After a cremation, many families struggle to come to an agreement over what to do with their loved ones’ ashes, particularly when the deceased left no request for this.
In this feature, we take a look at the regulations here in the UK for scattering ashes and cover some of the most common ways to scatter a loved ones’ ashes. We also review some of the more unusual and creative ideas for what to do with a loved ones’ ashes including some creative and unique memorials or alternatives to traditional urns for storage.
- What is the law on scattering ashes?
- Where can ashes be scattered?
- Can ashes be buried on private land?
- Can ashes be scsttered in a churchyard or cemetery?
- Can ashes be scattered on water?
- Can they be scattered in public places?
- Can ashes be divided?
- Best ways to scatter ashes
- Ideas for loved ones' ashes: lasting memorials
- Ideas of places to scatter a loved one's ashes
- Creative ideas for loved ones' ashes
- Unusual ideas for loved ones' ashes
What is the Law on Scattering Ashes?
The UK laws on scattering ashes are quite relaxed but do require the permission of the landowner.
If you are scattering ashes on your own land then there are no issues regarding this but, if this involves a waterway including lakes and rivers, you may need to obtain permission and seek advice from the Environment Agency.
Where Can Ashes Be Scattered?
Ashes can be scattered on land, water and from the air and can include private land such as football grounds, parks and gardens as well as at sea, from a plane or even launched into the air.
In all cases, you will need to get permission from the relevant owners of the land you are using in order to do this.
Can Ashes Be Buried on Private Land?
If you decide to bury ashes, these remains become legally bound by similar restrictions to those you would need to follow if you were burying a coffin.
You will need to have the same permissions from the freehold landowner in order to bury the ashes of your loved ones and check to see if there are any covenants which could restrict you from doing so.
You will need to obtain a Certificate of Authority for Burial from the Registrar of Births & Deaths before the burial takes place. This will need to be completed and returned to the Registrar within 4 days of the burial.
You are also obligated to keep a burial register.
When burying the ashes of a loved one, you may wish to consider using a suitable waterproof container to keep them intact.
You should also consider whether you will have access to visit the burial site in the future. If you choose your garden, for instance, how would moving home affect this? You are able to retrieve and remove the container but you will need an exhumation order to do so.
Can Ashes Be Scattered in a Churchyard or Cemetery?
Some cemeteries do not allow the scattering of ashes on family graves but may let you inter them with an existing grave with special permission.
As an alternative, most churches have specific areas such as rose gardens where you can spread the ashes of a loved one.
Can Ashes Be Scattered on Water?
Generally speaking, there is no reason why you cannot scatter ashes on water but there are some rules and guidelines that should be observed.
Inland waterways are the responsibility of the Environment Agency and it is advisable to check with your local office before scattering ashes on water. You will need to be sure that there is no drinking water supply nearby and ceremonies should remain private and discreet.
If there is fishing, boating or swimming activities then always make sure your scattering does not impact on those around you.
Scattering ashes at sea does not require any permits but, if you are doing so within five miles of the shore then it is always recommended to let the Environment Agency know.
Can Ashes Be Scattered in Public Places such as at National Parks or Beauty Spots?
It is the final wish of some people to have their ashes scattered at their favourite beauty spot. From hillsides and parklands to mountain tops and woodlands, this can be a beautiful way to commit the remains of your loved one to nature.
Most trusts and national parks do not forbid the scattering of ashes on the land which they manage but most do request that ceremonies are held privately and discreetly and that ashes are not scattered so as to cause any environmental damage or nuisance to other users of the land.
Some places like Kew Gardens in London allow one scattering per day and you will need to obtain a permit to do so. The National Trust, Woodland Trust and Ben Nevis are all places where public scattering ceremonies are permitted.
Can Ashes Be Divided?
There is no law that prevents ashes from being separated and divided. This can allow you to incorporate the remains of your loved ones to be spread in different locations or committed to a lasting memorial.
Dividing ashes is often a good way to prevent any disagreements between family members over how and where to scatter, inter or use ashes.
Some religions prohibit the remains of the deceased from being divided.
Best Ways to Scatter Ashes
There are four main ways to scatter ashes:
The most common way is casting which simply means throwing the ashes out at the location of your choosing. It is recommended that you check the way the wind is blowing before doing this to prevent the remains of your loved ones from being carried in an unintended direction.
Ringing is also a popular method to scatter ashes and people often use this method when placing the ashes of a loved on at the base of tree. It simply involves making a ring of the ashes around an object.
Raking is used to incorporate the remains of your loved one into the ground and may be used at the graveside of another family member (where permitted) or within a garden.
Lastly, trenching could be seen as a form of burial and may require you to follow due process (see ‘Can Ashes Be Buried on Private Land’, above).
Ideas for Loved Ones’ Ashes: Lasting Memorials
Some people leave instructions or guidance for their friends and family as to how they wish their ashes to be scattered or stored. Though these are not legally binding, most relatives will try to ensure that they are kept.
The most common memorials are quite traditional but there are some more contemporary ways to consider for your loved ones’ ashes that you might think would be more fitting.
Here, we take a look at some of the more popular ways to create a lasting memorial.
The most traditional way to store and keep the ashes of a loved one is in an urn or other container which can be kept at home with family.
Easily transportable, urns can be purchased in a huge variety of designs and sizes including contemporary metal and wooden containers to more classical styles.
You can also opt for a creative urn that is more fitting for your loved one (see ‘Unusual Ideas for Loved Ones’ Ashes’, below
Interment (or burial) of the ashes of a loved one can be undertaken in a variety of ways and in a range of places.
Whilst cremation may be a popular choice of funeral service for personal, religious or economic reasons, interment of the ashes can be a good option for those who want the benefits of a final resting place.
You can arrange for ashes to be interred at a cemetery, either on their own or within an existing grave; this will need to be approved by the cemetery. You can do this on private land with the permission of the landowner.
Be aware that burial of ashes requires a permit to do so (see ‘Can Ashes be Buried on Private Land’, above).
Plant a Tree
Trees grown with the ashes of a loved one at their roots can be a powerful way to symbolise the circle of life and is wonderful and lasting way to commemorate someone you love.
There are lots of organisations in the UK that offer tree planting as a lasting way to memorialise your loved one. Whilst some of these do not incorporate the ashes themselves, many memorial woodlands will.
If you are commissioning a memorial tree for your loved ones’ ashes, always check that the price you are given allows you to scatter the ashes at the roots of the tree being planted.
The ashes are often placed in a biodegradable urn before being placed in the hole in which the tree is planted.
If you like the idea of growing something from the ashes of your loved one then you can also find tree urns that you can use to grow a tree at home in.
A columbarium (also known as a cremation niche) is a memorial wall or monument that contains alcoves or cavities designed to store the ashes of deceased persons. They are often accompanied by a plaque.
They are very popular in the US and in some parts of Europe but are not so common in the UK.
There are some companies that offer this service if you are interested in this alternative of ‘above-ground burial’.
Ideas of Places to Scatter a Loved One’s Ashes
Scattering the ashes of a loved one is usually done at a place that has some significance to the deceased and can be a favourite place where they walked the family dog to a special location such as a beach or mountain top overlooking a preferred holiday location.
Wherever you choose to scatter your loved ones’ ashes always ensure you do so in accordance with the guidelines given above and with the relevant permission from the landowner(s).
Some other suggestions of places to do this, include:
- At a football ground or stadium
- At a concert venue
- On a beach or at sea
Creative Ideas for Loved Ones’ Ashes
If scattering is not for you and your family and you would prefer to keep the remains of your loved one close by then there are some very personal but creative ways that you can do this.
UK based company Heart in Diamond offer a service to turn the ashes of your loved one into a unique and authentic diamond.
Extracting the carbon from the ashes, your loved ones’ remains are grown in high-tech labs. The result is an absolutely unique and precious stone.
Many people who opt for this method have the stone incorporated in a piece of jewellery (see below).
Jewellery is a popular way to incorporate the ashes of the deceased into a lasting memorial which can be worn by a bereaved family member.
This is quite a traditional way to remember your loved ones with the practice of mourning jewellery dating back to the Middle Ages. It was brought back into favour in the Victorian period when a lock of hair from the deceased was incorporated into the design.
UK company Ashes into Glass can create custom jewellery to suit your personal preferences. From pendants and rings to bracelets and lockets, you can also include other personalisation such as inscriptions or even the fingerprints of your loved ones.
Adding the ashes of your loved ones to glass as it is fused to form a stained-glass window is another unique way to create a beautiful memorial.
Ashes can be added to paint pigments and used as the media for producing a bespoke painting, cremation portrait or other piece of artwork.
Just as ashes of the deceased can be added to glass and paint, they can also be incorporated into glazes for pottery and ceramics.
Unusual Ideas for Loved Ones’ ashes
As the saying goes, ‘each to their own’ and just as no two people are the same, the ways to remember them can be just as unique as they were.
Here, we take a look at some of the more unconventional ways that are available to preserve, scatter and memorialise the ashes of your loved ones.
It is not uncommon for relatives or friends to have the life of a loved one commemorated with a tattoo. This lasting and living memorial can be a chance to have an image of the deceased and/or the date of their death inked onto your body.
However, some tattoo artists are now able to offer a much more personalised service for their bereaved customers and can incorporate some of your loved ones’ ashes into the pigments used in your tattoo.
Ashes are not toxic but should be handled and stored in a sterile way and you should check with your local tattooist if they can accommodate this request. Always use a licensed tattooist for this service and, preferably, one that has experience in using cremated ash infused inks.
Offering the bereaved a ‘happier way to say goodbye’, companies like Heavens Above are offering customers unique fireworks displays that incorporate the ashes of your loved ones.
Seen as a celebration of life which can form part of a spectacular display at the end of a memorial service, this could be a very unique and fitting tribute for the right family.
Memorial Space Flights
The same company as above (Heavens Above) also offers customers the opportunity to launch the ashes of their loved ones into space in partnership with a US based company.
You can opt for a portion of your loved ones’ cremains to be launched into Earth’s orbit or even deep space. Celestis, a US company, can even arrange for ashes to be sent to the moon.
The creatively named company And Vinyly has come up with an unusual way to preserve your loved ones’ ashes by having them pressed into a playable vinyl record.
This is a unique way to remember a music lover and can be combined with a fitting choice of song that enables them to live ‘beyond the groove’.
In a Skydive
If you are interested in this kind of aerial tribute then Your Wings can offer the bereaved a way to see their loved ones take a final journey.
Professional skydivers can scatter ashes from a height of 10,000 feet in a filmed ceremony that you can also witness from the ground. Final flights are offered from locations around the UK including Devon, Wiltshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.
Traditional urns are either shaped like a vase with a narrow base and a round body or come as simple chest (often made from wood).
However, there are no limits to the style of urn in which you keep the ashes of your loved ones and it is up to you how you personalise this kind of final resting place.
UK based company Crazy Coffins specialises in the unusual when it comes to custom urns and their gallery has examples of everything from a Mercedes van to a replica of the USS Enterprise. Of course, there are no legal requirements about the container in which you store the cremains of your loved ones so finding something personal to you is not difficult.
Although using some clothing of a recently deceased loved one has become a popular idea for creating a teddy bear, it is also possible to have some of their ashes placed inside.
Cami Bear are just one supplier who offer this service and, though based in the U.S., can ship worldwide.
Part of the Sea Bed
If burial at sea is an appealing way to honour your loved one’s memory but you can’t agree on how this should be done then you could consider the service offered by companies like Solace Reef.
Based in Dorset, Solace Reef are an innovative company that is offering grieving families a unique way to help the environment and memorialise a loved one by becoming part of an artificial reef.
Known as ‘Solace Stones’ and fixed with an engraved plaque, these manmade reefs form an important sanctuary for marine wildlife and are a wonderful way to offer an enduring memorial to someone you love.
Adult Memory Cabinet
After the death of a loved one, it is not unusual for friends and family to treasure their remaining personal effects.
Adult Memory Boxes and Cabinets are a very specific way to incorporate the ashes of your loved one with these special items and can be presented in a number of bespoke ways.
Dutch artist, Mark Sturkenboom, created a unique piece called ‘21 Grams’ which incorporated a golden key which could be worn on a chain, a keepsake drawer and vial for cologne.
A memory cabinet can be custom made to suit your own needs to remember your loved one.