NEGLECTED war graves in Ashbourne Cemetery will be cleaned up and the area around them improved – but not in time for the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War on Monday.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has confirmed that it wants to carry out the clean-up, but it is waiting for Derbyshire Dales District Council to explain how it will cut back trees which overhang the graves and cause the problems.
A large number of people have expressed concerns over the past few months that the graves are covered in moss and mildew. They called for them to be renovated in time for the town's commemoration events, which started last Saturday.
Among them was Barry Fearn, of Belper Road, who wrote to the News Telegraph complaining about the state of the graves.
He said: "Having heard from a friend about the state they are in, I decided to visit them.
"I found Portland stone headstones, which should have been gleaming white, covered in a greenish dried slime, with sticks, stones and weeds on the ground and graves all around.
"This is certainly not the state that the graves of war heroes should be kept in. We should be able to maintain the graves in an exceptional and respectful state."
As a result, the News Telegraph contacted the commission, which is responsible for the soldiers' graves in the cemetery, and it confirmed that it is working with Derbyshire Dales District Council to improve the area.
The commission has regional teams which are used to ensure that war graves in cemeteries across the UK are kept neat and tidy.
It also looks after cemeteries across Europe and the rest of the world.
A spokesman said: "We met with the local authority two weeks ago to discuss the situation.
"There are issues with the cemetery site where the graves are situated that need to be remedied by the council before we can do any worthwhile work.
"The trees are overhanging the site and causing the major problems and we have suggested work to remove the canopy to allow more light should take place.
"By opening it up, we will be able to clean up the headstones and re-turf the area around the graves without fear that the trees will cause the problem to arise again.
"But it seems unlikely that the tree canopy will be thinned out until autumn."
There are 23 war graves in the cemetery, six of which are of First World War soldiers Frederick Bull, Edward Wibberley, S Chell, F Chell, W Fearn and William Wyche.
A spokesman for the council said: "We can confirm that we have had initial talks with staff from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
"We understand their point of view that something needs to be done, but no final plan has yet been agreed. We will be talking to them again soon."