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Natural or “green” burial

Cemeteries often have a depressingly municipal formality to them, or religious connotations that may conflict with the character or beliefs of the person to be buried. An alternative – increasingly widely considered for its ecological credentials, and for its sense of independent individuality – is “green burial”, in a specially designated meadow, or in woodland.

Owing to the practical difficulties of digging graves among the roots of trees, woodland burials usually take place on open ground, and a tree is then planted to mark the site.

Some of the 200 or more such “green” burial sites in the UK are now run by local authorities; others are owned by charities, or by the farmers who have turned their land to this use.

A number of other options surround this kind of “natural” burial, in keeping with its low environmental impact, such as a biodegradable coffin made of willow or bamboo, or even cardboard – which is usually far cheaper than the conventional kind of casket. 

The Natural Death Centre promotes this kind of approach to death and burial, and has plenty of advice on its website. 

Woodland burial

If you own woodland, you can scatter ashes in it, and can even carry out burials in it, provided that you follow certain regulations about the siting of the graves. Of course, this makes more sense if you intend to keep the woodland in the family well into the predictable future (new owners may wish to exhume and remove any bodies buried on their land).

The website has a useful and revealing blog called  “Green Burial – can I be buried in my woodland?” about woodland burials, filled with practical information.

For those thinking of operating a woodland burial site, the Royal Forestry Society also has a website page called “Woodland Burial Grounds”. 

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