Widower's call after wife's grave is damaged by badgers

A widower has spoken of his devastation after his wife’s grave was damaged by foraging badgers.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 11:59 am
Updated Friday, 12th November 2021, 12:47 pm
Sandra and John Richardson and left, Sandra's damaged grave.

John Richardson, whose wife has been laid to rest in Tweedmouth Cemetery, is calling for the animals to be relocated, but has stressed it must be done “in the right way”.

The presence of badgers in the cemetery has caused great concern, with some localised damage being caused to the surface of graves and other grassed areas.

Northumberland County Council announced last month that it had appointed environmental experts to undertake survey work, in support of an application to Natural England to relocate the badger setts. A special licence is required to do so.

John’s wife Sandra died on January 2 this year after a long illness. He has visited her grave every day, except when he was hospitalised with Covid-19.

Many of the people who go to the cemetery have become friends and keep each other updated, and he was informed of the damage to Sandra’s grave on Sunday, October 31.

Repairing it required going to Morpeth to get the right turf. In addition, plastic netting will need to be left on the grave until the spring.

Mr Richardson, who lives in Spittal, said: “Like the others this has happened to, my guts were ripped out when I saw the grave.

“The damage is really ramping up now and I'm pleased that Northumberland County Council has taken our views very seriously.

“I do think, sadly, that this will carry on for at least another five or six months because while the county council is trying to move things forward, decisions are in the hands of Natural England.

“The only fix is for the badgers to not be there, but it needs to be done in the right way.

“Everyone needs to pull together and work with the council on achieving this. There is a minority going about it in the wrong way who are not being helpful.

“I also want to say that the workers at the cemetery don't deserve the flak they are getting from some people, they deserve a lot of praise for their efforts.

“They are lovely young men and they are trying their best, as they have funerals and two cemeteries to look after.”

Specialist consultants OS Ecology Limited started their survey on October 15, which includes mapping out the location of the setts, badger numbers and use of cameras to record activity.

The council has appointed a firm specialising in ground penetrating radar equipment in order to try and determine the location and extent of the underground tunnels associated with the badger setts. It is hoped that this work will conclude once and for all if the setts and the badgers pose any risk to buried remains at a subterranean level.

Officers have also had a site visit with amenity specialists and following their advice, procured some entomopathogenic nematodes to target and eradicate some of their favourite food sources and encourage them to forage elsewhere.

In addition, the council has taken forward other requests by residents for improvements to the cemetery.

Badgers and their setts are protected under law, making it an offence to intentionally attempt to kill, injure or trap one, or interfere with their habitats.