Simon Holden – The Woodland Burial Company

This week on WHITEBALLOON INSIGHTS Simon from The Woodland Burial Company tells us why he created this wonderful final resting place which is also a haven for wildlife.

Q: Like many organisations that we have come across, the Woodland Burial Company was set up in response to a personal need that wasn’t currently being met. I am sure that you have since found that a lot of people were looking for this too?

We have. One of the differences people immediately comment on is that we are an established woodland, so the trees are already there, swaying majestically. While we do plant more, we have also added a range of habitats and now there is a good diversity of wildlife.

Interestingly, while beautiful, the woodland is actually not at all natural. It is a plantation of pine and we are working to restore it to its native glory.

Q: Your beautiful woodlands are protected and expertly managed. Why was this important to you?

The burial ground really supports the restoration project. Buying a monoculture of pine, an old plantation, gave us a solid starting point. With each pine we fell, the canopy is opened and other species are able to thrive. Greater diversity improves the whole area. We now have constant birdsong, which wasn’t there when we started. Adding hedgerow highways and other habitats has increased diversity significantly.

Q: I love the idea of your family nooks, where family members through the generations can rest in peace together. I would imagine that whether in a family nook or not, there is a wonderful sense of togetherness in a place like Granville’s Wood?

There is often a shared interest in nature, and usually a shared understanding of bereavement too. Many of our families meet up, or share a snack. Some check on each other’s nook, or share photos in our Friends Facebook group (which is only for families).  We sometimes arranged community events, however our insurance has put a stop to this currently. We are working on alternatives. Our relationships with families may last for generations, and we hope to support them for all that time.

Q: Natural burials and ashes interments in woodland settings are still a relatively new concept for many people. What advice would you give to anyone considering this option?

Do your research, and check that you are getting what you think you are. For example, some grounds will not allow any grave markers (we do), we have strict rules around what you can bring to the woodland, and that may not suit everyone.

Most burial sites will have unique expectations of their own. You should be offered any Terms and Conditions, and it’s worth reading them carefully before you commit.  If your focus is being as environmentally friendly as possible, then make sure the setting you chose offers positive options. Where possible make sure the organisation has a plan for the area after it’s full.

Q: Can you give us an idea of the size and diversity of habitat in the wood?

We have a Wildlife Management Plan, this collects information year on year, so we can see what changes are taking place. This is monitored alongside the local Wildlife Trust. So far, we have seen a huge increase in bird species including a Buzzard, Woodpeckers, Nuthatch and Owl. Our hedgerows have also encouraged smaller birds in. There are frogs since we’ve installed habitat piles.

Several of our families have wildlife cameras in their nooks, and so we have evidence of badgers, deer, foxes and mice.

Q: As the demand for natural burials grows, do you plan to create woodland burial sites in other parts of the country?

We are looking to expand to a second site this year, and a third in 2023. Now we feel confident we understand the complexity and have a strong foundation, as well as strong systems in place, we are ready to grow.

Q: You are also involved with Living Memorial, which provides an eco-friendly way to bury cremated remains. Can you tell us about this?

We use Living Memorial blended soil for every interment at Granville’s Wood. Early on in our work we tried to find out how to manage the toxicity of cremated remains and there was very little information available. We found a US based company (Verde Products Inc) who came to the same realisation many years before. In collaboration with a leading body of US scientists, they had led extensive research and development to create a natural organic soil blend to mitigate this problem.

It has been developed by leading scientists after years of careful study and is the only scientifically proven soil available in the UK today. When mixed with cremated remains, it reduces the high levels of sodium and pH levels, releasing nutrients that allow plant life to flourish.

Q: And finally, you must spend a great deal of time in nature. Were you always an outdoors person and where are you happiest?

Absolutely! I hate being stuck indoors, and too much time at a computer makes me very grumpy. My lack of IT skills (and interest) is a source of amusement to some of our staff. I much prefer being in the woods, it’s still my happy place.

Thank you Simon for sharing these insights

If you would like to find out more, visit The Woodland Burial Company website.

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