Pensioner 'heartbroken' at finding loved-ones' graves overgrown

PUBLISHED: 12:00 15 June 2018

Jenny Down at her mothers overgrown grave. Ref exe 24 18TI 5197. Picture: Terry Ife

Jenny Down at her mothers overgrown grave. Ref exe 24 18TI 5197. Picture: Terry Ife

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A pensioner says she was 'heartbroken' and 'disgusted' at finding loved ones' graves at Littleham churchyard overgrown and claims she fell and injured herself because of it.

Jenny Down at her mothers overgrown grave. Ref exe 24 18TI 5195. Picture: Terry IfeJenny Down at her mothers overgrown grave. Ref exe 24 18TI 5195. Picture: Terry Ife

Jenny Down, 75, says she was forced to rip long grass and stinging nettles away from her mother’s headstone with her bare hands, so she could lay flowers on the anniversary of her death.

The church has apologised to Mrs Down for the upset; it has a new long-grass policy to encourage wildlife on the 12-acre site, but is ‘happy to create access’ – and clear plots - for those who request it.

Reverend Benedict Cambridge said: “We are trying to balance the wildlife aspects with the needs of relatives visiting their families’ graves.

“We have decided to have some areas of the churchyard where we allow the grass to grow.

Jenny Down is upset at how overgrown the the graves at Littleham Cemetery have become. Picture by Jenny Down.Jenny Down is upset at how overgrown the the graves at Littleham Cemetery have become. Picture by Jenny Down.

“We weren’t aware that those were attended graves, but now we know Jenny wants to visit those graves, we would be happy to create access.

“We are very sorry that Jenny had difficulty visiting her mum’s grave and we are working to sort that out with her as a priority.”

Mrs Down, of Monkerton, Exeter, said she was ‘mortified’ by the state of the graveyard at Littleham when she visited last Tuesday.

She said long grass, stinging nettles and brambles covered graves and the footpath and her mother’s headstone was not visible because of the height of the grass.

Graves are currently among long grass at Littleham Cemetery. Picture by Jenny Down.Graves are currently among long grass at Littleham Cemetery. Picture by Jenny Down.

She said: “A cemetery is a cemetery; all of the graves should be nice.

“I just could not believe my eyes. It is just like a jungle there, the pavement at the side has bushes and brambles going across so you get stung by the nettles. It should be cleared to enable the people to be able to get to the graves.

“It was disgusting; to go out there, on the anniversary of her dying, and having to rip grass with my hands; I was upset. It was heartbreaking because it is normally peaceful.”

Mrs Down, who lives alone and is visually impaired, also claims she was injured because she could not see where she was walking and tripped at the grave; her doctor diagnosed a sprained ankle.

The grave of Dorothy Florence Jessie Down, after daughter Jenny cleared grass away from it. Picture by Jenny Down.The grave of Dorothy Florence Jessie Down, after daughter Jenny cleared grass away from it. Picture by Jenny Down.

She said: “I went over to my grandparents’ grave to put some flowers on it. It was a proper grave from the old days, with a stone rim around it and I stepped on it and went down.”

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