Madonna lets in the Quakers after seeing off ramblers

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The Independent Online

Madonna may have barred ramblers from her £9m Wiltshire estate, but the singer has waived the exclusion zone to allow local Quakers access to an old burial ground.

Situated a mile from the nearest road, amid her 1,130-acre Ashcombe estate, the burial ground has been visited for centuries by members of the local Meeting. Quakers have gathered in the area, near the village of Tollard Royal, since the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, George Fox, visited the estate in the 1660s.

The 60-strong Shaftesbury Preparative Meeting still scatters the ashes of dead Friends at the burial ground, as well as staging a "pilgrimage" and open-air meeting for worship every 10 years. The pilgrimage is, in part, a response to a decision in 1960 guaranteeing access to Quakers if they could show that the burial ground is used regularly.

A spokeswoman for the Quakers said: "There are very few Friends in the area, meaning burials can be quite rare. The idea of the pilgrimage is to renew access rights." The next is in 2010 and four years ago up to 200 Quakers took part, many from other Meetings in the area.

Despite successfully challenging "right to roam" laws in June, which had allowed ramblers on to most of the estate, Madonna, 46, and her film-director husband, Guy Ritchie, 36, have proved much more friendly towards the Quakers.

Audrey Acton, a member of the Meeting in Shaftesbury, said: "We have had no obstruction from Madonna whatsoever. If we need to get to the burial ground we speak to her manager and organise it. We want to make sure they are not organising a shooting party on the day of a burial."