Just outside Berkshire’s county town of Reading lies a small unassuming village called Grazeley.
It’s not large: just a school, houses and farms, and a pub. It used to have a church, and in a way it still does: but after more than 150 years of service, in 2006, the little church closed its doors and it stands, locked and deserted.
But the church still has a graveyard. And people are still buried there, under the auspices of the Grazeley Parochial church council.
With no Vicar and no vicarage and a tight budget, keeping Grazeley graveyard well-trimmed has been a bit of a struggle, and so the church authorities elected to bring in working sheep to keep the grass trimmed.
Now: we all know that sheep are a traditional way of trimming graveyards. It’s been happening for centuries.
But sheep will be sheep.
But the other day, one of the village worthies arrived to find a sheep standing, stolidly chewing, on top of her mother’s grave. She told the BBC: “There’s 10 sheep stood on graves chewing at will.”
The villagers are outraged. There are sheep droppings everywhere, and flowers do not stand much of a chance because they eat them. As a final insult, one of the sheep has leant accidentally on a gravestone and pushed it skew-whiff.
Now: myself, being a traditionalist and a Hardyesqe rustic environment-lover, I cannot think of anything better than a sheep, standing above me, chewing the carnations someone has thoughtfully parked next to my headstone.
But others feel differently. You?