A DISTRAUGHT father is calling for action to prevent sheep from eating the flowers placed on the grave of his dead daughter.
Samantha Jones endured a brave two-year long battle with leukaemia before passing away on September 26, 2002 aged just 16.
Since then her dad Keith and other family members have regularly visited her headstone at Saddleworth Parish Council’s cemetery, at Gellfield Lane above Uppermill.
But recently they have been left upset and angry to find their floral tributes are being eaten by wandering sheep.
Keith, who lives in Delph, explained: “I’ve seen the sheep there and had to chase them off myself before. Sometimes there are up to a dozen.
“We’ve also picked up sheep dung from around the graves so we don’t have to walk in it when we go there.
“The wall is too low and they just jump over and wander around. We just wish the Parish Council or the farmer would do something about it, like putting up a proper wall.”
Keith says he has even put up a board to block a gap in the wall but the sheep just find another spot to jump over into the graveyard from the neighbouring fields.
“Recently it was Samantha’s anniversary and we spent hundreds of pounds on flowers – but they all got eaten,” said Keith. “It was very upsetting.
“There must be 60-odd graves in that section and not one of them has fresh flowers anymore. People have stopped bringing them because they know they just get eaten.
“It would be Samantha’s birthday on November 1 so we left some roses but I had to leave the cellophane on so they wouldn’t get eaten.
“We should be able to pay our respects and leave tributes without worrying they will be eaten.”
The Independent contacted Saddleworth Parish Council, who own the cemetery and ensure it is maintained and looked after.
Cllr Pam Byrne commented: “We have been to look at the cemetery and found no evidence of sheep or any other animal. Evidence is usually droppings or footprints.
“However what we did see was a muntjac deer which did hop over the wall.
“The field next to the cemetery does not appear to have sheep or have had sheep in but we will ask the question locally.
“These walls are original boundary walls which have possibly been there 100 years.
“The grave in question did have fresh roses on and were untouched as were flowers on other graves but we are as yet unsure what these deer like to eat.
“We have to remember that we are a moorland graveyard that will be subject to visiting wild life from time to time.”
But Keith hit back at the “ludicrous” remarks, saying: “We went every day for 10 years after Samantha died and now go up to four times a week.
“We know the graveyard and what goes on. They go up there once in a blue moon.
“We have seen the deer, hare and pheasants, and even a few horses. We know you can’t stop the wildlife but they should be able to sort out the wall and stop the sheep coming over on a regular basis.
“I hope other people with the same problem with come forward and tell the Parish Council and insist something is done about it.”
The friends and family of Samantha set up The Samantha Jones Trust in September 2004 to provide support, financial and material assistance to children suffering from Leukaemia and their families.
They fundraise through monthly Sunday Markets at the Civic Hall in Uppermill as well as sponsored events, and recently donated £12,000 to the Bone Marrow Unit at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
The next Sunday Market will be held on November 18 and December 9 from 10am-3pm. Free admission. Find out more online: thesamanthajonestrust.com
The Trust is looking for volunteers to help out at the markets with stalls and in the kitchens.
Contact Keith by email email@example.com or call 01457 829479.
• Have you seen the sheep at the cemetery or had floral tributes left there destroyed? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01457 237474.