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Scattering Ashes - Helping You Celebrate the Life of a Loved One

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Scattering Ashes UK

We believe a life should be celebrated. We offer good simple advice and ideas about what to do with cremation ashes.

Whether you choose to scatter them in the countryside or keep some in a beautiful piece of ashes jewellery we can help.

Many of us wonder what the right thing is to do with a loved one’s ashes, let us guide you. Have you got stuck wanting to fulfil a partner’s wish? Are you unsure of the rules? Maybe that you are concerned over doing things right, or perhaps you don’t want to let all the ashes go?

If you are unsure what is best, we can help; we aim to make sure that you are aware of all the choices and feel confident in making the right one for you. Whether a pendant or ring with ashes jewellery, a water urn for going in the sea. How about a garden memorial which you can take with you when you move home, or you just want to know how to conduct a meaningful scattering ashes ceremony?

Taking care to test what we sell so we can recommend products. Our speciality is local, bespoke, original and sustainable products. We work to the highest levels of customer service - helping you every step of the way.

We are an independent family run business based in Devon. With over 11 years of experience and thousands of satisfied customers from all over the world. We have won prestigious industry awards and appeared in all the national newspapers, we have been on Radio 2, 4 and 5 and appeared in a BBC documentary. We have accumulated a huge amount of knowledge and understanding to help you and your family.

Scattering Ashes is an Associate Member of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)

Scattering Ashes in the UK 

Cremation as opposed to burial is the choice most people opt for in the UK, in fact around 80% will end up being cremated, then 80% of people will take the ashes from the crematoria (the remaining use the Garden of Remembrance). These families that do take the ashes away, interestingly 80% of those families will choose to scatter the ashes. The rest will bury or keep. 

The ashes ceremony has become increasingly more important, particularly with the rise of direct cremation where the ashes become the focal point. In fact, thousands of people scatter ashes every year, but many are uncertain what they are allowed to do and how to do it. That is what we are here for.

After the cremation you will be contacted by your funeral director to say the ashes are ready for collection (or delivery). You will receive a container with the ashes in, this tends to be a box or plastic. Try not to be daunted by this and try not rush into any decisions as once the ashes are scattered the act can’t be undone. The whole website is dedicated to this subject, here is an overview that should help to guide…

What the law says

The law concerning the spreading of cremated remains in the UK is fairly relaxed, you do not need a licence or a permit to scatter ashes in the UK, but you do need the landowner’s permission. Some landowners are more agreeable than others. Please note this is not the same for the burial of ashes. See: Law and Permission

Where to Scatter Ashes

When planning to scatter there are certain things you need to consider to make a meaningful farewell and memorable celebration of a life.

Firstly, you need to think about where to scatter. This is an important decision; this should not be just about the ceremony and the day, you need to take other things into consideration. Do you want to revisit the location, so a private club or a far-flung destination may not be ideal; will the location ever be used for anything else, housing for example; will the surviving loved ones wish their ashes to go there in the future. There are many places to consider- a favourite holiday destination or a place where they like to take in the view. Wherever you choose it will create a special bond – so give it some thought. See: Where can you scatter ashes?

Sporting locations are a popular choice whether that is your local cricket pitch or a national stadium. As a general rule of the thumb the bigger the club the less likely they will be able to accommodate your wishes (although some do have their own memorial grounds). Smaller sporting venues may be more accommodating particularly if there was a connection to the ground – long memberships or some voluntary connection for example. See: Football Clubs, Horse Racing Venues, Cricket Grounds

The location you choose may also have historic or cultural connection properties owned by the National Trust or English Heritage (and their Scottish and Welsh counterparts). These are a popular choice and both these organisations can be accommodating if the estate is large. Historical Sites

Urban parks are more tricky, Local Authorities don’t tend to like them as large amounts of ash in a small place can upset the soil, also they have to balance it with the large number of people who use the park for other activities, the Royal Parks have a complete ban on scattering.

Beauty spots as destinations have their pluses and minuses, they are of course memorable and idyllic in some respects but don’t expect it to feel special or solemn if you scatter at popular tourist spots on a bank holiday as they will often provide little privacy for your ceremony. 

Tranquil environments often make a good choice: a bluebell wood or a wildflower meadow for example. There are also places you should avoid: mountain tops, cliff edges and headlands – they can be very windy and potentially unsafe. Also the ashes concentrated in an area (such as the top of a famous mountain) can have a serious impact on the ecology – so choose a site away from the summit of the edge. Also don’t assume that it is common land. 

Beaches and rivers are a popular choice with the added advantage that you do not need to seek the landowner’s permission if you are scattering ashes in the water. This is permitted by the Environment Agency if you follow a few simple rules – basically don’t add any polluting material to the water (no plastics or metal) and don’t disturb others enjoyment of the water. 

Scattering from the beach or waters edge is simple and as long as you are safe it can be a great choice; be careful to mind out for tide times and make sure if you are doing this from the river bank you are safe and stable. Again, choose your timings and destinations with care – a cove in Cornwall in autumn at dusk will allow a more meaningful farewell than Brighton beach on a summer’s afternoon. You can also use a boat for many of our locations: this can make it more of an occasion and provide greater privacy. See: Can I put ashes in the sea or river?

Planting a Memorial Tree

One great idea for many is to plant a memorial tree with the ashes, this is a poignant choice for many as there is wonderful symbolism as the tree takes life from the ashes - life from a life and the family can watch the tree grow over the years and it is a special place to remember that person. One word of advice. Concentrated ashes in the root system of plants can impact it through salts and high alkalinity. Make sure you use the living memorial as this will turn the ashes into a nutrient rich compost and help rather than hinder the plants growth. See: Planting a memorial tree

One option that many families go for is their garden, this has obvious advantages – no separation, no need to ask the landowners permission and a special place but we do offer a word of caution. If those remaining in the house need or choose to relocate then this can make the decision of the act traumatic as not only will there be separation but revisiting is likely to be difficult if not impossible.

The garden of remembrance at crematoria was the traditional place for scattering over the years. This has become less popular principally as many do not wish to return to the crematoria to remember their loved one and there is no specific spot, the ashes of your loved one are where many have gone before. However, for some this is the right choice, the loss can be marked with a plaque and the area is sensitive to loss and bereavement.

Conducting a ceremony

Many find this quite daunting, it needn’t be. A common mistake is that the family will choose a place and time and inform the family, then descend on a particular spot and don’t know what to do next, followed by some mumbling and shuffling of feet all feeling a bit awkward and departing. This part of the process needs a little plan and with a little thought can be memorable, inspiring and meaningful. Conduct it as you would any other ceremony with an introduction, a speech or such like, a symbolic act or a song. Free example order of service can be downloaded here. See: What should I say at the ceremony?

When conducting a ceremony have some words in mind - and if you would like others to say something pre warn them. If words don’t come easy then borrow some from somewhere else; here are some useful quotes and here are some suitable poems. It is good to include the meaning of the persons life – what they stood for, what they meant to you and their legacy. See: Recording your ceremony or Poems for a ceremony

How to Scatter Ashes

Now you come to the point when you scatter the ashes, again this may seem unnerving but it is not with some forethought. Firstly, there will be more ashes than you had planned on, usually there will be around 6-7lbs (3-4kg) - not simply a handful. Scatter the ashes over a wide area so that they have little visual impact and have minimum effect on the soil. Keep the urn low so that the ashes do not get blown about by the wind. Simply turning the urn over will leave a large conical pile of ashes which doesn’t look nice and if you then decide to spread it out this could be very distressing if you have no implements or tools for doing so. Lastly don’t leave the urn or box behind – please take it home and dispose of it appropriately. See: How to Scatter Ashes

You may choose to scatter on the water or on the beach. With a beach you can carve symbols or letters in the sand and watch the tide wash them away, or you may wish to scatter directly on the water. Make sure you only put ashes in the water (or things that are biodegradable) and also be aware that the wind doesn’t catch you out, as it is always stronger over water – we do recommend water urns for this purpose. See: How to Scatter Ashes on Water

Don't forget to record the scattering ceremony – it may stay fresh in your mind but memories’ fade and if you want to pass the information on to future generations then record it and put it with your family documents.

Other things to consider

Splitting the ashes is ashes is a topic that often comes up, whether it is allowed and are there any moral reasons why you should or shouldn’t do it. We are wholly in favour of this. Within a family there may be radically different views on how to memorialise some may want to bury while others think the ashes should be scattered in a Scottish Loch, splitting the ashes allows people to make their own choices, it prevents family discord. 

We also suggest considering holding some ashes back for a keepsake, for the many the act of scattering is a necessary and final act. However, for many when they scatter, they find the separation difficult particularly if the scattering was some distance from where they live.

When 'last wishes' are difficult – it is not always possible to fulfil someone's last wishes. You might want to use a token amount at a favourite place and do something else with the rest.

Scattering may not be for you – you may wish to bury and if so it is a bit more involved legally (as the ashes are deemed to be the same as a body) so not only will you need to check with the landowner you will need to apply to the the local authority if you wish to bury and it gets even more complicated should you wish to remove (exhume) the ashes. See: I want bury / inter ashes

Lastly, don't worry if it is taking a long time to decide. Many people hang on to the urn for months, even years before they decide. Only you will know when the time is right. With some thought and some planning you can make it a wonderful, memorable and dignified ceremony.

Scattering Ashes UK


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