In a world that is becoming more aligned with environmental sustainability and conservation, we are increasingly embracing a natural farewell. One way of doing so is to undertake a woodland burial.
Also known as a green burial or natural burial, a woodland burial lays us – or our loved ones – to rest amongst wildflowers and native trees. By choosing this end-of-life practice, we are preserving the area’s ecosystem, often enhancing it with the addition of trees and plants which can help it to thrive.
Far from a traditional cemetery setting, woodland burials provide a serene and eco-friendly way of saying goodbye, one that aligns with the attitudes and actions of the departed who hope to have a positive impact on the natural world after they’ve gone.
But as with any significant milestone in life, there are several important considerations to keep in mind and questions which may need answering.
In this blog post, we hope to assist with your considerations and answer any pertinent questions that might present themselves along the way.
Are woodland burials legal in the UK?
Yes. Woodland burials are legal in the UK, and the growing popularity of natural burials has led to the establishment of more than 250 woodland burial sites across the country. These burial sites might be wooded areas within cemeteries, rambling forests, or purposefully planted wildflower meadows. Woodland burial sites are officially designated and regulated to ensure that they meet certain environmental and legal requirements, allowing you or your loved one to be laid to rest with the peace of mind that it’s both legal and environmentally ethical.
Is a woodland burial religious?
A woodland burial doesn’t have to be religious. While you might choose to have a priest, Imam, monk, or another religious leader lay you or your loved one to rest within natural surroundings, you can equally choose for the burial to be secular.
Rather than being characterised by a religion, natural burials are often focused on the goodbye itself, surrounded by trees and flowers, birdsong and the buzzing of bees.
A woodland burial gives you the flexibility to shape the service according to your wishes however you would like, within the site’s guidelines and as long as the ecosystem is protected. That is, fundamentally, what a woodland burial is all about: reducing our impact on the environment.
Where can you find woodland burial sites?
From the Highlands of Scotland to the Cornish coast, more than 250 woodland burials can be found throughout the UK, selected for their peaceful and natural setting.
Many woodland burial sites are privately owned and operated, while others may be managed by local authorities or charitable organisations. We can help you to find the right one for you or your loved one, ensuring tranquillity amongst drifts of pretty wildflowers or beneath mighty trees.
Why are woodland burials more eco-friendly?
Woodland burials are considered more eco-friendly for several reasons. Firstly, they promote the conservation of natural habitats by utilising existing woodlands and wildflower meadows or establishing new ones. Doing so helps to preserve and actively promote biodiversity, protecting native flora and fauna for generations to come.
Additionally, woodland burials avoid traditional burial practices that introduce chemicals or non-biodegradable materials into the soil. Things like embalming fluids, concrete burial vaults, or coffins made of synthetic materials are rarely accepted in woodland burials. Instead, biodegradable coffins might be made of wicker, cardboard, bamboo or willow, and cotton shrouds allow the body to return to the earth naturally.
These eco-friendly materials minimise the environmental impact of being laid to rest, reducing the carbon footprint that is associated with traditional burial practices.
Are gravestones allowed in a woodland burial?
As hopefully already highlighted, a woodland burial is one of the most natural ways you or your loved one can be laid to rest. To ensure that the area around each grave is kept as natural as possible, most woodland burial sites do not allow the presence of gravestones.
Instead, most will allow a memorial tree to be planted, ensuring that the memory of the person to whom we say goodbye continues through a living tribute that can be cherished for generations to come. This symbolic act of planting a memorial tree not only honours the individual’s life, but also contributes to the ongoing vitality and sustainability of the woodland burial site.
Saying goodbye to someone that we love, with whom we have shared so many happy memories, is always hard. But choosing a woodland burial can serve as a poignant and beautiful reminder of the interconnectedness between life, death, and the natural world, and that even after we’ve gone we can have a positive impact on the world around us.