What happens at a natural burial?

What to expect at a natural burial

You’ve heard of natural burial – all that fresh air, compostable material and the sense that the person who’s died is getting back, literally, to their roots – and you think it’s a great idea. For some people, though, going to a natural burial won’t be something they’ve done before. How do you navigate an overgrown meadow? And can you turn up on four wheels? All the most important natural burial ground questions are answered here.

Getting to and around a natural site

Depending on the size of the land and composition of the soil (if you can get a heads-up on the ground’s pH levels, all the better), you’ll need to be prepared for walking across uneven ground. The point of a woodland burial is to facilitate the ongoing ecology of a natural area, so level pavement won’t always be available.

It’s usual for a natural burial site to refuse any skateboards, roller blades or bicycles on site, unfortunately, even if they may be your eco-friendly transport of choice.

Generally, you’ll be able to park on the site, and a coffin can get to its plot by way of site-approved hearse or car.

At the graveside

For the service itself, natural burial services are flexible affairs – you don’t need to stick to a traditional script. Hire a celebrant, conduct your own or do away with a service altogether.

It might be that there isn’t a service at all. Instead, it could be that walking to the plot, and the functional aspect of the burial itself, are meaningful enough. With a natural burial, it’s not required to fulfil any traditional expectations of what a ceremony should be like.

Having a reception at a natural burial ground

Many woodland burial sites have their own spaces where you can head to after the service. Yurts and bell tents are commonly used, without compromising on basic warmth and shelter. Take a look at our article on natural burial ceremony inspiration here.

Natural burials don’t always stick to rule of convention. As long as you’re prepared for makeshift and DIY elements, you’ll get into the spirit of things.

Losing the plot

Hefty headstones aren’t really compliant with natural burial principles. Some burial grounds will let you mark the grave with a temporary marker, which will usually be something wooden. Others will let you mark the grave with a small stone marker laid flat, and some will allow nothing at all.

Most natural burial sites are also privately owned farms, forests, land or meadows. There’s no risk of getting lost if the person running the site knows their land, or their way around an Ordnance Survey.

Natural burial ground rules

  • No headstones allowed
  • Coffins must be biodegradable – it can be made with cardboard, willow, wicker or bamboo
  • You aren’t usually allowed to personalise the grave with any sort of permanent memorial
  • You’re not permitted to attend the grave – everything should be allowed to take its course
  • Money isn’t spent on making the site look pretty and cultivated, so lower your expectations
  • It’s likely that smoking won’t be permitted

Find out more

Look around DEATH.io for Some natural burial funeral inspiration and a look at burial and cremation options

Want some alternatives? Click here to find more alternatives to burial and cremation

The Natural Death Centre also has good advice on all things related to natural burials

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