Scattering ashes - Everything you need to know

- 10/12/21

The idea of scattering ashes has been around for centuries. Dating back as far as ancient times, the scattering of a loved one’s ashes comes with significant meaning. It can also be an important step in the grieving process for some. As cremations now make up more than 70% of all funerals in the UK, it’s important to understand what the process involves and where it can take place[1].

Deciding what to do with a loved one’s ashes can be a difficult decision to make, particularly if the death was recent. To help you through this process, we’ve put together a few pieces of information you should know about the scattering of ashes.

Where can you scatter ashes?

In the UK, you’re able to scatter ashes in a variety of open places. Popular choices include a garden of remembrance, a green open space, over water or somewhere that was significant to the deceased in life.

Some people may leave their loved ones with instructions of where to scatter their ashes but others may not. If their preferred location is a public space, you should be able to go ahead and scatter their remains there but it’s always best to check in advance.

Best places where you can scatter ashes:

  • In a graveyard or garden of remembrance at a crematorium
  • Into the sea, a river or any other body of water
  • In parks and other public spaces
  • On private land (your back garden, for example)

UK legislation & permits

There are no laws in the UK that prohibit the scattering of ashes, as long as you have any necessary permits. You’re also allowed to scatter ashes over any body of water or on your own private land without needing to ask permission.

However, if you’d like to scatter ashes on public or private land other than your own, it’s best to ask for permission from the landowner. This includes popular places like parks, beaches and places of worship.

Although you don’t need to request permission to scatter ashes over the sea, we advise getting in touch with the local environment agency first.

Scattering on a family grave or in a cemetery

Unfortunately, not all cemeteries allow ashes to be scattered. You’ll need to check with the cemetery beforehand to make sure you’re okay to do so. If you own a plot of land within the cemetery, you should be ok to go ahead, but we still recommend reaching out ahead of time. Some cemeteries may even have designated areas for scattering ashes.

Public land and parks

If you’re thinking of scattering your loved one’s ashes on public land (such as a park), you’ll need to request permission from the local council. Most requests are approved, even from park trusts such as the national trusts, so long as the ashes won’t cause any environmental issues.

In a forest

Access to forests in the UK is fairly straightforward, and secluded areas are easy enough to come by. If the forest is public land then you can go ahead and scatter your loved one’s ashes, however, if the area you want to use is on private land you’ll have to ask permission from the landowner. The Woodland Trust is the largest conservation body for forests - they’ll typically be able to help find an appropriate area if you get in touch.

At the beach

While a water burial is a fairly common request, the costs and logistics involved can make it tricky, meaning many people choose to scatter ashes on a public beach instead. If you chose to do this, remember to scatter ashes below the high tide line and away from the entry/exit points. Also be mindful of other people using the beach and wind conditions.

Over water

Scattering ashes over water such as a river or the sea is a popular choice for both religious and non-religious reasons. While there’s no need to get permission from anyone, you should think about the environmental factors:

  • Make sure you’re well away from any fisheries or marinas
  • Check you’re more than 1km upstream from a reservoir or water plant
  • Try to scatter ashes on calm days, as windy conditions can blow them onto neighbouring areas

How to scatter ashes

If you’ve never been part of a scattering before, here are some tips:

  • Find the landowner of your chosen location and ask permission beforehand
  • Be conscious of the environment, avoiding conservation areas
  • Scatter ashes in secluded areas away from main paths
  • Try your best to avoid busy days like bank holidays
  • Similarly, try to avoid windy days
  • If scattering from height, check the area below you first
  • Avoid scattering on land where animals graze

If you're looking for an alternative way of scattering ashes, read our guide on what else you can do with cremation ashes. For any questions you may have about the cremation process or if you'd like to take out a funeral plan, please give one of our specialists a call.

Sources:

  1. SunLife (2021)

Distinct Cremations Limited (Trading as Distinct Cremations) | Registered in England No: 13366310 | Registered Office Westerleigh Crematorium, Westerleigh Road, Bristol BS37 8QP | Part of the Westerleigh Group