Scattering or Interment of Ashes

by Steve Pritchard-Jones

In remembrance of a pet. Red rose beside an urn filled with ashes of a dog isolated on a white background.

The great thing about the scattering of the ashes ceremony is that it is entirely up to you, a special occasion to remember the life of a loved one. The short ceremony to scatter their ashes, will be memorable, heartfelt, meaningful, and dignified. It is a most fitting and brilliant opportunity to give your loved one the final send-off they would have wished for.

It is legal to scatter ashes on private land as long as you have the landowner’s permission.

Things to consider

Where to scatter the ashes
The date. Select a date and time – anniversaries are particularly poignant.
Who to invite. Just close family? Or, family and friends?

Example Order of Service

Poem or reading
Short Eulogy

Scattering or Interment of ashes – see below for different ways to scatter ashes
Symbolic ritual (if appropriate) – scatter petals or seeds, plant a tree or rose (see ritual blog)
Quiet reflection or prayer
Final thoughts

Tips for scattering ashes:
Keep the wind at your back when scattering, with guests standing upwind.

There are a lot of ashes! Don’t tip them all out in one go, as it will leave a messy-looking pile. Try to spread the ashes around.

Stay safe. A clifftop scattering seems very romantic and dramatic, but in rough weather it can be very risky.

If scattering in a popular location, choose a quiet time.

If ringing, raking, or trenching the ashes, keep the urn close to ground as you pour them out.

If casting the ashes, keep the urn at waist height.

Be eco-friendly – don’t leave non-biodegradable objects, like the urn or plastic wreaths, behind.

How to scatter ashes

Casting: This is just to simply scatter the ashes by throwing them into the wind. Wind direction is very important – you want the ashes to blow away from you, not back into your face.

Trenching: This is where you dig out a long, narrow hole into which you then sprinkle the ashes before covering them with soil. Often, people dig a trench in the shape of their loved one’s initials, or a heart. This option is particularly good for scattering ashes on the beach, where brisk coastal winds make simply pouring ashes out a bad idea.

Raking: Ashes are scattered on the ground and then raked into the soil. This is a good option for scattering ashes in a flowerbed, as it spreads the ashes evenly. Then you can plant something over the area, like a rosebush.

Toasting: Each person present is given a small cup of ashes to scatter themselves. If you like, they can take it in turns to make a short speech or say something they liked about the person who has died before scattering their cupful. Biodegradable ash cups with forget-me-not seeds can be bought as well, if you like.

Ringing: Ringing ashes means to scatter them close to the ground while moving in a circle around something, like a tree or a memorial.

If you find yourself in a dispute about where to scatter ashes in the UK, you could consider splitting the ashes between you. That way, each person can say goodbye in their own way.

Examples where to scatter ashes in the UK
Ash scattering in a cemetery, churchyard or natural burial ground
This is a very easy option. You (or your funeral director, if you prefer) can just contact the cemetery owner and ask for permission to scatter the ashes. Many have a dedicated memorial garden specifically for this. To add that special touch you may wish to book a celebrant to deliver a meaningful ceremony.

You may also be able to scatter the ashes over an existing family grave, if you own the exclusive right of burial for it. But if this has lapsed, you might need to renew or ask permission from a new owner before going ahead.

Scattering ashes at sea, over a river, or on a lake
Do you need permission to scatter ashes over the water? No – unlike a sea burial, you don’t need a licence or permission from a landowner. However, the Environmental Agency has some guidelines you should follow:
• Anything else you scatter at the same time should be biodegradable. The ashes themselves won’t hurt plants or animals, but a plastic wreath could.
• Stay at least a kilometre upstream of any water collection points, and far from marinas, buildings, and places where people bathe or swim.
• Scatter the ashes on a calm day and hold the urn very close to the water when you empty it. This can help you avoid an ashes-blown-into-faces scenario.

Scattering ashes on private property
If you have permission from the landowner, there are no UK laws or regulations that can keep you from scattering ashes on private land. Just be aware that your family might not always have access to that land. If the current owner sells up, the new owner may not be willing to let you visit the scattering site.
Permission is usually granted on the understanding that the ashes will be scattered discreetly, without leaving any grave markers or tributes behind.

Scattering ashes in a UK National Park
The Brecon Beacons, the Lake District, Dartmoor, and others will often accommodate this request but, you must seek permission.

Scattering ashes on a mountaintop
While the idea of scattering ashes at the top of a mountain has a nice dramatic feel to it, most conservation organisations ask that you avoid this if possible.
This is because human ashes contain minerals that can have an impact on the delicate plant life that grows on mountain summits.

Scattering laws for common land
Common land, like village greens, does belong to someone. So, while you have the right to roam there, you don’t automatically have the right to scatter ashes there. It’s important to ask for permission before going ahead.

Scattering ashes on sports grounds and in stadiums

Attitudes vary! Nowadays, some of the more popular stadiums have specific memorial areas on their grounds, to keep the pitch from being affected by the number of ashes scattered there. Others no longer allow scattering at all. A good rule of thumb is that the less popular the location, the better your chances of getting permission.

Have you considered…….

Scattering ashes from a Hot Air Balloon

Scattering ashes while Skydiving

Go on, you know you want to!

Please remember
Only the funeral director or the person who signed the application for cremation form can collect the ashes from the crematorium, apart from in special cases.

Steve Pritchard-Jones – Celebrant
Top Note Ceremonies ‘at your Top Note Ceremonies – ‘at your service’

Tel: 07834 855064

Steve Pritchard-Jones

Steve Pritchard-Jones

I am an independent civil celebrant conducting weddings, celebration of life/funerals, commitment, civil partnership, renewal of vows, adoption welcoming, naming, pet funerals, internment or scatter of ashes, memorials service, and even divorce ceremonies in Shropshire, West Midlands, Mid and North Wales, Derbyshire, Staffordshire & throughout the UK.