A FLOCK of sheep in a village churchyard have angered a grieving son by repeatedly eating flowers adorning the grave of his recently buried mother.
Kenneth Daniel, 51, from Northallerton, said his mother, Ann Veronica Daniel, was buried in the graveyard in St Michael’s Church in Well, near Bedale, last month after having lived in the village for about 50 years.
The sheep have been used to control the grass at the churchyard for many years – but Mr Daniel said it is disrespectful that about 30 of the animals are now allowed to roam the churchyard.
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He said: “I do not object to there being sheep in the churchyard but there has only been about six in the past, and flowers would be removed to stop the sheep eating them and replaced later.
“The grass is too long throughout most of the graveyard so the sheep avoid that and head straight for the short, sweet grass on the footpath and target the flowers.”
He said his mother, a great-grandmother who died aged 77, used to clean and arrange flowers in the church, and raised money for it with a Christmas light display one year.
Mr Daniel said he and his family have been attending the grave regularly and changing flowers on a weekly basis in the warm weather so it could look its best.
He said after recent burials families should be notified of the arrival of the sheep so they could make arrangements.
“There was no warning that the sheep would arrive so we could move the flowers – the distress this has caused me and my family is shocking,” he added.
Reverend David Cleeves from St Michael’s Church said: “We are very sorry that Mr Daniel feels aggrieved but the grazing of sheep at the church in Well is a long-standing tradition, on-going for many years.
“Mr Daniel will be aware of this, and until this week no one has ever complained to me or the church council about the situation.
“We have never placed an upper limit on the local farmer on the amount of sheep he can graze - and it provides a useful function to keep the grass down.
“We have made an offer that a removable fence could be put around the area to stop the sheep from eating the flowers from the grave.
“If Mr Daniel would like to meet with me and the parochial church council to discuss this we would be very happy to come to an amicable agreement on the matter.”