THE family of one of our greatest novelists is calling for urgent action to prevent his grave collapsing.

Evelyn Waugh's grandson has voiced fears about the 'decline and fall' of the plot in Combe Florey, near Bishops Lydeard, which has attracted hundreds of tourists since his death in 1966.

The Brideshead Revisited author was buried in the grounds of the family home next to the parish church, where the graveyard was closed as it was full.

The Waughs kept the plot when his daughter-in-law Lady Teresa, widow of Auberon Waugh, sold the house in 2008.

But despite strenuous efforts they have been unable to solve the long-running problem of a deteriorating boundary 'ha-ha' wall that allows uninterrupted views of the churchyard.

Alexander Waugh, of Milverton, is prepared to pay for the repairs but has been unable to get permission.

"Around 15 or 20 years ago, my mother (Lady Teresa) sent someone to fix the wall, but he was sent away by the churchwarden," said Mr Waugh.

"When she sold up, she decided to maintain the land with the grave, but without any right of access.

"A crack which had been opening up on the supporting wall has widened even more and there are concerns it's unsafe.

"My uncle Septimus and I took it ion ourselves to solve this, but we don't own the wall or the land.

"My mother had wanted to give it to the church, but it would have cost her £2,000 to transfer ownership.

"I've looked into maintaining the wall at my expense, but I can't because of church regulations."

Visitors currently rely on the generosity of the current home owners to reach the grave, but Mr Waugh would like to see a link created with steps up from the churchyard.

"I've been trying to seek permission for a few years," added Mr Waugh.

"The parochial church council likes the idea of the steps and I've left it with them to get permission and we'll pay for the work.

"Eveyln Waugh was one of our great writers. Regular visitors go to see his grave, so we need to do something.

"He'd find this highly amusing because he had a gruesome sense of humour and would have probably written an extremely good short story about it."

The Ven John Reed, Archdeacon of Taunton, said the upkeep and maintenance of the closed churchyard is Taunton Deane Borough Council's responsibility.

He added: "It's very much in their gift to give permission to the plans put forward by the Waugh family, including the mending of the boundary wall between churchyard and the private plot of the Waugh family graves.

"If the graves were within the existing consecrated ground of the churchyard the plans could be sanctioned by the Church. Sadly the graves aren't.

"The Parochial Church Council has and is continuing to do all it can in its diminutive capacity to help the Waugh family.”

A Taunton Deane Borough Council spokeswoman said: "Taunton Deane Borough Council is aware of the issues at Combe Florey and has done everything possible to try to achieve a resolution.

"However, it is unable to give permission for work on the retaining wall as it is not owned by the council and therefore it is not in the authority’s power to grant permission.

"While Taunton Deane carries out day-to-day maintenance in the closed churchyard, the land itself has not been transferred to the authority – ownership and management remain with the Church.

"The wall in question is a retaining wall, retaining private land behind the church and thus is taken to belong to the owner of the land retained and so it’s beyond our powers to authorise any works."