Written on 17/05/17 by Paul Oldham

Scattering Ashes

We had someone contact us recently asking about scattering ashes on the summit of Scafell Pike and we replied strongly discouraging them from doing so and we thought it was worth explaining why here.

The scattering of ashes is now discouraged by the Cremation Society:

Two of these, the first and the last, are particularly relevant here. The effect on plant life shouldn't be underestimated as this is happening a lot on popular sites. The BMC's access and conservation officer Rob Dyer, says it is affecting local ecosystems in some areas:

It is actually increasing the nutrient content of soil on some tops in the Lakes - and as a result common grasses are able to out-compete rare high mountain species, which rely on low nutrient soils that other species can't survive in.

Scafell Pike, as you can imagine, is one of the tops he's talking about. We've seen and heard of ashes (and the empty pots!) scattered around the summit.

The second is also very relevant to busy summits like Scafell Pike. Our photo below shows it on a pleasant June day but Scafell Pike is busy all year around, both day and night as people going the Three Peaks Challenge tend to climb it in the middle of the night.

Scafell Pike

It is also pretty much always windy at that sort of altitude and ashes are notoriously easily blown about by even the lightest wind. The consequence of this is that when you scatter your loved one's ashes they end up in the clothes, hair, and food being eaten by other people on the fell. That's not pleasant for them nor a very dignified end for the ashes.

So our advice is first to think about another option. But if you are still determined to scatter them on a fell then pick one that's less well known and where these issues will be less of a factor. Our hill finder can help you find one.

This view is echoed by the Lake District rangers. Team Leader Steve Tatlock says:

It can be upsetting to see large piles of ashes dotted around, so we would ask people to spread them around over a wide area, preferably well away from where people walk and rest, and also well away from water courses and tarns, because heavy concentrations or piles of ashes can not only be off-putting to others but can alter the chemical make up of the soil in the immediate area and affect plant growth and types. It's about being sensitive and responsible.

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Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions.