Recently, I took a friend to the Herne Road cemetery, to tend her family’s resting places. It was the first time I’d been there, and I was appalled.
My father rests at Seaford, where the cemetery is peaceful and welcoming, with well tended flower beds, graves and paths. In contrast, Herne Road cemetery was a place I would not wish to linger. To be honest, what I saw bordered on neglect.
To start with, there didn’t seem an easy way of getting to the graves. The paths aren’t paved, and when I visited, they were muddy and churned. That’s bad enough if you’re just ruining good shoes, but it’s potentially lethal to someone unsteady on their feet.
Bushes and shrubs had been planted to honour loved ones, and many had grown out of control. In other cemeteries I’ve visited, overgrowth is trimmed back and bushes kept neat so they don’t impinge on other graves. Similarly, the rampant spread of heather and other fast growing plants is carefully checked.
Talking to others, I discovered much discontent. One lady was distressed by the pile of rubbish behind her grandfather’s grave. Gardeners had cut back hedges, piled the branches and then just left them.
Apparently, it’s worse in summer. Families tend graves, making them pristine. Then the gardeners come with strimmers. The grass cuttings blow all over the graves and are left there. Worse, it is not uncommon for the strimmers to actually chip the stone surrounds of graves. I know how I would feel if my loved one’s resting place was damaged in this way.
Grave plots are paid for, and they aren’t cheap. They should be treated with respect, as should the graveyard as a whole, and its visitors. That’s surely not too much to ask in a modern, civilised society?