Residents call for action as sheep continue to roam free in cemetery

FRUSTRATED residents feel their complaints about sheep marauding in a peaceful cemetery are falling on deaf ears at Saddleworth Parish Council.

Keith Jones highlighted the issue to the Independent in November after becoming fed up with the sheep eating floral tributes left on the grave of his young daughter.

Samantha 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 the Parish Council’s cemetery, at Gellfield Lane above Uppermill.

After repeatedly being left upset and angry when their tributes were eaten by wandering sheep, they have raised the issue with Saddleworth Parish Council but got no result.

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.”

After the situation was highlighted in the Independent, numerous other readers have related similar events and hope the Parish Council will finally take action.

Geraldine Dick said: “I have seen sheep there on a number of occasions. While I was there in July I took the photos of the culprits – a ewe and her lamb.

“One photo shows a grave that has had the floral tributes pulled out and eaten. I had never seen this particular grave without fresh flowers and hoped it didn’t cause too much distress to the family.

“It is not the first time I have seen evidence of the floral tributes being disturbed in this way and it has been obvious that grazing sheep have wandered into the cemetery.”

Barbara Swindell added: “I am sick of taking flowers every week to my husband’s grave only to find that they have been eaten.

“I have been there when the sheep where there. I saw at least six.

“The gate that was erected is just a complete waste of time, as the sheep either just push it open or go under it.

“I think Saddleworth cemetery is a disgrace compared to Hollinwood Cemetery.

“The path down to the graves is lethal because of the moss on it. I was informed in the summer that it was being treated, but it is just the same as ever.

“I too informed the council about the sheep but was informed they couldn’t see any sheep, and that there was nothing wrong with the cemetery.

“I hope that enough people complain, then hopefully something will be done.”

Another resident, who wished to remain unnamed, said: “My wife and I have been going to the graveyard to visit our son’s grave on a regular basis for 16 years.

“We have had to shoo sheep away as well as cows. It is now that bad that we have stopped putting flowers on his grave as they get eaten which is upsetting and costly.

“In my opinion, it is definitely sheep that are the problem as the dirt they leave and hoof prints are easily recognisable.

“I have emailed the council but had no reply. I think the graveyard is in the worst state I have ever seen and after the letters issued about the new rules nothing seems to have happened about the non-compliers.”

And another added: “My friend has seen sheep in the cemetery.

“I put flowers on my son’s grave on Sunday and when I came back on Monday, only two still had the heads on, eight had been eaten.”

Cllr Pam Byrne told the Independent she has passed the issue on to Parish Council’s estates committee.

She added: “Of all the times I have been in the cemetery I have never seen a sheep! Roe deer, chickens and we have had horses – that is why the extra gate was put on.

“However if there is actual evidence I am sure the Estates Committee will look at it.

There are no broken gates to the cemetery, just ones which people leave open. The wall is a different matter and we would need to look at plans to see if the wall belongs to the council.”

But Keith criticised her response as ‘wholly inadequate’ and insisted more needs to be done.

“There needs to be some action by the Parish Council to address the numerous reports of sheep rather than stating they haven’t seen any sheep,” he added.

“It’s as if the voice of the locals and bereaved families is going unheard! Are they implying the numerous complainants are lying?

“It would be reasonable to expect to lay flowers on your loved ones grave and to visit to pay respects safe in the knowledge of well-maintained burial sites, including perimeter boundaries.

“Is some barbed wire/mesh fencing beyond the Parish Council’s capabilities to provide protection to the land and peace of mind to families?”

• An application was approved by the Diocese of Manchester for nearby St Chad’s Church to introduce eight to 10 sheep into their graveyard.

This would allow them to graze and keep the grass down – but it has not yet been actioned by the church.

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