Today, many more people are taking real control over the disposal of their human remains and are considering different sorts of funeral as an alternative to traditional religious services and cremations. The last ten years has seen a huge increase in the number of natural or green burials, which are seen as a more environmentally friendly way of returning the body to the earth and seem to offer a more holistic approach to the whole process of death.
The rise of woodland burial sites has been quite remarkable, from just one in 1993 to over 200 such sites today, more than half of which have opened in the last five years. Green and woodland burials now account for about 5,000 burials each year and there are new sites being planned. Many are quite small, but others have planning permission for several thousand burials.
Some are operated by local authorities and others run privately as businesses, or a few as non-profit or charitable concerns. They can range from nature reserves, to flower meadows, woodlands or agricultural land being developed into new woodlands or meadows.
The sites are not usually consecrated and are available to anybody of whatever persuasion and plots cost in the region of £500-£800. Digging the grave may be extra and some burial grounds will also provide a biodegradable coffin and collect the body for a fee. It is important to check how long the burial rights will last and what will happen to the grave when these run out or when the site is full.
For those not using undertakers, cardboard and wooden coffins are obtainable, as well as woollen shrouds. However an increasing number of undertakers will offer assistance with a woodland burial, such as providing transport of the body and an appropriate coffin. Check their websites and ask when comparing prices.
Coffins must be of biodegradable materials such as untreated wood, cardboard, willow or bamboo. Shrouds and clothes must also be of natural materials such as cotton, linen and wool. A number of companies now offer biodegradable coffins and shrouds, with options to decorate them to personal taste.
Headstones are usually not allowed, but the grave may be marked either by a small stone or wooden plaque on the ground or a tree planted nearby. The grave may also be marked with a microchip or GPS coordinates so that it can be found again easily by visiting relatives.
Not all burial grounds have a building in which a service can be held, so the service may have to be outdoors.
Westhope Green Burial Ground
Near Craven Arms
Telephone 01584 861293
Ludford Park Meadow Of Remembrance
37 Mary Elizabeth Road
Telephone 01584 876637
Fenns Meadow Green Burial Ground
Telephone 01948 880002