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Fury at ‘neglected’ Valley war graves

Iraq war veteran Shaun Warburton, Mel Diack MBE, Simon Entwistle and MP Nigel Evans

Iraq war veteran Shaun Warburton, Mel Diack MBE, Simon Entwistle and MP Nigel Evans

 

Campaigners are calling for urgent action to improve the “appalling and neglected” state of war graves at Clitheroe Cemetery.

Ribble Valley Borough Council officials have been accused of showing a lack of respect to the graves of war victims buried at the cemetery in Waddington Road.

Some local residents feel the graves of 13 men who died during the First World War and 17 from the Second World War are hidden from view due to long grass and dense undergrowth.

However, the council says the grass has not been cut in order to encourage wildflowers to grow and provide a habitat for wildlife.

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans visited the cemetery on Friday and is keen for the graves to be cared for.

One of the campaigners, local resident Simon Entwistle, said: “The war graves section is part of the town’s heritage. Every 11th of November throughout the UK we honour these men and boys with two minutes of silence. Surely, the sacrifice of these Clitheroe men deserves not only our respect, but a well-kept grave regularly mown and strimmed by the local authority.

Another concerned resident, community stalwart, Mel Diack MBE, added: “I feel that this has been a cost cutting exercise. Of course, people will state that it is lovely to see butterflies, birds, bees and the occasional deer in this area, but not at the expense of hiding and forgetting our brave heroes who died for our freedom and liberty.”

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said: “Coun. Stuart Hirst, the leader of the borough council, has assured me that all of the cemetery will be tended to. This year marks the centenary of the beginning of the First World War and it is more important than ever that the graves of those who gave their lives for our country are looked after.”

Mr John Heap, the council’s head of community services, said: “The grass in the old part of the cemetery has not been cut for four years to encourage wildflowers to grow and provide a habitat for wildlife.

“The grass is cut around the vaults and up to the fifth row, and every week paths are cut to the graves that are regularly visited. Once a year, after the wildflower seeds have dispersed, the area is cut back and tidied to prepare for the germination of new growth. The process has been so successful that orchids are now colonising the area.

“Regular visitors to the cemetery are aware that the area has not just been left to go wild and we have received many positive comments on how pretty it looks when the flowers are in full bloom.

“The war graves are also visited annually by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which has made no complaint about the introduction of the natural maintenance regime.”

 

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