Bath couple: Grave visits 'are now too dangerous'
A couple who have been tending a family grave for 20 years say a reduction in grass-cutting has left a cemetery looking neglected and dangerous.
Mike Iles, 64, says he and his wife Pamela can no longer visit her parents' grave because uncut grass has left the Bathwick St Mary's Cemetery, referred to locally as Smallcombe Vale, too dangerous.
Mr Iles said he and his 59-year-old wife used to visit the family grave once a month with flowers.
But they have had to stop because of the effect of a new policy to encourage wild flowers and save money.
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The couple tend the grave of Mrs Iles' parents Mary Barnes, 69, who died in 1991 and Fred Barnes, 91, who died in 1992.
Mr Barnes' first wife Bessie, who died in the 1940s, is also buried there.
Mr Iles said: "It's just a disgrace at the moment. There's no point putting flowers down there because you can't see them.
"They say it's environmental purposes but that's a lie because it's just about money.
"There are lots of people who use it - they must be so distressed."
Last month signs were put up at the Smallcombe cemetery and at the separate St Mary's Churchyard in Henrietta Road by Bath and North East Somerset Council, telling visitors that the grass would now be cut once a year but that pathways would be kept clear once a month.
B&NES said the reduction in general grass cutting - which had been done monthly - had been at the request of the Friends of St Mary's Churchyards.
Alastair Cowan, chairman of the friends group, said he was sympathetic to those who had experienced problems accessing graves but said he had received only three complaints.
He added that volunteers from the group also visited the cemeteries once a month to help tidy them.
He said: "What we agreed with the council was that instead of mowing the whole thing every month they quite simply mow the pathways once a month and the rest once a year.
"By letting the grass grow, it will encourage wild flowers and the other benefit will be saving money.
"It takes four men three-and-a-half days to strim that place.
"Obviously the council are very happy to cut down the labour but at the same time what we are expecting is that some of that saving will be dedicated to clearing the undergrowth and overhanging trees.
"Having said that this has been the wettest summer since 1910 and this is the first year that we agreed not to cut the grass.
"Therefore the consequences of this have been far worse than any other year."
Mr Cowan said the friends group also planned to start restoring crosses and tombstones at Smallcombe.
However, Mr Iles said the explanation was of little comfort.
He said: "It's a graveyard, not a wilderness for wild flowers. We want to put down our own flowers.
"We're not going there again. It's pointless going up there because one it's dangerous and two you can't get to the graves.
"It's very upsetting."