It’s becoming a more popular choice, but what does it really mean? Read on for answers to some of the most common questions about natural burial.
Why choose natural burial?
As many churchyards and cemeteries are becoming overcrowded, it can feel like the options for a burial are becoming more limited.
But there is another option that is increasingly popular, and that’s natural burial grounds. Also known as ‘green’ or woodland burial, there are many reasons why more people are making this choice.
So, what does ‘natural burial’ mean?
These are places where burials have little impact on the environment, and so, somewhat paradoxically, natural burial grounds often teem with life. Think of wildflower meadows, deep woodlands or sunny hilltops, where nature thrives.
According to The Natural Death Centre, whose members are bound by a code of conduct, there are more than 270 such sites in the UK, each unique but sharing a progressive and positive ethos.
A natural burial site can look remarkable in its simplicity. Instead of rows of gravestones, there may be a tree, stone or stream or another marker that shows where someone lies. In some cases, it may not look like a burial site at all.
Who chooses a natural burial site as their final resting place?
You don’t have to be alternative or ‘out there’. It can be a positive choice for anyone but is especially appealing to nature lovers or those who have cared particularly about their own impact on the environment during their lifetime.
Natural burial sites require biodegradable coffins or shrouds and don’t allow the use of embalming, so no harmful chemicals enter the soil. It’s one of the ways that these special areas of land are managed to enhance nature and encourage wildlife.
So, how do you go about finding and choosing a natural burial ground?
You can of course search online and The Natural Death Centre has a list of those that belong to the Association of Natural Burial Grounds and are bound by its code of conduct.
And, though still relatively unknown, natural burial is gradually moving more into mainstream and so many funeral directors may know of sites in your local area.
whiteballoon also has connections with some of the most special sites around the country.
They include The Woodland Burial Company in Granville’s Wood near Chesterfield. Packed with nature, it’s a delightful spot where flora and fauna thrive. The site has family nooks, where family members through the generations can rest in peace together, giving Granville’s Wood a special sense of togetherness.
There’s also Eden Valley on the border of Kent and Surrey, with grassland, meadows and eight acres of ancient woodland (see photo above). Unlike many busy crematoria, Eden Valley only conducts one funeral a day, so family and friends can take as much time as they like to say goodbye. They can mark the day with music, food and drink or with a more simple, quiet and reflective farewell.
Further West, on the border of Cornwall and Devon lies Penlow Field, at the top of a valley facing towards the sea, which can be glimpsed on a clear day. The burial ground, named Atlantic Rest, is a special place that manages to be both tranquil and dramatic.
What do you need to know?
When you are looking into whether a natural burial ground may be an option, you need to check things like costs and other terms and conditions, including how long the plot will be leased to you and your family.
Also, each site has its own policy around how the location of a burial plot is marked. Some allow memorials made of natural materials, such as wood or stone, and others keep their sites in a completely natural state and do not allow markers.
As you would with a traditional burial, be sure exactly what the site provides, and how long for. Ask what will happen after the ground becomes full. Many of the sites have open days when you can look around and ask any questions you may have.
If you are considering a natural burial ground after your own death, you may decide to talk to your loved ones about your choice, explaining why it is right for you. As with anything new or different, they may have questions and want to know more about how it works.
We hope this has provided some answers that you can share.
You can find more information about burial options here on whiteballoon.