BEREAVED families visiting their loved ones’ graves on Mother’s Day were shocked to find burial plots obscured by soil, fallen trees, and bark chippings.

Debbie Guyett told how she initially thought her mother’s grave had been dug up after arriving to discover a mound of earth on top of it.

As a result of fallen trees and routine maintenance work on Darlington’s West Cemetery, several families were left upset at the state of the graves at the weekend.

Ms Guyett said: “Myself, my brother and my mum’s partner were extremely upset about it. I got there about 9.45am. I was horrified at first seeing as my first thought was that my mother’s grave had been dug up.

“There was plenty of room to the other side to have placed the earth. It looks like they have put it on top of flowers and a vase top from one of the vases, plus butterflies that my children had chosen. There were a few people tending to other graves that saw how distressed I was.”

Another mourner, Victoria Britton, was upset by bark chippings being placed down the lines of graves close to her grandmother’s plot.

She said: “Just what you need especially on Mother’s Day, to cover up with bark... my nana’s grave, grass, stones, pots, flowers ruined.”

Nicola Noble said fallen trees made some graves completely inaccessible and said they should have been moved so as not to be “dumped crassly on top of someone’s loved ones”.

Councillor Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure and local environment, said: “I was sorry to read about people’s experiences over the weekend – I sympathise with their concerns and apologise for any distress caused.

“Our cemeteries are working cemeteries and require ongoing maintenance and internments which, particularly when the ground is wet, can affect established graves. However, I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to minimise the impact for bereaved families, so I would ask those affected to get in touch so we can look at the specific issues raised.”

“The trees in West Cemetery have fallen recently and the decision has been made to leave them in place while the ground is wet to avoid causing further damage due to the heavyweight machinery that will be required to lift them. They will be removed at the earliest opportunity.”