Natural burial grounds
Natural burial grounds are typically sited in a quiet secluded spot, in woodland or in a meadow, where the site and its surroundings will remain undisturbed. There is a wide variety of sites to choose from.
Choosing a site
Many natural burial grounds are sited on land which has been set aside for this purpose in existing cemeteries, for which the local Council is responsible.
Some natural burial grounds are located in the grounds of an estate, others are in nature reserves, and many are on farmland.
Some woodland burial grounds are sited in an established wood, usually where there is space for a commemorative tree to be planted on or beside each grave. Other grounds are sited in a plantation or in an open field where the commemorative trees will become a wood in due course.
Where a commemorative tree is planted, a memorial in the form of a name plate may be placed on or beside the tree.
On some sites the intention is that the woodland should continue to be managed and that in time all the trees should be felled and replanted in the usual way. There is a wide range of sites on offer, varying in size from just under forty acres to less than an acre.
Meadow burial grounds are typically sited on farmland and ideally on land which has been cultivated as a wildflower meadow. Some sites do not allow memorials of any kind in the burial ground.
Other sites offer to place on the grave a small flat stone or hardwood slab, inscribed with the name of the deceased, with its surface level with the ground, usually with the condition that the wildflowers will be allowed to cover the grave in summer.
Many sites provide the opportunity to plant a commemorative tree in a copse or small plantation beside the burial ground. Many farmers contract out the management of their sites to a local firm of funeral directors.
Ownership of burial grounds
Some burial grounds are run as a charitable trust and others as a private business. Some burial grounds are managed by the landowner and others by a local firm of funeral directors on behalf of the landowner.
Many sites insist on the use of bio-degradable coffins, others are more relaxed. Memorials may take the form of a plaque on a tree or a small stone set flush with the ground on the grave.
Access for visitors
Some sites make a point of providing easy access for visitors; others prefer to leave the burial ground as far as possible undisturbed.
Many sites will allow the family to dispense with the services of a funeral director and to bury the deceased themselves in a simple cardboard coffin or in a shroud.
Few sites are consecrated, apart from those which are owned by the Church of England. If required it will however usually be possible to arrange for a priest to conduct a simple service at the graveside and to bless the plot.
Reserving a plot
Burial plots can be reserved for a fee as in a cemetery, and the management will have a variety of bio-degradable coffins to choose from including ones in cardboard and willow, together with memorial plaques, stones and nameplates.
Most sites provide plots for the burial of cremated remains, and a designated area for the strewing of ashes.
Natural burial grounds can be protected from change of use by covenants, and some burial grounds have arranged for their land to be handed over in due course to a wildlife trust for use as a nature reserve.
The management of a natural burial ground is required by law to keep a record of the position of every grave.
Removing a body at a later date
By law human remains, once buried, may not be disturbed or removed from the grave without the necessary permission, which in general will require a licence from the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
The Department for Constitutional Affairs will only issue the licence in certain limited circumstances, which can include personal reasons by the next of kin, public health or safety, and the public interest in connection with site developments which have public or other planning consent.
If the grave is on consecrated ground, that is to say ground which has been consecrated by the Church of England, a faculty issued by the local Diocesan Office will also be needed.
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