A widow devoted to the place where she scattered her husband’s ashes 12 years ago was shocked to learn that a memorial tree she thought she’d bought to mark the spot was only leased.

Grandmother Patricia Garratt, 63, paid £200 for the tree and plaque at West Wiltshire Crematorium in Semington in 1998, a year after her husband Dick, 55, died of a heart attack.

But Mrs Garratt, who lives in Studley Green, Trowbridge, now faces having to take the plaque away as she cannot afford to renew the lease.

The situation came to light after Mrs Garratt found a sign next to the tree during a recent visit, advising her to call the crematorium office.

“I thought it might have been because of some of the things we had left hanging in the tree, a bracelet he had given me and a lantern,” she said.

“I phoned them and said ‘what’s going on?’ and they said the tree was not owned by me but only leased. They said if I wanted to extend that lease I would have to pay another £200 – what I had paid originally.

“They said I could come and remove the plaque and take it away if I wanted to. I had no idea, I thought I owned it.

“I am so upset and angry because I can’t afford the £200 and the very idea of not having this place to go to, I can’t comprehend.

“We have been there for picnic and I go and see him on his birthday and if I am in the area then I go and talk to him, have a natter.

“I live off a pension now and there is no way I can afford £200, it is a lot of money for me.”

Managers at the crematorium have said all memorials are leased to help pay for the maintenance of the gardens, but insisted that Mr Garratt’s ashes would not be disturbed, even if Mrs Garratt could not afford to pay for a new lease. However, she will have to take the plaque away.

Richard Evans, managing director of the Westerleigh Group, which includes the West Wiltshire Crematorium in Semington, said: “When a lease expires, what we do is contact the family and give them some options and in most cases people renew the lease.

“In cases where they choose not to, or can’t do so, we certainly wouldn’t disturb the cremated remains and we wouldn’t look to offer that tree to someone else, certainly not for the foreseeable future.”

Nick Pearce, manager at the crematorium, added that a new row of trees had been recently planted for new memorials.

Mrs Garratt, who is disabled after undergoing an operation to repair a ruptured bowel, said her family, including daughters Becky, 45, and Debs, 49, and two grandchildren, were also upset over the memorial.

She added: “I just want people to be aware of it, so they don’t get caught in the same trap and end up losing their memorial 10 years down the line.”