Wolverhampton pensioner 'told she needs appointment’ to visit baby son's grave

A disabled Wolverhampton pensioner claims she was told to “make an appointment” to tend her baby son's grave at a city cemetery – because a removable bollard has to be taken out specially every time she visits.

Jean Copeland and former councillor Alan Butt with the bollard at Bushbury Cemetery
Jean Copeland and former councillor Alan Butt with the bollard at Bushbury Cemetery

Jean Copeland, 76, who has mobility problems and walks with the aid of a stick, says she is no longer fit enough to make the uphill journey to the grave at Bushbury Cemetery and has to drive.

However, a detachable bollard on the narrow path – installed to prevent vehicles damaging kerbside memorials – needs to be unlocked and lifted out of the ground to allow cars through.

Mrs Copeland, who lives in Bushbury and has been visiting the grave of her son, Paul, since 1968, said: “I like to come up here as often as I want to clean the grave and bring flowers. My knees just won’t carry me up the hill so I am forced to drive.

Jean Copeland tending her son’s grave

“But each time I visit I need to phone in advance to ask if the bollard can be taken out, and then when I get here a lot of the time it hasn’t been done for me. I asked in the office and was told to make an appointment if I wanted to visit.

“My son only lived for 36 hours when he was born, and coming up here is what gives me an inner peace and keeps me going. But I’m finding that this is bringing back all the stress and upset I went through when he passed away. It caused my marriage to fail,” she added.

Mrs Copeland, who also uses a mobility scooter, said staff at the Underhill Lane cemetery had given her a key to remove the bollard, but that she wasn’t strong enough to do it alone.

“I come up here with my friend Pearl, who is in her eighties, and neither of us has the strength to lift it. And I’m sure the council maintenance workers drive around this bollard, which would mean them going up on the kerb where there are memorials.”

She said she had written to the cemetery several times and then taken her plight to former Bushbury North Labour councillor Alan Butt earlier this year.

Bushbury Cemetery in Underhill Lane.

Despite losing his seat in the May elections, Mr Butt said he had told Mrs Copeland he would still do everything he could to help.

“It’s not right that people should need to pre-book to visit the graves of their loved ones. There’s nothing unreasonable about wanting to come here whenever you want,” he said.

“I think it would have made more sense to fit a collapsible bollard to make access more flexible for everyone. This bollard is heavy enough and it’s difficult to work free of the hole in the ground and lift out. It’s certainly not something two elderly ladies would be able to do.”

Councillor Steve Evans, cabinet member for city environment and climate change, said: “I’m always sympathetic to people’s needs. My understanding after speaking to the cemetery manager is that Mrs Copeland is well known to our staff and management at Bushbury Cemetery who have met with her on many occasions.

“The bollard is in place to prevent vehicles from accessing a very narrow road and potentially damaging kerb edges and memorial plaques. Staff at the cemetery regularly remove the bollard for Mrs Copeland and have told her that they are more than happy to do so whenever she visits the site. All she needs to do is pop into the office.

“Despite this, we are concerned to hear Mrs Copeland is unhappy with the service she has experienced at the cemetery and a manager will be contacting her to re-emphasise that the team are happy to remove the bollard whenever she visits."

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