Graves Maintenance and Access

Torridge District Council wishes to maintain the high standards of all the graves in our care, and need the help of every owner of grave rights to achieve this. This necessitates some restrictions on the service we provide.

Grave Rights

All grave rights are sold for 25-year periods, after which they can be extended for a fee.  Please keep the grave deed safe as it is evidence of your ownership of the right.  You have purchased a right of burial, which ensures that any further burial must be of the grave owner, or a burial authorised by the owner.  It is important to note that you have bought a "right", and not the land, which still remains in the ownership of Torridge District Council.

Memorial Safety

As the owner of the grave right, you are responsible for the safety of the memorial on the grave.  If it becomes loose, leans, or otherwise appears unsafe, please contact a memorial mason.  The cemeteries staff carry out regular safety checks and will contact the grave owner when a problem is detected.  If the owner cannot be contacted, for reasons of health and safety the memorial will be laid flat on the grave plot.

All masons are instructed to install new memorials in accordance with the National Association of Memorial Masons Code of Practice.  This will ensure that the memorial is erected correctly, safely and will last without movement that could damage it or cemetery users. It is strongly recommended that only "NAMM" members are employed.

Please note that you will also need to purchase an "exclusive right" in order to erect a memorial

Restricted Mowing

Our lawn graves are designed to be neatly mown and most people choose them for this reason.  We find it difficult and sometimes necessary to restrict mowing on lawn graves where glass, plastic items, windmills, pot plants, bedding plants and shrubs etc., have been placed over the grass area.  Where items are placed on the grass, our staff may mow around them because of the risk of damaging them or being exposed to plastic or glass fragments or in certain circumstances for health and safety reasons we will remove them.  Northam and Holsworthy Cemeteries are lawned cemeteries and hence no items are permitted on the grave.

Restricted Grave Access

Please note that in the future, perhaps a week or even years away, we will need to excavate the grave at the side or foot of the grave you have purchased.  We may have to place boards over the grave and perhaps a spoil box and this may prevent you visiting the grave for a short period.  Please be prepared for this, and rest assured that we only do this if we cannot place the soil or boards elsewhere.  After the funeral, we clean the grave and leave the area neat and tidy.  Indeed, when a burial next occurs in the grave you own, we will be covering the adjacent graves and causing a similar problem for other grave owners.

Also the grave will be monitored and may well sink due to the soil sinking, this is quite normal and it will be replaced at various times and after about six months the grave will be levelled and either turf laid or grass seeded.  All this work will be carried out as carefully as possible.

In both these circumstances any flowers/plants on the grave may be damaged as a result of these works.

Winter Conditions

Every year, glass or china vases on graves freeze and split and the shards become a safety hazard.  Please do not use glass on graves.  Also note that if vase holes in stone do not drain properly and hold water, they will freeze and this can split any type of stone.  Finally, in winter, we do not treat frozen surfaces on graves.  Only roads and paths to imminent funerals are salted and/or gritted, and the majority of paths, roads and parking places can be covered with ice and/or snow.  As anniversaries occur every day of the year, and the bereaved feel an over-whelming need to visit the grave, we never close our sites even though ice and snow exist.  Please exercise extreme care throughout winter and avoid visits when ground conditions may result in a fall or some form of injury.


We consistently receive complaints about dog faeces on graves.  Some people also get very heated about dogs generally and demand that they be banned from cemeteries.  Similar numbers of dog lovers oppose a ban and state that they will take their dog to the graveside whatever, as the dog was owned by the deceased person.  Where permitted when attending a grave, dogs on a leash are allowed but faeces must be removed and placed in bins.

Cemeteries are also included in The Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996.  Under this Act we can prosecute owners who fail to clean up after their dogs.  In addition, the Council employ dog wardens to help us enforce the Act.

Please note that NO dogs are permitted within the grounds of Bideford or Torrington Cemeteries.


Some plastic flowers lie about our cemeteries.  Not only do they look unkempt and neglected, they also pose serious problems if they are caught inside the cutters of mowing machines.  Please avoid plastics at all times.  Where plastic items are placed on graves, we may restrict maintenance in order to protect grave maintenance staff or in certain circumstances we will remove them.

Plastic Windmills

Plastic windmills are now appearing on graves.  These often make noises which disturb funeral services.  They also break into dangerous fragments if touched by a nylon cutter.  After strong winds they are blown over lawns.  These items are not intended for outdoor use and I would ask you not to place them on graves.  Where they are placed,  may restrict mowing near them or need to remove them for health and safety reasons.

Candles and Night Lights

Whilst these present little risk it has been our experience that at night these can draw unwanted attention to the grave and possible vandalism may result.


Expensive fresh flowers and silk flower arrangements are occasionally stolen or removed and placed on other graves.  We constantly monitor the situation and routinely talk to police about any problems.  Please let us know if you experience theft.


Vandalism is rare, but when it occurs, it is very distressing.  The Council are not responsible for vandalism damage.  If you fear vandalism to your memorial, your mason can offer you insurance.

Stone Chippings

Please do not place stone chippings around graves.  They have proved to be dangerous in the past, when the grounds staff have been using mowing equipment.  Small stones can get caught and fly from the blades or strimmer line, thereby endangering personal safety.

Floral Tributes

To keep the cemetery tidy floral tributes will be removed four weeks after the funeral or earlier if they are in an advanced state of decay.

At Christmas many holly wreaths are left on graves.  Our staff will remove them three or four weeks after Christmas.  If you wish to remove them yourself, please do so before 6th January.

Cremated Remains Graves

These small grave spaces have been provided for those who wish to inter cremated remains and have a memorial placed upon the grave.  The style of memorial permitted is a flat square or hexagonal tablet, which can accommodate short inscriptions and inset flower container, or an open book.  A maximum height 450mm is permitted to allow clear viewing of adjacent memorials.