destroying one of the things that you loved?

Scattering ashes in a better way

We know from experience that ashes scatter in a certain way. They do not spread naturally as many may think. How they blend in is very much down to how people have scattered them. In addition to this, it’s important to consider how they affect animals and plant life in the area. You also want them to blend naturally with the surrounding environment. These are some of the reasons that we have looked into how we scatter ashes.

Sustainability and nature are important to us, but so are people. If we can scatter ashes in a way that protects native habitats and meaningful spots this can only be a good thing. One of the ways that we have approached this is to lose scatter in a plot. This helps to preserve the surrounding area while protecting plants and grazing animals.

Finding a meaningful alternative

If you need to scatter elsewhere to protect the areas you loved you may be able to find a meaningful alternative. We have heard of remembrance gardens associated with football clubs. Areas of woodland that can support the scattering of ashes. Those who loved coastal walks may wish to scatter at sea with minimal impact on the environment. Some organisations may offer loose scatter in a plot if these work with the existing habitat.

If you want somewhere meaningful that is part of nature you may want to consider a natural burial ground. We know that it brings a lot of comfort to our families knowing ashes are in a protected space. Often we find they have meaningful connections to families too. This may be the wildlife or wildflowers. For some, it is the area the natural burial ground is near or the view it overlooks. Sometimes it’s simply that it’s a natural part of our countryside where the dogs are welcome.

Many of our families have chosen plots that have a meaningful link. For example, those that loved the mountains have somewhere that overlooks the mountains. It means that the memories are still cherished while protecting the areas we love. Some can also offer a scatter with a memorial tree planting.

We need to ensure that we don’t fall into the trap of thinking, ‘we are only scattering one set of ashes – what harm can it do?’

Other things to consider

It’s important to know you need the permission of the landowner when scattering ashes. This also means you have done your best to ensure there is no significant environmental impact. Scattering at sea may be a viable option but there are laws and regulations that you need to adhere to. We will be exploring what you can do with ashes in a later blog, but felt this was an important topic to address first.

Maybe we need to consider a few questions when thinking about scattering ashes. Questions like, ‘Can I scatter here? Will it cause any harm? Is there a way we can do it that won’t affect the native habitat?

A few final thoughts

When scattering ashes we need to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of thinking, ‘We are only scattering one set of ashes – what harm can it do?’

​The truth is we don’t know how many other sets of ashes scatterings have been scattered. When we start to wonder why we don’t see those lichens or orchids anymore, it could be down to this reason. Nature is having a hard enough time surviving due to our impact. The last thing we want is for the beauty that we admire or places we loved harmed because of us.

What are your thoughts about scattering ashes?

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