Concrete-balls reef
Behold The Concrete Bereavement Balls
A new take on the old mafia euphemism about sleeping with the fishes is planned off the Dorset coast, where the ashes of the sea-loving departed will soon be encased in concrete balls to nuzzle with the lobsters in an artificial offshore reef. The proposal, given planning permission by the county council this week and approved by the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed, will see a kilometre-square area off Ringstead Bay near Portland given over to a series of reefs which will include at least one decommissioned navy ship, possibly HMS Southampton, the type 42 destroyer laid off last year, for divers to explore.

One of the reefs, a mile offshore, will contain so-called bereavement balls – metre-high, dome-shaped, interlocking concrete structures in which the ashes of those who have been cremated can be sealed as an alternative to being scattered at sea. The balls will have holes bored in them to shelter growing lobsters and in due course, it is hoped, shoals of fish such as cod and whiting. Each ball will have a memorial plaque and relatives will have the satisfaction of knowing exactly where their loved one’s ashes lie: they will be able to watch from a neighbouring boat as the ball is sunk. The adventurous will be able to dive to see the site and others are promised pictures every year to show how the reef is developing.

Neville Copperthwaite, project co-ordinator for the Wreck to Reef group planning the £6.5m site, said: “We came up with the idea of bereavement balls from people scattering ashes on the water, but this is better because relatives will know where they are. There will be somewhere for them to return to – it will be like a headstone under the water. It’s a lovely idea and so important for people who have a love for the sea. If they are divers themselves they can visit the actual site whenever they like, or we will take video footage of it each year so families can see how the reef is developing. For each person buried, we plan to hold a ceremony with their family and friends with a minister on a boat. Almost straight away, we should see the reef and wrecks being transformed with living creatures.”

The burial scheme is intended to subsidise the reef project, which will be administered by a consortium of local fishermen, diving organisations, residents and businesses. It has been partly prompted by the loss of trade following the successful creation of a diving reef around the wreck of HMS Scylla off Whitesand Bay in Cornwall five years ago. Although bereavement balls have been tried elsewhere in the world, they have never been deployed in Britain before and costings have still to be worked out. Building is expected to get under way next year and 6,000 young lobsters will be nipping into the site to set up home.