Warning that graves sinking in cemetery
CONCERN over sinking graves in Cowden's cemeteries has sparked warnings to gravediggers.
The parish council has written to grave-digging companies stressing the need for holes to be filled in properly.
The concerns were raised after parish clerk Caroline Bizios noticed several sagging graves in the cemetery beside the village church.
She said: "I was on one of my regular walks around the burial ground and these two had sunk quite a lot – more than ordinarily."
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Mrs Bizios said the problem could have been caused by multiple coffins being buried in one of the graves.
She said: "That grave would have been dug up, and the land disturbed, three times in two years, based on when the ladies there were buried."
The problem was raised at the parish council's monthly meeting, where chairman Glyn Henley said the council had written to grave-digging companies to alert them to the problem.
Before then, the parish council workers had been topping up the back soil on the graves to prevent them sinking.
Mrs Bizios added: "We do put as much back soil in as possible ourselves but we can't afford to employ someone on an ongoing basis to fill them in."
There are three burial grounds in Cowden, including one owned by the church. The other two are owned by the parish council.
According to consultancy firm Peter Mitchell Associates, which carried out research into grave sinkage, there are a number of potential causes. These include the type of soil used, the condition of the surrounding ground, how wet the ground is and the weather.
After a grave has been dug, the ground is replaced in a process called back-filling. When the soil is put back it contains more air pockets than it did when it was dug up. Over time, this back-filled soil will sink as the air pockets escape and the soil settles.
Parish council chairman Glyn Henley said: "Grave sinkage is a normal process following burial and it can take between six to twelve months for the ground to settle.
"This is the reason why the parish council will not allow memorial headstones to be erected until at least six months after burial.
"In the instances referred to at the parish council meeting, two graves had sunk more than would normally be expected.
"The clerk noticed the sinkage and having reported this to me, remedial works were undertaken within 24 hours."