For bereaved friends and relatives, memorial benches are a touching way to remember the dearly departed.
For one National Trust boss, they are “graveyards” that sully Britain’s beauty spots and make visitors feel awkward about sitting down.
Charles Alluto, chief executive of the National Trust for Jersey, said his favourite headland on the island is blighted by the benches that face St Brelade’s Bay, Le Hocq, Green Island and Archirondel.
“It’s having an adverse impact on an area of natural beauty. The benches are put in places where people enjoyed that natural beauty, but you’re undermining the place they actually enjoyed. It is absolutely crucial that they do not become graveyards.
“If there are too many we run the risk of undermining that concept and changing the character of the area,” he said.
“We only have a certain amount of land to play with. That’s why it’s become such an issue here on Jersey.
“We’re all going to die one day, and that’s not going to stop. You’ll have this perpetual requirement for memorial benches,” said Mr Alluto, who suggested allotted time spans after which time one family’s memorial can be replaced by another.
He added: “What can be easily forgotten is that these are benches for people to sit on but often you do not want to sit on them because they become too personal. It is like standing on someone’s grave.”
His feelings were echoed by Michel Le Troquer, Constable of St Martin, who said that no new benches would be allowed on his local village green.
“I think we have now reached a limit,” he said, adding that planting trees might be a suitable alternative although “we do not want a forest”.
“A lady recently donated a willow tree for a very damp area of land at the back of the parish green, which is really nice,” he said.
“One of the main issues is that when people want to leave flowers and cards strapped to benches, it can make it rather awkward for the people wanting to use them.”
Martin Gautier, director of technical services for the Infrastructure Department on Jersey, said he thought that too many benches had been installed.
The department will now refuse any more at some beauty spots but the island has stopped short of a blanket ban.
He said: “We get frequent, probably weekly requests, to put memorial benches on public land.
“It is quite a difficult situation as we have to try to balance the wishes of a bereaved relative with having a sensible approach. I personally feel that there are slightly too many.” He said there are 16 in front of one hotel in St Brelade’s Bay.
However, Len Norman, Constable of St Clement – which includes Le Hocq – said he was happy to accommodate benches. “Provided they are of a relatively sturdy design, I am quite happy to meet a family’s wishes,” he said.
He also favours varying the design. “I think if we make them all uniform they could look too antiseptic and sterile.”
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the National Trust has no policy on memorial benches and decides on a case-by-case basis if they can be installed.
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