“All places are alike, and every earth is fit for burial” – Andrew Marvell

Saturday 1474 – 28th April 2012

Last weeks post was about the joyful wedding of 2 friends of mine and on Photomania a couple of weeks ago I showed photographs of my friend and her 4 week old baby Lily-Rose   so that’s 2 out of  the 3 of Births , Marriages and Deaths. Seems almost inevitable then that this week I’ll be covering death!

When you get older and in my case because my father died at 68, my brother at 53 and my ex-husband at 59, it’s inevitable that you do sometimes think about death and where you might want to be buried or indeed if you want to be buried at all ( This post isn’t going to be morbid so don’t worry! ) 

I have always been pretty adamant that I didn’t want to be buried but rather cremated and I’m still sticking to that but I want to tell you about a place that I regularly pass to and from work. ( the photos were all taken in February)

It’s called The Arbory Trust and it’s a Woodland Burial Ground that is also a member of the Association of Natural Burial Grounds .

Take a look at The Arbory Trust’s website here

The Woodland Trust is a Christian charity but as the Trusts literature states they “ warmly welcome everyone, regardless of race, religion, geographical or theological boundary, and you are assured of a warm, caring service at all times from our well-trained staff.”  

 One winter’s day I took a trip there with my camera, to have a walk round and find out more and spoke with a member of staff who arrived during my visit ( there isn’t someone there all the time) and she was so very welcoming and friendly. There is a very beautiful wooden lodge there, which was opened by David Bellamy, OBE, where services of whatever religion or none can be held and there are also memorial books .

I found it to be a profoundly beautiful and peaceful place. The burials take place in glades surrounded by trees and over 20,000 trees have been planted on the nearly 40 acre site since 2000.  The glades have plant names such as Sweetbriar, Honeysuckle and Foxglove


So what did I particularly like about this idea?  For me it was that everything used has to be biodegradable, the coffin ( so no brass handles or plaques) , the flat wooden plaques that can be used to mark the grave, the flowers ( thankfully no plastic allowed) and even the benches. So graves are not permanently marked but are recorded by survey so staff could tell where the exact spot is. Grave space can also be reserved by making a half or full payment. In time the woodland will become just that, a natural classic British wood.

People cannot actually plant a tree at their loved ones grave but can sponsor a tree at the site. I love that the trees are all native and I saw Oak, Ash, Wild Cherry, Silver Birch and Yew to name but a few. Graves are sprinkled with grass seed and wildflower seed and I’m looking forward to going back to visit throughout the seasons.

There are apparently over 260 natural burial sites around the country ( in the UK)  and if you are interested in finding out if there is one near you take a look at The Natural Death Centre’s website here

I will end with a quote from the Arbory Trusts website which sums it up.

“Woodland burial is a centuries-old practice which is justifiably enjoying a great revival. As people become more aware not only of their responsibility to the environment but also of their ability to choose where their ultimate resting place will be, more and more are turning to woodland burial, where their impact on the environment is less than that of cremation, and where they know they will rest in an increasingly beautiful, natural setting which their family and friends may return to with pleasure as the years pass.

The idea that we can create a living memorial by encouraging new woodlands, and in doing so we can leave something that will be enjoyed by our great-grandchildren, is considerably more appealing than opting for the often very impersonal, crowded environment of more traditional cemeteries, with serried ranks of graves and headstones.”

So have I changed my mind about being cremated… Hmmm I’m not sure but I may not need to worry as you can have your cremated remains buried in a grave space at the Arbory Trust too. 🙂


And when the stream that overflows has passed,
A consciousness remains upon the silent shore of memory;

Images and precious thoughts that shall not be
And cannot be destroyed.

William Wordsworth, from The Excursion .


 I know I have a lot of followers and readers in America so if you are interested in this you might like to look at this website The Green Burial Council  

In CanadaThe Natural Burial Association  

In New ZealandNatural Burials

I’m sure there are many others in different parts of the world too, get googling!

Goodbye from Saturday Girl until next week or join me every day on my other blog Helen’s Photomania here   where you’ll find lots more photos.



26 comments on ““All places are alike, and every earth is fit for burial” – Andrew Marvell

  1. […] have visited a beautiful woodland burial site, a 40′s re-enactment, a craft fair, theatres, listened and watched Gamelan (what’s […]

  2. A couple of years ago, I led a funeral at The Arbory Trust, on a snow laden February day. Even with the cold air and us helping each other through the drifts to the graveside, you could see the beauty of the place and feel the calm air which rests there.

    Another beautiful burial site is Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground, where the father of a friend of mine is buried.

    • Helen Cherry says:

      Thank you for commmenting Shelley.. it is indeed the most beautiful of places and please feel free to direct anyone to this post if you think it will help…

  3. Fran Hall says:

    Hello Helen, what a lovely piece about the Arbory Trust. Thank you for mentioning the Natural Death Centre and the Association of Natural Burial Grounds too – it’s great to have our work endorsed, and so good that people get to know about natural burial as an option. I’m going to share a link to this on the NDC facebook and twitter so that hopefully even more people get to read it!

    Best wishes

    Fran (Chair of the board of trustees, Natural Death Centre)

  4. ~mimo~ says:

    A very informative post Helen! I did not know such places existed. Thank you for showing us!

  5. Rachael says:

    I had no idea there was such a thing. I like it. That’s definitely going in my will! What a lovely second/alternate blog you have over here.
    Thanks for your comment on my lightbox post. In answer to your question, I can’t remember where I got it, but I will see if I can find out and let you have a link.

  6. auntyuta says:

    I very much like the idea of Natural Burials. It’s really great that you have so many sites like this in the UK. I have to find out what’s available in Australia. Thanks for writing about it and including all the beautiful pictures.

  7. puttyfoot says:

    really interesting read thanks for sharing

    Lisa x

  8. Caroline Warnes says:

    My Brother-in-law is buried in the Green burial ground at Olney in Buckinghamshire. It is much like you describe here, and many of the graves have their own tree chosen from a list of native species (his is a beautiful Oak). He was one of the first to be buried here and it has been amazing to watch the site change over the years from a bare field to a young woodland. It is a lovely, peaceful place to go and remember him.

  9. scillagrace says:

    I often wonder in what part of the world my molecules might be when I return to the soil. There seems to be little point in erecting barriers to that process. Coffins…why? Cremation produces a lot of particulates into the air…what if I just lie down somewhere in the undergrowth when the time comes and let the decomposers do their job? Ah, but in this century, there’s always a system that wants to envelope you. I look for alternatives. Thanks for opening up some ideas.

  10. I right there with you Helen. Just returned from a Memorial Service for a friend that left us far too soon.

  11. Mark Goodwin says:

    Excellent post Helen. I know what you mean about thinking about the inevitable Life Cycle! I am 71 this year and my dear wife of 40 years is 63. Fortunately for me I am relatively healthy thank God, but my wife has Primary Progressive MS (PPMS), so we do discuss death from time to time. We have agreed upon 100% organ donation – if they think any bit is worth it to help someone else have a better life then please take it – and Cremation. I must say as a lifelong nature lover and wildlife photographer I do like the idea of the Woodland Trust site. Of course I had heard of it before but it had completely left the old memory bank! So, a big thank you for the reminder I’m gonna check it out.

    • Helen Cherry says:

      If that is a recent photo you are wearing well Mark !.. It’s not a Woodland Trust site though Mark so I must just correct you as it is quite different. Check out the National Death Centre’s website to see where your nearest is if you don’t know already. I see you are in Wales and I know there are at least 2 there.
      So sorry to hear about your wife. I used to be a Social Worker in a physical Disability team and specialised in MS so I have seen what a tough condition it can be.. I wish you both strength and love.

      • Mark Goodwin says:

        Many thanks Helen..
        Yes a recent pic, it’s the Genes yer know? Nothing to do with healthy food, exercise etc. Although I have given up drink and smoking both on the same day 15 years ago! And I’m dying of thirst! 🙂

  12. Marleen says:

    Just googled Ireland. First natural burial site opened up in wexford and more to follow.

  13. Marleen says:

    Very interesting and so right for you, Helen. It sounds wonderfull and peacefull and also ecological. Worth looking into.
    I was delighted a few weeks ago to read in the Celt that planning was granted to an undertaker in Cavan to build a crematorium along the Dublin road. Saves us a journey to Dublin when the time comes. The place will also be multi/non-denominational, so perfect for Herman’s parents and also for us eventually.

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