This week on WHITEBALLOON INSIGHTS we talk to Sheridon about creating a calm and beautiful haven for people, plants and wildlife.
Q: Atlantic Rest Natural Burial is located at the top of a beautiful valley, with a glimpse of the sea, close to the Cornwall/Devon border. Have you always lived in this area?
A: Yes, Tom and I have both lived in the area all our lives, I had to drag Tom over the border from Devon to live in Cornwall though! I actually spent a lot of my childhood in Woolley with my Grandparents, whilst my parents were working. We are currently building a eco-house in Woolley so by the end of 2024, we will be living much closer to Atlantic Rest.
Q: And what led you and your husband Tom to create Atlantic Rest?
A: Tom’s grandparents Bill and Nancy had been forward thinking and had bought burial plots at Westall Park; near Redditch, many years before they were ready to use them. The experience of Bill’s funeral was very profound for me. They both had Quaker funerals which was a new experience for me too. The rain was horizontal; it was blowing a gale, but the whole experience was quite enlightening.
Tom’s other Gran – Granny Mary also had a natural burial, but at Colney Wood in Norfolk. This too was a very different experience and opened our eyes; firstly to what we wanted for ourselves one day and secondly – what we could give to others.
Q: Taking care of people and of the environment is obviously important to you. Can you tell us about how this is reflected in the work that you do and the service you offer?
A: We always try to carry out anything that we do with the minimal impact to the environment. Everything about Penlow is designed to be a benefit to the flora and fauna, we want to encourage new wildflowers and wildlife and help it to thrive. The concept of natural burial isn’t just a positive gift to the environment from the person that rests with us; but I believe also a positive gift for the family and loved ones of that person.
Visiting Penlow is always different for people, the season will vary, there could be different displays of wildlife and so on. I feel that it’s quite an educational element to be part of the seasonal changes. Our planet is so incredibly important to our future survival and Penlow brings a chance – especially for children, to learn and understand so much more about the importance of this.
Q: You also welcome the burial of ashes at Penlow. Over the years, has there been a change in the demand for burial or cremation? And do you feel people are becoming increasingly aware of natural burial as an option for themselves or their families?
A: We do welcome ashes burial, I don’t think that I have found a change in the demand one way or the other. However, I have found that as time goes on – more people are becoming aware that we do offer the opportunity to lay ashes to rest, either in the coppice or the wildflower or woodland areas.
Q: Do you mainly cater for those living in the local area, or do people travel from surrounding counties?
A: A few years back I was curious about the split of where our residents come to us from. I did work it out and it was all pretty local. 45% of residents had lived in Cornwall, 45% had lived in Devon and 10% had lived elsewhere. Of those that live elsewhere, it’s never just a random decision for Penlow to be a final home. It stems from holidaying here all their lives or living here having been part of the master plan, that didn’t quite come to fruition. If you can’t be here in life, why not make that happen in death.
Q: You hold open evenings, can you tell us about these?
A: We have been holding open days and more recently an open evening, for the last 4 or 5 years. This has enabled people to come and have a look around Penlow and ask any questions that they may have. We usually offer some refreshments and then take visitors for a tour of the site, leaving them with an in depth information booklet to go away with. Sometimes we have other funeral related local businesses help with these. It offers something for people to look at i.e. with Funeral Directors bringing along different coffins for people to see, local Florists with eco-friendly arrangements and even Celebrants. Most importantly – there is never any pressure with any visit to Penlow, whether it is at an arranged meeting or an open event.
Q: And finally, living in such a beautiful part of the country, close to the sea, I imagine you spend quite a bit of your spare time out on the water?
A: Well, you would think that wouldn’t you but actually, Tom and I have only started to venture to the sea in the last 18 months or so! Despite having lived here all our lives, neither of us have ever really frequented the beach. We did get into paddle boarding the year before last so we now have one of those, and do go to Summerleaze and Crooklets beaches in the warmer months with that one and the body board. The girls love it. We prefer to stick to dry land a bit more though, and enjoy cycling on the roads and the various trails around North Devon and North Cornwall.
Thank you Sheridon for sharing these insights
If you would like to find out more, please visit Atlantic Rest Natural Burial.