Sidmouth cemetery management plan aims to ‘get the balance right’

A reader's photo showing weeds almost covering some graves at Sidmouth Cemetery. Picture: Trevor Hey

A reader's photo showing weeds almost covering some graves at Sidmouth Cemetery. Picture: Trevor Heynes - Credit: Archant

A new management plan is being drawn up for Sidmouth Cemetery, following complaints about its overgrown state.

One person has described the lower part of the cemetery as a ‘depressingly forlorn, neglected and abandoned wasteland’.

Others spoke of their distress at seeing loved ones’ graves covered in weeds, and said they now bring their own gardening tools to tidy them up.

When the Herald reported on the issue last month, East Devon District Council – which manages the cemetery – said some older sections had been left to ‘rewild’ this year, allowing grass and wild plants to grow naturally.

This had been accelerated by the suspension of public space maintenance work during lockdown.

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Some Herald readers said they thought the wildflowers growing around the graves were ‘beautiful’ - but others said the weeds had got out of control.

They also felt strongly that cemeteries are not appropriate places for rewilding.

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One reader said: “This is the one place families go to pay their respects and spend time with their loved ones.

“To have to tramp through three feet of dockleaves and long grass to get to a gravestone which has cost thousands of pounds is not acceptable, not to mention how dangerous it is as it is impossible to see holes in the ground - I have myself tripped and twisted my ankle doing so.”

Another said: “I believe it is morally incumbent upon the living community to honour the implicit trust bestowed upon us by those who are laid at peace to maintain their final resting place for them with a dignified and respectful level of tidiness.”

East Devon District Council has now said it will cut the grass in the lower section, and its plans for future maintenance of the cemetery will include ‘sensible management’ of this part of the site.

Wildflowers will be planted in some areas, and a team of volunteers may be recruited to help manage the cemetery, after some people expressed interest in doing so.

A spokesman said: “We understand the need to get the balance right between managed rewilding and the needs of friends and family visiting graves.

“We are taking into account all of the feedback we have received to ensure the correct approach is carried out moving forward.”

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