Thousands of headstones and memorials across Copeland are being inspected to make sure they're safe.

Notices have begun appearing on gravestones in the cemetery at St Leonard's in Cleator Moor warning visitors not to touch them as they are not stable.

They are also asking grave owners to contact the council to help them in the national programme to make memorials safe.

The five year plan includes checking each of the borough's 12 closed and five open cemeteries, in response to the rising number of accidents caused by unstable gravestones.

And Cleator Moor residents are pleased with the decision, feeling it's important to keep the graveyard safe and well looked after for those buried there and their visiting family and friends.

Councillor Joan Hully, who represents Cleator Moor ward on Copeland Borough Council, said: "It's a really good idea to make sure the gravestones are safe and not falling down.

"It's nice when families go to visit their relatives' graves over Christmas, so it'll be good to make them safe."

Sue Pringle, Copeland's bereavement Services Development Manager says the timing has been important: "The problem we have is that if the graves are over 30 years old we probably won't have the details of the owners, this has been due to people moving house or passing away.

"More people tend to visit cemeteries near Christmas than at any other time of the year so we're hoping to hear from anyone whose loved ones' graves have been deemed unstable."

So far six headstones have been identified as needing attention at St Leonard's, and Sue says measures are being taken to address that.

She added: "We've started with the older closed graveyards at St Leonard's and St John's because the very old headstones tend to be a lot bigger than ones today, and are more likely to have suffered damage".

Skilled staff are inspecting the memorials using sight and hand. There is also a device they can employ if there's any uncertainty about the safety of the graves.

Anyone concerned that a headstone could be unstable in any of Copeland's cemeteries can call Distington Hall Crematorium on 01946 830561.