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Dismay at state of Exeter cemetery

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

  • A father, who does not want to be named, said he had even had to fill in graves that have sunk

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A BEREAVED family has contacted the Echo in despair at the state of the Children's Garden at Exeter's Higher Cemetery.

A father, who does not want to be named, said he had even had to fill in graves that have sunk.

But Exeter City Council, which maintains the cemetery, says that since the Children's Garden opened in 2008, only four complaints have been received.

In those five years 145 young children and babies have been interred on the site.

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The man, who has a son buried in the Children's Garden, said: "Since my son was buried there in 2011 I have contacted the council numerous times to complain about the workers disrespect and desecration of the graves.

"They are ripped apart with ride-on mowers, push mowers and strimmers on the rare occasions that they actually bother to cut the grass.

"They walk over freshly buried graves leaving big footprints in them and they don't even fill the graves properly.

"I have even gone over there with a bucket myself to get soil to fill in graves that are six inches below the surface. I have replaced trinkets that have been strewn about and I have witnessed mothers at their baby's grave crying over the state of it."

He added: "The council's reaction is to tell me that I have to understand that it is a very stressful job for them.

"No, stressful is when you have to bury your own child and then have to clean up the mess made of his grave every time you go to visit.

"I hope your article may change things for the better as I know there are many other parents who feel the same way as myself and the mother who first contacted you do.

"I have seen parents there, and others who just walk through the cemetery on a regular basis, who have commented on how bad it is, so maybe this will bring forward a few more parents to stand up and encourage the council to act and keep it in a better condition all year round." A spokesman for the city council said: "Since the opening of the Children's Garden in early 2008 we have sadly had to inter some 145 young children and babies in 137 graves making this one of the busiest parts of the cemetery.

"In five years we have received a total of four complaints, including these two received by the Echo. "Unfortunately two have been anonymous which denies us the opportunity to discuss the problems further. We are more than happy to address any issues that anyone may have with the service; we always listen to the bereaved."

The spokesman said the Children's Garden was created when a bereaved parent pointed out that the council could best serve her needs by creating a dedicated area.

He added: "If anyone has concerns about any aspect of our service I would urge them to contact the Bereavement Services office on 01392 265370. Only then may we have the opportunity to do something about it. Such places are never easy to manage; any visit to the cemetery is understandably highly charged emotionally and any perceived problem with the grave or the memorial items left there can easily be seen as representing insensitivity on behalf of the cemetery staff; this is amplified when a child is involved.

"Many factors can make maintenance problematical from time to time however we try to work closely with parents to achieve a balance between their individual needs and those of the garden as a whole."

He said a well-attended annual remembrance service is held on the last weekend in May every year.

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