Natural burial means being buried in a natural environment, like a meadow or woodland, without anything to slow down decomposition.
What is a natural burial site?
Ken West started the natural burial movement in the UK in the 1990s. According to his definition a natural burial site is an area which “creates habitat for wildlife or preserves existing habitats which are rich in flora and fauna”. These habitats include woodland, species-rich meadows, orchards, and sustainably-managed farmland.
A natural burial site looks very different from a traditional cemetery or graveyard. For a start, you won’t see upright rows of gravestones, tended lawns or memorial items left on the graves. You might not even be able to tell that it’s a burial site at all at.
Why do people choose natural burial?
There are many reasons. The idea of ‘going back to nature’ or leaving a legacy for future generations might appeal to you. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint and care for the environment during your life, this is a way of enabling your values to live on after death.
Natural burial is a sustainable choice that helps protect natural habitats, encourages biodiversity and benefits local communities because of the way in which the land used for natural burial is managed.
Natural burial sites can also be less expensive than many municipal burial grounds, making this a more affordable and accessible choice for many people.
Is natural burial better for the environment?
Natural burial sites require biodegradable coffins and don’t allow the use of embalming. This means that nothing harmful goes into the ground, and means that the body will return to nature more quickly. Sites are managed in a way which actively encourages local wildlife.
Are there any restrictions about what can be buried at a natural burial site?
Only biodegradable items can be buried.
A range of beautiful biodegradable coffins and shrouds are available now, all made from natural materials and suitable for natural burial. These include willow, wool, banana-leaf and cardboard coffins.
Can someone be buried in a natural burial site if they have been embalmed?
No, because the toxic chemicals used in embalming have a serious, negative environmental impact.
In the vast majority of cases, embalming is unnecessary. However, not all funeral directors give people the information they need to make an informed choice.
Are there gravestones in a natural burial site?
For many people, it is important to have some kind of a marker that shows where a person is buried, so that you can return to visit, or simply visualise the spot where they have been laid. For others, they would prefer that the grave blends into the natural environment, rather than standing out in any way.
In order to enable both at Forget Me Not Fields we allow slate plaques buried into the surface of the earth. This enables plots to be identified when close to them but the memorials remain almost invisible from a distance.
Can I visit the grave of someone in a natural burial site?
Yes. Natural burial sites tend to be beautiful places to visit, which encourages families and friends to return for walks or picnics.
Can I leave flowers or items on the grave?
The aim with natural burial is to respect and preserve the beauty of the surrounding environment as much as possible. Floral tributes may be placed on the grave at the time of the funeral but they will be removed after a 3 week period. This is to allow the natural ground cover to develop. We ask that tributes are constructed using natural products and not formed with oasis and plastic as this creates a considerable disposal problem.
Can I have a funeral ceremony at a natural burial site?
Yes. There is lots of flexibility about the kind of ceremony you can have. Natural burial ceremonies are highly personal, creative and can be relaxed and informal.
Is natural burial getting more popular?
Since the first natural burial site was set up in Carlisle in 1993, the number has steadily grown. There are now over 270 natural burial sites in the UK.
A recent survey found that around ten per cent of people say that they would like a natural burial.
I want a natural burial for myself, a friend or family member. What should I do?
As with any funeral plans, it’s helpful to talk these over with friends or family in advance so that they know your wishes, and to write down what you would like to happen. We offer the option to pre-purchase a grave site before it is needed.
Doing your research is important. The Association of Natural Burial Grounds suggests going to visit any site that you are considering. That way you can ask questions, meet the people who manage the site and see if it feels right to you.