Disabled widow’s anguish over Doncaster cemetery entrance block

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A disabled widow has been left distraught after the council blocked off an entrance at a Doncaster cemetery – leaving her unable to visit the graves of her husband and daughter.

Elderly Catherine Holling – who can only walk a few steps at a time – was able to visit the graves of her daughter, Gillian, and husband, Verdon, Arksey Cemetery unaccompanied once a fortnight by driving up to and parking just feet away from where they are buried.

But during her latest visit to the cemetery, the 80-year-old was shocked to discover Doncaster Council had installed bollards to block off the rear vehicle entrance to the cemetery, based in Station Road, Arksey.

This meant she was unable to visit her husband’s grave on his birthday, on November 5.

Now, her other daughter, Anne Holmes, is calling on the local authority to reinstate the entrance as she believes blocking it off will affect scores of elderly and disabled people across the borough.

The 50-year-old told The Star: “Whoever made this decision is callous in the extreme.

“When we went to visit my dad’s grave, who’s buried with my sister, we found the entrance had been blocked off and my mum wasn’t able to make it more than a few steps.

“Luckily I was able to go and place the flowers on his grave, but my mum was heartbroken at not being able to do it herself.

“My sister died when she was six years old and my mum has been coming to the cemetery every couple of weeks since then – even though she now lives in Cleethorpes.

“This has caused terrible distress and I find the heartlessness of the situation unbelievable.

“I would imagine the majority of people visiting a cemetery are either elderly or disabled, you see a lot of people with blue badges there.

“There’s a paved drive-through in the cemetery so I can’t see what the problem is.

“They put up signs saying they apologise for the inconvenience but it’s not good enough – a lot of people rely on being able to drive through.

“My mum has a mobility scooter which I think there would be room for – but she comes all the way from Cleethorpes on her own and she can’t lift her scooter to put it in the boot or get it out again.

“They need to reverse the decision before they upset more vulnerable people.”

However, Doncaster Council says the decision has been taken in a bid to prevent distress being caused to mourners – after motorists driving through the cemetery churned up grass and damaged memorials.

Dave Wilkinson, assistant director of trading services and assets, said: “We are very sympathetic to Ms Holmes’ situation, and have written to her separately to apologise and explain.

“We understand that access to the graves can be difficult for those with limited mobility.

“Unfortunately, we have had to install bollards to block access to the end of the road after some drivers drove off the road and over graves, damaging memorials and churning up grass in the cemetery, which was very upsetting to mourners.

“We have also seen issues with funeral processions being blocked by cars parked on this stretch of road, which is not acceptable either.

“It is still possible to access the graves on foot or even with a mobility scooter, which we advise for people who struggle to walk longer distances.

“We hope that people understand the steps we have taken to prevent further distress to those who were upset by the careless driving in the cemetery grounds.”