the first phase of work to stabilise the river bank at Lennel cemetery got underway this week.
A landslip at the site last year happened very close to some of the cemetery’s older gravestones and there was concern that if the slope moved any more it could pose a danger to the graves.
In order to construct an access road in to do the work a number of the headstones are going to have to be removed and it is expected that this sensitive work will take about two weeks to complete.
After officials assessed the landslip Scottish Borders Council agreed to spend £145,000 on remedial work but the first job has been “to investigate the possibility of unearthing fully articulated skeletons/coffins etc by carrying out a basic archaeological investigation prior to the main slope stability works beginning”.
During the main slope stability works, where larger volumes of soil will be removed from the slope, the council will also have an archaeologist present.
As a result of last year’s landslip a perimeter fence was left lying horizontal over the banking with very little to retain it and the roots of a nearby tree were exposed.
The fear was that any further ground disturbance could cause this tree to fall.
To comply with the legalities of excavating in the graveyard area both the council’s legal department and the Procurator Fiscal have been informed and they have advised advertising the works in the local papers.
Plans are also available to view in Coldstream library for the duration of the works.
The slip is the third in the Lennel area in the last few years; the two previous ones being attributed to excess surface water and a burst sewage pipe.
“Another flash flood and more land is likely to come away and take debris with it into the Tweed,” said one Coldstream & District Community Council member.
Coldstream and District Community Council has been regularly updated by Mid Berwickshire councillors about the investigation works, the decision on how to do remedial work in the area, and the emergency funding SBC councillors needed to approve before any work could be done.
Last year Coldstream chairman Martin Brims said that the community council’s concern was the potential for any further landslips and the effect they could have on the whole cemetery.
He commented: “It’s obvious to everyone that some of the burial plots are extremely close to where the landslip happened.
“Without wanting to sound too dramatic, if there is any further disturbance there is a realistic possibility that some of the gravestones could get sucked into ‘the danger zone’.
“This is a big concern for us. Most of the graves in the cemetery are quite aged but this doesn’t lessen the impact for people’s relatives should the situation get worse.”
A report to the community council last month indicated that officials were confident that they can reprofile and secure the area with netting to prevent further incidents.
Once the work has been completed the council will continue to monitor the area for further movement.