Where would you scatter your ashes?

In the 50 years between 1960 and 2010, the number of cremations in the UK has more than doubled.

With less than 150 crematoria in the country in 1960, just 204,000 cremations were carried out representing 34% of the deaths recorded that year. Half a century later and with 260 crematoria in the country, 413,000 cremations were carried out, accounting for more than 73% of that year’s deaths.

Estimates suggest that 75% of the deaths in the UK are cremations, with people coming to prefer cremation over burial  for a number of reasons. But whether you would choose to be cremated for reasons of cost or from concern for the environment, the one problem unique to cremation is what to do with the ashes.

The easiest way to solve this for your family and friends is to leave detailed instructions on what you want to be done with your ashes. Planning ahead avoids any guessing, or falling out, over what the deceased would have wanted and gives comfort that final wishes are being respected.

Rules and regulations

Deciding what you want done with your ashes is a very personal choice, but there are some things worth considering. You might be the biggest fan of your local football or rugby club, but ashes can only be scattered on the pitch with the club’s permission and it is worth getting that in advance.

The needfor permission is true of any private land and even with the landowner’s permission you need to be careful to avoid water supply or drains. It is possible to scatter ashes in or near water, but with rivers or lakes it is advisable to check if there are any issues of water supply with the local Environment Agency.

On a practical level, if you want your ashes scattered near water, it is also better to avoid places that will be busy with people fishing, sailing or swimming. There are no rules regarding scattering ashes at sea, although inshore it can’t do any harm to let the local Environment Agency know of your plans.

The rules on scattering ashes in the open countryside are generally fairly relaxed, from hills and mountains to country parks and forests. But again, with all popular rural locations, those scattering the ashes will need to choose the spot and time carefully to avoid a very private moment being interrupted.

Choose somewhere accessible

Wherever you decide to scatter your ashes, consider the environment. While human ashes are not toxic, they do contain phosphate which can be harmful to some plants. Mourners should also use biodegradable containers and tributes – plastic flowers are not attractive after a while and can be dangerous to wildlife.

At a sports ground, by a favourite lake or up a hillside, it makes sense to choose somewhere that will remain accessible to your loved ones. Scattering ashes in the garden of your long-term family home may seem like a simple choice, but one day that house may be sold and access for friends and family could become difficult.

There are also no rules that say ashes must be scattered in one place, unless you are a strict Catholic. Most of us have more than one favourite spot and scattering ashes between them can give friends and family a collection of happy places to remember us in. Families that live in different parts of the country may also wish to scatter a portion of the ashes close to them. This means that when they wish to pay their respects, they have somewhere close at hand and can spend time remembering rather than travelling.