Green, Natural and Woodland Burial Sites

What is a Natural Burial Ground?

Green, or natural burial grounds are places where people can be laid to rest amongst nature. Green burials are seen as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional burial or cremation. At the best sites, the land is carefully managed, with a range of habitats to encourage a good diversity of plants and wildlife. By using biodegradable materials and ensuring minimal disruption to the land, these sites remain ecologically balanced and sustainable.

Choosing a Natural Burial Ground

A woodland setting or meadow can be a beautiful place for a funeral ceremony. They are also calm and serene places to visit in the days, weeks and years following the funeral, to sit and remember a loved one.

The type of environment varies from location to location. Some natural burial grounds are established woodland settings, with burials amongst existing trees. Others are newly established woodland areas, where memorial trees are creating new wooded areas. There are also meadows and sites set on hills overlooking the sea.

When choosing, here are some of the things to think about:

  • Personal preference – what surroundings feel right for the person who is being laid to rest and those closest to them? Did they love open spaces, woodland, or the sea?
  • Site accessibility – how far will you and other mourners have to travel for the service and what will the journey be like if you will be visiting regularly? Is there public transport or is it only accessible by car?
  • Burial location accessibility – some burial plots may only be reached on foot, so consider the requirements of mourners both on the day and for visiting in the future.

Funerals and Memorial Services at Natural Burial Grounds

Most natural burial sites also have indoor facilities for services and receptions, with catering and other facilities. The funeral service can be held at the graveside followed by a funeral reception indoors.

Many burial grounds will be able to help you with funeral arrangements too, for example finding a funeral celebrant, organising catering, music and other aspects of the funeral service and reception.

Restrictions Around Burials

Restrictions and requirements vary from place to place, but here are some of the things to be aware of if you are considering a natural burial site.

Biodegradable Coffins, Shrouds and Urns

All materials used for the coffin or shroud must be environmentally friendly and readily biodegradable (for example, cardboard, wool felt, bamboo, willow or cotton).

Scattering or Burial of Cremated Remains

Some sites now allow the burial of cremated remains. In large quantities, the ashes can be toxic to plants due to high levels of sodium and PH, but this can be mitigated by mixing them with a specially blended soil. Urns containing the ashes must also be fully biodegradable.

Embalming and Non-biodegradable Materials

For environmental reasons, most sites do not allow embalming because the toxic chemicals used in this process can leach into the soil.

Also, all non-biodegradable materials (for example metal implants) must be removed before burial.

To find out more about the ecological impact of different types of funeral, please see Green and Eco Friendly Funerals.

Memorial Markers and Plaques

Not all sites mark the exact spot of each burial with a memorial or plaque, however they will all keep a register of individual locations. The type of memorialisation (a tree, stone, planting, etc) allowed varies from site to site, so it is important to check these details before you make a choice.

Cost of a Natural Burial

As with all funerals, the cost of a natural burial or interment of ashes varies from site to site and depending on the type of service required, so it is worth doing some research and comparing prices.

A breakdown of costs can be supplied on request and may include the following:

  • Registration fee
  • Plot fee – for the reservation of the plot either in advance or at time of need.
  • Interment charges – these encompass the actual process, which can be a full burial or the interment of ashes.
  • Memorial expenses – memorialisation such as a simple plaque, bench, tree or shrub.
  • Other expenses – for example, transport, a marquee to provide shelter at the graveside, catering and refreshments at the reception, etc.

Finding a Natural Burial Ground?

There are now over 270 green burial sites throughout the United Kingdom. Each site is different, so do your research and check their Terms & Conditions to make sure they are offering what you need and to find out what they require from you. Also check whether they have a long-term plan for the site, for example after it is full.

Our Funeral Locations Providers and Funeral Locations Inspiration and pages can help you find green, natural and woodland burial sites in the UK.

Your local funeral director may also be able to give guidance or recommendations for suitable sites in the local area.

The Natural Death Centre has lots of useful information as well as a directory of approved natural burial sites in the UK. Finally, organisations such as The Woodland Burial Trust and The Bereavement Services Portal have further help and support.

Scroll to Top