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The Curates Egg

Co-op’s guide to scattering ashes – a review

The Co-op funeral service have released a guide as to what to do with ashes and including survey results of people intention.

The guide, to be frank, is a bit of a Curate’s Egg (well I would say that wouldn’t I). However I will attempt to remain impartial and point out the interesting bits and the errors.

Their key findings:

  • Over half of people choose to scatter a loved ones ashes
  • 3 out 4 people keep ashes up to a year before deciding what to do with them
  • 1 in 3 choose to scatter at a favourite beauty spot
  • Three quarters of those who choose to retain them keep them within a dedicated place with the home
  • 20% don’t know what to do

This seems about right and chimes with our feedback.

The guide purports to help, but never really makes it clear where the law stands. It states there is conflicting advice in the public arena, unclear maybe, but conflicting – I don’t think so. It states the environmental impacts are part of this fuzzy picture, but again this is not necessarily right – the environmental impact depends where the ashes are scattered and the impact is different for different places, not conflicting just specific. For example some places like mountain tops where the ashes can impact the habitat, scattering over London Bridge wont. Some organisation state environment or Heath and Safety reasons for not allowing scattering – these are often an easy way of just saying no.

The bit I don’t like – it is better to hold a discreet informal gathering as opposed to official ceremony. Maybe if they are specifically referring to beauty spots open to the public. But, if it is on private land and you have permission to so – we say ‘sing it loud’ if that is what you want.

The section on burying and who to ask is a as helpful as a one inch back scratcher.

The section on water is bit perplexing. The advice is don’t use an urn – What Pap! There are many urns designed specifically for this exact purpose, correct – no one should place an urn in the water that isn’t fit for purpose, but why not just say that? The Royal Navy approve certain ones, the Marine and Coast Guard Agency and Lifeboat Services use some. I think they may have just used one source for this information (Lakeland District Council, Lake Wardens).

However the strangest piece of advice in the whole guide is the following:

Your site should be more than 1km upstream of any large areas of water – eh! What avoid the sea or a lake? Next page they have a note about scattering on lake Windermere – is this not a large body of water?

It would appear that the plain English editors have done it again, as Einstein said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”.   This advice they were simplifying was from the Environment Agency guidance – Your site should be more than 1km upstream of any abstraction of water. Which is entirely different, abstraction points are all over the country dotted all along our rivers. And if you wish to be precise go to the Environment Agency website and have a look. On this point, the restriction would appear to be set principally for sensibility reasons as opposed to environmental, ashes are no more harmful in real terms than most of the sediment at the bottom of the river.

On the water section credit has to be given for finding out the position with respect to lake Windermere – It will be added in due course.

The section on sports ground has a faint air of something I have read … I mean written.

The advice on travelling is great,  basically should be no problem unless there is a problem, so thanks for that.

To their credit they have used some lovely pictures!

Here is the link if you are interested

Sorry it’s not live, I wouldn’t want Mr Google and Co thinking I was giving it top marks.

So overall well done Co-op funeral services for addressing the issue, and making a nice looking guide raising a couple of valuable points, bit of shame about the quality and depth of the content.  Four out of ten.

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