The cemetery is located to the western edge of Warcop village on Castlehill Road and covers an area of just over half a hectare and is thought to date back to the early eighteenth century. It became the overspill for St Columbas church graveyard once it reached its full capacity.
The cemetery was extended in the early twentieth century and again towards the latter part of the twentieth century to its current size which allowed for a Woodland Garden to be encompassed within the cemetery walls.
Located on a popular local circular walk it has regular visitors of both those with relatives buried there and interested walkers and tourists.
Scope of Report
The report’s main aims are to give the Parish Council, and indeed the parishioners as a whole, a better understanding of the condition of the cemetery and its present and future needs to ensure that the cemetery is accessible to all, is safe to visit and meets all the legistrative requirements for maintaining a cemetery. The ” Local Authorities’ Cemeteries Act 1977″ is the Statutory Instrument used to place various requirements on the management of a cemetery and includes certain standards to be maintained in the management of a cemetery.
The report concentrates on the condition of the cemetery as a whole and not the administration of its burial procedures.
The report has endeavoured to bring together all relevant legislation in relation to the maintenance and repair of a cemetery.
Other information available on the current Warcop Parish Website in relation to the cemetery has been considered in the production of this report.
Layout of Cemetery
The Old Cemetery marked in green is now what is referred to as a closed cemetery and no longer used for burials. It is split into two parts with some remaining headstones showing, but has become mainly overgrown and currently receives little maintenance.
The New Cemetery marked in blue has currently two sections with burials ongoing as necessary and a further two areas as yet undeveloped. The burial sections are maintained to a degree with the underdeveloped areas left except for a small ribbon path cut around the perimeter.
The Woodland Area, a recent development in 2019, is for families who wish to have a natural burial as an alternative to a lawned grave and is generally maintained in a low key way with only one or two grass cuts per year in the hope to encourage wildlife flowers.
Current Maintenance Standards
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon throughout the country to find that cemeteries are in a poor state of repair, with the pressure on budgets of those who maintain them. However difficult it is to achieve, the upkeep of a cemetery has to be prioritised to ensure that heavy costs are not a burden for the future. The maintenance of the cemetery as a whole over the last few years can only be described as sporadic, with only minor amounts of grass cutting to the pathway areas and reactive repairs to the perimeter walls.
Recent developments in 2023 have addressed, to some degree, the need to maintain the upkeep of the circulation areas of the new cemetery areas with an agreement to cut the grass , which although is slowly improving the accessibility of some areas of the cemetery has identified problems with the layout of the cemetery and the restrictions in some areas of maintaining the graves. The old cemetery areas, apart from mowing a ribbon path for limited access, is at the moment beyond the remit of the agreement in place.
No maintenance is planned for the perimeter stone walls, trees, hedges, outbuilding, gates and other associated items. These are subject to reactive repairs which may be reported over the coming months.
There is no short or long term plan for maintenance or improvements at the moment.
In order to achieve a comprehensive picture as to the current condition of the various elements of the cemetery, it was thought better to produce them in table form for breaking down the various elements and referencing them to photographs.
The perimeter walls are approximately 330m in length with the older part of the cemetery being more of a double freestanding wall pointed with a lime mortar and a stone coping. The newer part being a stone laid wall mainly with loose fill, with a stone on edge. Height varies from 1.5m to 450mm.
Apart from a few minor collapses to the west, south and east walls, the walls are generally sound.
The north wall especially running from the single sloping gate entrance to the outbuilding are in a poor condition and in some areas are bulging and showing signs of collapse.
Trees on the perimeter of the cemetery
The main type of trees on the perimeter of the cemetery are Conifer trees that have grown to a height in excess of 5m.
Although these trees are healthy, they have generally been allowed to grow beyond the capability of the cemetery, resulting in them destabilising the perimeter wall on the north side and indeed may be causing problems to adjacent graves.
Trees within the cemetery
The main type of trees are Yew trees and are mainly in the older part of the cemetery.
Apart from a row dividing the old and new cemeteries, the trees have been planted in a random manner, it is believed that some trees have fallen over in the past few years.
There are three metal gates, two single and one double which is the main entrance gate.
All gates are in need of some work to ease them and adjust hinges and catches. All gates open outwards and may cause some problems with accessibility, this is particularly noted in a sloping access to one gate.
There has been a recent addition of a large five bar wooden gate to the Woodland Garden entrance.
Condition is noted as good/fair.
Pathways and steps
There are a set of stone steps adjacent to the main gate with various grassed pathways running throughout the cemetery.
Stone steps look in reasonable condition. Grassed pathways need further definition and are uneven with rabbit holes. The pathways vary in width and the change of levels may cause mobility problems in accessing the cemetery.
There is evidence of some wire fencing to the north perimeter, running from the main gate to the outbuilding.
The fencing has collapsed over time and does not act as any type of barrier.
The outbuilding is stone built with a slated roof and PVC guttering with one downpipe. Double leaf timber doors at the frontage of building secured by one padlock.
A stone trough is abutted to the cemetery side of the building.
The stonework is in need of pointing in parts, the roof has missing and slipped slates, the timber doors are rotten and twisted giving a poor fit and have received various repairs over the years, but appear to be beyond economical repair. The trough has come away from the wall and serves no purpose at present.
A newly installed PVC water butt is adjacent to the cemetery side of the outbuilding wall and is fed by the PVC downpipe.
This is in good condition, but may consider fitting an overflow pipe as water is likely to back up when it becomes full.
At the time of the survey it was difficult to establish any formal layout of the old cemetery by its nature of being overgrown.
The new cemetery is laid out in recognised rows divided by a grass pathway and bounded by the stone wall on the south and the trees and stone wall to the north.
There is some variance to the level of individual graves and some have coping stones marking out the perimeter of the plots.
This makes it difficult to manage the grass cutting maintenance of some areas.
There are various gravestone/monument types throughout the cemetery. The older cemetery seems to have larger headstones but again is difficult to assess due to aforementioned reason. The new cemetery headstones are more in keeping with today’s style being smaller and more manageable. Not every plot has a headstones whether a plot has been purchased in advance or a headstone has not been fitted.
The problem with both parts of the cemetery is that some headstones are leaning over or near collapse. This poses a problem of Health & Safety and requires a policy as to how this is dealt with taking in the sensitivity of the matter and the records relating to ownership.
There are three wooden benches located throughout the new cemetery.
All benches are in a reasonable condition.
There is obvious signs of rabbits with burrow entrances all over every part of the cemetery.
This is probably a common problem in cemeteries and there is no doubt that full eradication would probably not be possible. However, there is evidence that gravestones may be undermined by the burrows and it is certainly affecting the pathways throughout the cemetery making access difficult in parts. Policy decision on management of this problem is required.
Established in 2018 it has guidance notes on the current Warcop Parish Website which lays out various criteria for the management of this facility. At present there are a few identifiable burials within this area and have plaques next to them.
The area has been sectioned off with a recently fitted gate. A review of the guidance document might be considered to further establish our aims for developing this area.
Car Park Area
Adjacent to the main gate is a tarmac parking space for about four cars.
In relatively good condition.
There is a sign board at the main entrance and a sign at the entrance to the Woodland Area.
The main sign board gives information on burial procedure and would maybe benefit from a layout drawing. The Woodland Garden sign has no information attached which again could be embellished.
Recommendations and Action Plan
At the time of writing this report no contracts or quotes have been sought for any work to the cemetery other than an agreement for grass cutting for this year. The figures stated in the Action Plan are budget costs. Consideration was given to producing a standalone Maintenance Plan for the cemetery but in the light of the major work required it is thought that further discussions should take place to assess funding streams and perhaps discussions with other parties before producing one.
Description of Work
The West, East and South perimeter walls and the North wall up to the sloping access gate are in relatively good condition and minor maintenance throughout the coming years will keep them in good order.
The North wall, some 83m in length,stretching from the sloping access gate to the outbuilding, is in a poor state and has started to bulge and collapse. The full assessment is out of the scope of the writer of this report and therefore it is strongly recommended that a Structural Engineer assess this as a matter of urgency.
To be confirmed after structural appraisal.
Trees on the perimeter of the cemetery
The cause of the problems with the aforementioned north wall are mainly attributed to the tree roots pushing out the wall. The trees, which are in some cases in excess of 15m, have a spread of roots which, being closely planted to the wall, have eventually caused a problem. Again a full assessment is out of the scope of the writer of this report and therefore it is strongly recommended that a Tree Surgeon assess this as a matter of urgency.
To be confirmed after Tree Surgeon report.
Trees within the cemetery
These are mainly Yew trees and are located in the older part of the cemetery. They have been left unchecked for many years and should perhaps be pollarded as a matter of controlling future problems.
Phased programme of work.
Although minor repairs and repainting to all three gates is required, the gates and access do not themselves comply to current accessibility requirements. To alter all three gates to comply to the current regulations would be asking a lot of a small Parish Council’s budget but nevertheless, small adjustments to the two single gates would be possible with perhaps concentration on alteration to the main double gates to satisfy legislation would be considered as best value.
Alteration to main gates to comply to current legislation, minor repairs to two single gates.
Although newly fitted, the gate needs to be assessed to ensure that we have not created an additional barrier for people with a disability, as per recommendations under the Equality Act.
Pathways & Steps
This could be split into various areas; Entrance and Circulation.
There are three entrances.
There is one which has steps. This could be better improved with a handrail fitted and alteration to the gate as it opens out onto an access road.
The sloping entrance would be expensive to alter as it would require handrails and a new surface and alteration to the levels. At present it is more than 1-25 the considered ideal slope for disabled access.
The third entrance pathway is from the main gate which, if decided to address the disabled access problem, would make sense to alter the pathway.
These are grassed ribbons which are cut lower than other areas to give access throughout all the cemetery areas. They are at present uneven in some areas and have holes and depressions which, over a period of time, could be levelled as required.
The area from the main gate rises sharply and would pose problems for disabled access, which can be overcome with alterations.
The fencing is in a poor state of repair and serves no purpose at present. It would become obsolete if the perimeter walls are to be rebuilt and would be removed at this time.
No access was available to the internal of this building during the survey. Slated roof needs repairs, stonework to walls need general repointing, removal of stone trough adjacent to building and replacement of access doors.
Minor adjustment to overflow pipe to prevent overspill of water at foundations.
As stated before, there are problems with mowing between the graves due to the undulating areas between the graves. An ongoing programme of removing the high areas to infill the depressions should be considered. This is a common problem throughout cemeteries and this is the recommended remedy. Ideally no material has to be shifted off site.
Until there is a clear policy on what the Parish Council wishes to do with leaning or collapsing headstones costs cannot be apportioned.
To be confirmed.
At present no work required. Allow for future maintenance required in programme.
Emotive as it may be, there is a problem in the new cemetery area and the circulation footpaths. This needs to be addressed to prevent further deterioration and the collapsing of headstones. This does not mean complete eradication but an aspect of control of damage.
An updating of the Parish Council vision for the future on this area should be considered the way forward. The cost of this could be minimal as it would always be the intention to leave it as natural as possible but it still needs to be managed.
Unclear at the moment whether it should be marked out and a disabled bay marking introduced. This item may need further discussion by the Parish Council. Surface at present is in good condition.
This perhaps needs to be addressed especially at the Woodland Garden. Suggestions from all Parish Councillors may dictate the best way forward on this.
Much legislation and guidance has been issued by central government over the last few years to ensure that what they call service providers, especially Local Authorities, consider inclusiveness in any alterations, improvements or newly built projects.
Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), amalgamated into the Equalities Act 2010, gives disabled people a right of access to all open spaces, of which cemeteries is one of them. These rights where phased in over the period from 1996 to 2004. However, since 1996 it has been unlawful for service providers to treat people with disabilities less favourably than those people without a disability, for a reason related to their disability.
In considering this information, and possible outcomes of this report, it was thought necessary to bring this aspect to the forefront to ensure all decisions made in the future that can have an impact on access to and around the cemetery are fully considered with the four main disability factors;
Sensory Impaired Disorders
Often small details can make a big difference to those with health or mobility needs. The physical environment, and public spaces in general, should be as barrier-free as possible to fulfil the needs of all people equally. The most important item for disabled people is the possibility of circulation.
At present the Warcop Parish Cemetery has its challenges in meeting the above criteria of access to the cemetery and in its circulation areas throughout the cemetery. We must be mindful in ensuring that in our decision making any proposed maintenance, repair and alteration work considers the aforementioned aspects.
Statement from Equalities Act 2010
“The Equality Act says there’s a duty to make reasonable adjustments if you’re placed at a substantial disadvantage because of your disability compared with non-disabled people or people who don’t share your disability”.
“If someone doesn’t cooperate with their duty to make reasonable adjustments, the Equality Act says it’s unlawful discrimination. You can ask the person or organisation to make the necessary changes. If they refuse, you can make a discrimination claim under the Equality Act”.
Legislation Relating to Public Cemeteries
In writing this report the examination of various documents available on websites has been invaluable and has been used to formulate parts of this report. Reference to these are contained within the bibliography part of the report but it was felt that three main documents where important enough to at least show excerpts from within this report.
Guide for Burial Ground Managers (2005), issued by Department for Constitutional Affairs.
This covers all the requirements and procedures for the administration and maintenance of cemeteries and applies to all, whether large or small, public or private cemeteries.
Burial Ground Managers are deemed to be the governing authority which look after the cemetery which, in the case of Warcop, is the Parish Council. It sets out the legal framework which we must abide by and gives a good platform on which to establish Service and Standards. Being in excess of thirty pages long I have not included it in this report but have retained a copy for those wishing to view it as a hard copy. It can also be accessed digitally if required.
The second document, Cemetery Regulations is available on the Westmorland & Furnace Council website and gives an overview of their recommended regulations for administration of burial sites in the Eden area. This paper is quite current, updated only last year, 2022, and although a bit lightweight nevertheless gives an oversight on their regulations.
The third document Woodland Burial Area is available on the Westmorland & Furnace Council website and, although aimed at another cemetery within Cumbria, sets out the guidance in how to make and manage this type of garden.
The Local Authorities’ Cemeteries Act 1977.
Guide for Burial Ground Managers 2005 (Department of Constitutional Affairs).