Green burials on increase at region's woodland sites

WITH its beautiful rolling hills and woodland glades, it seems the Borders is becoming the popular place for people wishing to have what are termed 'natural' burials.

There is already several such burial grounds in the region including one near Girrick in Roxburghshire and one at Selkirk, close to an existing cemetery.

While the facility at Selkirk is currently an empty field where you can plant a tree in memory of a loved one as well as bury them, the Hundy Mundy Wood burial ground near Girrick utilises an area of existing woodland with mature trees already flourishing.

According to Ian Walls, managing director of Native Woodland, the Edinburgh-based firm behind Hundy Mundy Wood, as well as sites in Aberdeenshire, south Wales and Grantown-on-Spey, more and more people are turning away from the traditional heavy wood coffin, dark clothes and granite headstones.

"The traditional funeral service and burial process is really a Victorian concept. Natural burial, on the other hand, is about returning people to the environment in as natural a way as possible," Mr Walls told TheSouthern this week. "The site at Hundy Mundy Wood is stunningly beautiful and increasingly popular with people either from the Borders or who know the region and want to either be buried or have their ashes scattered somewhere natural."

Green burial, as its promoters often refer to it, is all about keeping things as simple, natural and beautiful as possible – returning to nature in a way that will not harm the environment, but will actually preserve the landscape and enhance opportunities for wildlife.

"At Hundy Mundy Wood there are three woodland glades for resting places. There are no upstanding headstones allowed of the sort in more traditional cemeteries, although people can have small name markers if they wish.

"The vast majority are just buried in coffins made of natural materials such as willow, wicker and bamboo, as opposed to the treated wood and brass-handled affairs more commonly used."

Mr Walls says traditional cemeteries of the sort operated by local authorities are not only running out of space, but the land that they occupy costs a vast amount to maintain, use large quantities of pesticides and weed-killers in the process and the instability of some headstones and monuments can pose safety risks.

Such natural burials are also popular with the rich and famous, most notably in recent years with the funeral of Princess Diana who had a woodland burial on an island in the ancestral estate.

The conservationist David Bellamy wants to be buried in one of the Church of England woodland sites, where he hopes to grow into a tree, while author Dame Barbara Cartland chose to be buried in a cardboard coffin under an oak tree in her garden.