Scattering ashes is a beautiful way to pay tribute to somebody’s life and the act of doing so can be part of a special memorial or ceremony shared between a few loved ones. We understand that scattering a loved one’s ashes in their favourite place in the local woodland is the perfect location, however, you will need to get the landowner’s or Environment Agency’s permission to do so.
On Private Land
You may wish to scatter ashes on your own private land such as your garden, in a flower bed, or the base of a tree. If so, you are free to go ahead. However, if you wish to scatter ashes on somebody else’s private land you will need their permission to do so.
It might be worth bearing in mind that you may not always have access to these locations if you or the private landowner sells their property.
On Common Land
Common land, including town and village greens, can be owned by the local council. Although you usually have the right to roam on common land, including walking and recreational sports, you may not be able to use it for other certain activities. For example, some common lands may grant the right to allow horse-riding and others may not. More often than not you will not be allowed to use the site to camp, have a barbecue, hold an event, or drive across it without the owner’s permission.
If you are interested in scattering someone's ashes on a local village green because it was their favourite place for a midday stroll with the dog or the place where they taught their children how to play catch, you must contact the owner of the land to request permission. Many common lands are owned by the local parish or community councils who you can contact to research the ‘Register of Common Land and Village Greens’ for your area to find out who owns the land and who has the right to use it.
It is a lot less popular to scatter ashes in a cemetery. Many people prefer to scatter ashes somewhere a bit more meaningful to the lost one. Similarly to private and common land, not all cemeteries allow the scattering of ashes so it is best to directly ask the cemetery which you wish to scatter ashes at and ask them for permission to do so.
If you own a piece of land in the cemetery, for example at a family grave plot, you should be able to scatter the ashes here.
On National Trust Land
The National Trust is home to some of the nation’s favourite places from Brimham Rocks, Yorkshire to Brownsea Island, Dorset. We understand why a National Trust location would be the perfect resting place.
As always, ask permission. Although the National Trust doesn't have any strict policies on scattering ashes, there are a few things you ought to know before visiting to scattering ashes:
- The property manager can give you written permission to scatter ashes so make sure you contact them to request permission.
- They expect that there will be no visual remains of ashes once they have been scattered.
- They must be scattered discreetly, so that others' time at the site is not disrupted.
- No harm will come to the environment such as possible contamination of water sources.
Finally, you might want to consider when the best time to scatter ashes at a National Trust site may be. Some locations are open all the time and all year round, however some may depend on the season or daylight hours.
Similarly, UK National Parks and English Heritage sites have the same guidelines and always require permission for ashes to be scattered.
Upon Mountains and Hilltops
Your loved one might have been a mountain climber and so you want to scatter their ashes at the top of their favourite summit or perhaps one they never got a chance to climb themselves. Alternatively, mountains and hilltops provide a beautiful setting and fantastic views to say your goodbyes. However, there are a few things to bear in mind.
- Some mountains are home to fragile plant ecosystems where ashes may have deleterious effects upon due to the phosphate found in cremains.
- Areas of high elevation can be very windy spots which may make it difficult and possibly dangerous to scatter ashes. Avoid going on windy days.
- Popular mountain climbs may also be very busy spots so it might be hard to find a quiet moment to peacefully scatter the ashes. However, do not try to go later at night when you feel there may be less visitors, especially if there are sharp cliffs and tough terrains, as this can be dangerous.
Ultimately, it may be a better choice to scatter ashes half-way up a mountain or hillside.
In the Sea, Rivers, and Lakes
Unlike sea burial, scattering ashes at sea is far easier and you don’t require a permit to do so. However, there are Environmental Agency guidelines which should be followed in order to protect the local ecosystem. These guidelines include:
- Be respectful when choosing the place to scatter the ashes so that it is not near any buildings, fishermen, site entrances or exits
- The location should be more than 1 km upstream of anywhere water is pumped or collected
- Particularly beaches can have their fair share of windy days, choose one of the less windy days and scatter the ashes as close to the water’s surface as possible
- Anything else that is spread with the ashes must also be biodegradable, so spreading the ashes alone is the best way to do it
If you already have a special location in mind but you are unsure of what the environmental recommendations for that spot may be, you can contact the Environment Agency directly by calling 08708 506 506 or email email@example.com to discuss the matter further.
What about outside of the UK?
Are you considering scattering ashes somewhere outside of the UK? As long as you follow these set of guidelines below, you will be able to easily travel with ashes on a plane to set your angel free in another part of the world.
- You will need a certified copy of the death certificate and the cremation certificate.
- The ashes must be stored in a non-metallic urn or container.
- The urn for ashes must be carried in your hand luggage.
- Speak to your chosen airline in advance in case they have any specific guidelines for travelling with ashes on their aircrafts.
- Request a statement from the crematorium to authenticate that the urn only contains the ashes of your loved one which matches the death and cremation certificates.
- Research the country of your travel destination for specific advice on what to do when you arrive, alternatively, you can contact the embassy of the country for direct information.
Scattering ashes can be an expressive and symbolic way to send your loved one on their final journey. Whether it be close to home, always watching over family and friends, or far away, constantly exploring the world via the oceans. Wherever it is, just make sure you have permission to do so and follow the Environment Agency guidelines!
We hope this article has been informative and helped answer some of the key questions surrounding the laws and regulations about scattering ashes in the UK.
Please explore our collection of scattering tubes here.
If you have any further questions or queries please visit our other articles which are linked below:
- Where can I bury an urn?
- What size urn do I need?
- Where to place your urn?
- What is the cost of an urn?
- How to fill a cremation urn?
- What materials are used in cremation urns?
- What are biodegradable urns made out of?
- What types of memorial Jewellery are there?
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