THREE new benches have been installed at the children’s cemetery after a public backlash against the state of the site.
In July, broken-hearted relatives slammed Hastings Borough Council (HBC) for the “disgusting” state of the children’s section of the cemetery on The Ridge. The grass had been left to grow knee-high in places and ornaments placed on graves had been smashed by mowers. More than 1,800 people joined a Facebook group calling on HBC to take drastic action, and the day the Observer broke the story contractors were up there cleaning up the site.
Duane Kemp, of The Meadows, lost his 14-week old daughter Chelsea in 2000 and led the clean-up campaign along with his wife Sarah. Mr Kemp decided the spruced-up cemetery could do with some new benches and set about fundraising. The public dug deep and he raised hundreds of pounds for a bench, while HBC and the Hastings Lions agreed to buy two more specially engraved seats.
Mr Kemp told the Observer: “The response was excellent and it is something really important for the town. It is somewhere parents can be alone with our thoughts, somewhere we can sit with our children.
“It has been kept up to scratch since we kicked up a fuss and we are really pleased the council has stuck to its word. I would like to thank everyone who joined the campaign, HBC, the Lions, Sainsbury’s where we held a collection and the Observer for helping us get something done.”
One of the benches has the inscription “In memory of all our little angels” and a picture of a sleeping angel, while another has the phrase “Cherished little ones” and a teddy bear hugging a heart.
Council spokesman Kevin Boorman said: “Obviously this was a very sensitive issue and we were really pleased we were able to contribute in some small way. HBC and our contractors will continue to ensure this very special area of the cemetery gets the attention it deserves.”
However, some families were unhappy that the road to the children’s cemetery was not gritted over Christmas, leaving grieving parents struggling to get to their little one’s grave.
Jackie Mitchell, of Beaneys Lane, said: “Surely knowing how many parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles visit the children on Christmas Day an effort could have been made? One road gritted down to the garden is all it would have taken. It was possible to get down there by walking on the grass but if parents had young children or like me have trouble walking it would have been impossible. After all the effort from Sarah and Duane Kemp and the many parents on Facebook to keep the garden clear and provide benches, I am sorry to see the cemetery didn’t see fit to continue the good work.”
Mr Boorman said: “Our contractor worked hard to clear a route through most of the cemetery and people could walk to most parts, although not all of the roads were completely open. We did our very best but we are sorry if anyone found it difficult to get to any section.”