Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Thursday 7 November 2013

Sheep may safely graze...

 A flock of sheep has been blamed for destroying flowers and cards left by relatives in a graveyard in Berkshire.
This is the aptly-named Grazeley Churchyard; the church there was last used in 2006 so, lacking the means to pay for grass-cutting, the Parochial Church Council decided to allow sheep to graze within the walls. After all, it is, as the local vicar says, 'a traditional way of managing churchyards'.

This pastoral solution is, however, not to everyone's taste; relatives of some of those buried there have expressed their distress at finding the flock ruminating peacefully among the headstones, not least because the animals have apparently been tucking into the floral tributes left on the graves.

It's not the first time churchyard sheep have caused problems; elsewhere, back in 2008, a relative objected to the sheep 'literally trampling over the graves' as well as leaving droppings and uprooting plants, though other local people expressed support for the idea or even a desire to be 'buried with the sheep'.

In previous cases, the church has given in and removed sheep or built electric fences around the graves (after one family threatened to exhume their loved one and move him to another churchyard) but it looks as if Grazeley Parochial Council are made of sterner stuff, flatly insisting that there is no money to employ a human being to cut the grass.

Since the cards and tributes - or sheep droppings, for that matter -  make no difference to the departed, the case provides an interesting study in the attitudes and sensibilities of those left behind, and, perhaps, another indication of how far removed from nature our society is in its approach to death.

And, of course, no 21st century story of this kind would be complete without a statement like this:
Vic Jerrom, who has ancestors buried in the graveyard, described the damage as "very disrespectful". 
Well, that's sheep for you - no sense of what's fitting!


  1. This was tried at a sewage works once because sewage works often have large areas of grass to maintain.

    The experiment didn't last long. The sewage works manager soon decided the sheep were leaving far too much sh*t everywhere.

    True story.

  2. I suppose one should be gratified, at least, that real, edible flowers are still used. Rather than plastic...

  3. AKH, I have no difficulty at all believing that one; few town-dwellers draw a distinction between the recycled grass ejected by ruminants and the rather less innocuous excrement of domestic carnivores.

    Julia, one hopes, at least - though I suppose there is a vet handy in case one of them swallows a wind-chime.

  4. XX (after one family threatened to exhume their loved one and move him to another churchyard)XX

    GREAT! Try it arsehole.

    I will NOT be visiting you in prison.

  5. Mark warns of cows, you warn of sheep. :)

  6. FT, it would certainly have been interesting - if not entirely within the Christian spirit - if the Church had called their bluff instead of backing down.

    JH, my trifling efforts cannot possibly be compared to MW's devotion to the cause. At least the church authorities didn't decide to graze cattle in the churchyard; the 'lowing herd' definitely belong outside.


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