A heartbroken Ripon resident has called for more respect to be shown towards the burial plots of loved ones at Ripon cemetery, after discovering a large mound of soil heaped on top of his father’s grave.
Pete Hogan takes such pride in maintaining his father Michael’s grave that he calls it ‘dad’s garden,’ and sits on top of the plot to feel closer to him - a comforting place for quiet reflection where Pete feels he can share with his dad the key moments in his life.
But arriving at the cemetery on Kirkby Road to see the mound of soil piled onto the grave, Pete said the state of the cemetery has rapidly deteriorated, showing a ‘total lack of respect’ for the memory of loved ones.
He said the grounds are overgrown with weeds, and are also becoming a breeding ground for issues such as anti-social behaviour and vandalism.
After sharing what happened on social media, Pete said it is resoundingly clear that he is not alone in his distress at the state of the cemetery.Pete said: “I felt shocked at first, but also upset. I felt that this act had impeded on our privacy and my dad’s memory.
"Everybody is different, but personally for myself and the rest of my family, I could not have managed my own grief without the opportunity to pay my respects at his garden. His resting place is somewhere I can go whenever I feel I need to - when I feel down, when I have accomplished an achievement, or celebrated a special occasion like my wedding and the birth of my daughter.
"I feel like I am sharing my life with my dad by visiting him. But obviously when I see dirt on the grave and the condition of the cemetery, I feel like I'm not able to do that in the same way that I normally would.
"The cemetery used to be really well kept, but now there is a severe lack of care, it's awful. We do take pride in my dad's plot, and we want people to be able to go and remember him. Myself and the family have been determined to take pride in his resting place for the support of the whole family, especially my younger brothers who had only a short amount of time with my dad."
Pete's mother Tracey said: "I was very disappointed and disgusted to see the dirt on the grave. There is no respect whatsoever, it was very distressing to see.
"The cemetery has also become a hotspot area for anti-social behaviour, drinking and drugs. Something needs to be done."
Both Pete and Tracey are calling for CCTV to be installed in a sensitive way at the cemetery to track anti-social behaviour, and are urging Harrogate Borough Council who manages the cemetery to improve the condition of the grounds.
Pete said: "It means everything to families to see their loved ones' graves being well-maintained. I just want the weeds to be removed, and the grass to be cut evenly and simultaneously. I want care to be taken and thought to be used when excavating. CCTV would be appropriate, especially to combat anti-social behaviour in the cemetery in the evening. To avoid this impeding on privacy, it would help if the CCTV was placed at the entrances and near the toilet block."
Responding to residents' concerns, a Harrogate Borough Council spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to hear that a Ripon resident discovered a mound of soil on top of a loved one’s grave. We do check all surrounding graves to ensure we don’t use one temporarily where there is an upcoming anniversary, however from time to time this is impossible to do due to the location of the grave.”
“The grass is cut every two weeks during the drier months and the boarders have also been addressed this week. In regards to individual graves, we normally leave any flowers that have been left by family members as to not upset anyone, unless they are in particularly bad state.”
“North Yorkshire Police patrol the cemetery but if anyone sees any anti-social behaviour they should report it to the police non-emergency number.”