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Green Burial – can I be buried in my woodland? ~ by Angus

Green Burial – can I be buried in my woodland?

“Green burials” of various sorts are increasingly popular - many people want to escape from what they perceive to be the conveyor-belt experience of some crematoria and the impersonality of cemeteries and churchyards. Many people also find established funeral rituals are not right for them. More positively, woodland burials or green burials are seen as friendlier to the environment and more natural than cremations.So, if you have your own woodland and you plan to keep ownership in the family, requesting to be buried in the woods can be very appealing.

What are the practicalities of a green burial?

Burial or spreading of ashes in your own woodland will not usually create any problems. In the case of the burial of a body, the Environment Agency advises in its document ‘Funeral practices, spreading ashes and caring for the environment’:

• The site should be more than 30 metres from any spring or any running or standing water. It should also be more than 10 metres from any ‘dry’ ditch or field drain.

• The site should be at least 50 metres away from any well, borehole or spring that supplies water for any use. If you are not sure where these are, our local office will be able to advise you.

• When preparing the grave, make sure there is no standing water when it is first dug and that the grave is not dug in very sandy soil.

• There should be at least one metre of soil above and below the body after burial.

If you are burying a body, rather than burying ashes from a crematorium, the hole you dig needs to be quite deep.Ideally it should be two metres, which will take quite a while to dig – you probably need to leave at least half a day.You can alternatively use a mini-digger.

Do I need special permission for a green burial?

You do need permission from the owner of the land, but you don’t need to obtain planning permission or to contact the local Environmental Health Officer or the Department of Health or the Environment Agency.

Where can I put a grave?

You should be practical in deciding where you want to dig the grave – sandy soils can be dangerous to dig to any depth and you probably don’t want any live burials! Rock is obviously a problem and digging too near to big trees will be difficult because of their roots. Many people find that being so much involved in the practicalities helps with the grieving process. It is advisable to keep a good record of where the burial site is located and keep the record with the paperwork for the property.Many people like to plant a memorial tree next to the grave, which is also a good way to record where the body is.

How much does a green burial cost?

Green burials vary enormously in cost - from about £200 to about £2,000, but the average cost is about £700. What should you put the body in?You can use a traditional coffin which a few undertakers will sell direct to you or you can buy a cardboard coffin for about £60- £90, but many people like willow coffins.These can be found by googling “willow coffins”, and cost about £450 to £550.Bamboo coffins are also available. Of course, these alternatives can also be used for a more traditional funeral.

You may find that in exploring beyond the standard options of cremation or burial in a cemetery or churchyard, many people will try to talk you out of the alternatives, but there is a trend towards publicly available green burials as the following figures demonstrate. Today there are about 200 green burial sites, ten years ago there were only 50, and twenty-five years ago only one such site. Of these sites well over half are run by local authorities, a few by charities and about 60 by farmers or businesses.

Have you buried a relative or friend in a green burial? We’d be interested to hear your experiences. Have you any questions or comments to add below?

Posted in: Flora & Fauna, Practical Guides ~ On: 9 November, 2007

41 comments so far

Ginny Slater - Native Woodland
13 November, 2007

I represent a company that offers green burials (native woodland) and would like to clarify a few points on natural burial. I notice that there is no mention of the risk that future owners might seek to exhume and relocate/cremate the remains. This often gets overlooked at the time of grief and is worth considering as it can be devastating to have to go through the upheaval of finding a further resting place for a loved one”.

Sarah Marshall
21 November, 2007

I would like to buy woodland to provide a green burial site in my locality. I am not sure where to start with the legalities of such a venture.I would like to provide a totally environmentally friendly service. I noticed that you cannot put up any signs by the roadside-is there any way around this part of the code of practice?
Would you be able to give me any further contacts who might be able to help me?I live in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

Mike Salisbury
11 December, 2007

The modern concept of natural burial began in the UK in 1993 and has since spread across the globe. According the Centre for Natural Burial, http://naturalburial.coop there are now several hundred natural burial grounds in the United Kingdom and half a dozen sites across the USA, with others planned in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and even China.

A natural burial allows you to use your funeral as a conservation tool to create, restore and protect urban green spaces.

The Centre for Natural Burial provides comprehensive resources supporting the development of natural burial and detailed information about natural burial sites around the world. With the Natural Burial Co-operative newsletter you can stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the rapidly growing trend of natural burial including, announcements of new and proposed natural burial sites, book reviews, interviews, stories and feature articles.

The Centre for Natural Burial

10 January, 2008

So am I correct in understanding that I can be buried on any land as long as I am given permission by the land owner? I live in Arizona.

Rosie Grant
23 July, 2008

We are a green funeral company. We’ve arranged several burials on private land in the North West (UK)
See http://www.naturalendings.co.uk/index.asp
If you need any help please get in touch.

Rosie Grant
Natural Endings Funeral Services

Lucy Lee
26 September, 2008

We specialize in environmentally friendly wicker willow coffins or biodegradable caskets.(Online http://www.wovenwickercoffins.com ) Our coffins support the weight attains 300 KG,all of them are environmental protection.We have about ten kinds of different styles,our coffins are protected by a Patent of the China republic.

The wicker can be easily biodegradable,and friendly with environment.As more and more families and communities look for eco-friendly solutions to everything in life, we provide fitting tributes to those choosing to honor their environmentally conscious lifestyle at the time of their death.

We already had experience of export the American market.

Each one of our coffins has been beautifully and caringly hand woven by one of our skilled basket makers, making each coffin unique and special.

Wicker is one of the few truly environmentally renewable resources. Our wicker products are hand made in china from material grown and cropped in licensed plantations.

Joanna Vassie
6 November, 2008

Good news for those seeking a natural burial ground in Dorset. We will be opening our 12 acre site in the late spring of 2009. The area is a long established old hay meadow so mostly we will be offering meadow burials. The grounds have wonderful panoramic views over the Dorset and Somerset countryside.
Our web site is not live at the moment (6-11-08) but will be soon.
http://www.highergroundmeadow.co.uk here you will see a slide show showing the wild flowers and the views.

11 November, 2008

Does anyone know if it is the same in Scotland etc? I do not want to be buried in the church yard, and live on 3 acre croft so I’m sure I can find a spot somewhere!

21 November, 2008

Dorset is such a beautiful County. Where better to have a site for a woodland burial.

OT - 3rd runway at Heathrow - Page 4 | hilpers
18 January, 2009

[…] where it is acceptable, which are mostly to do with water courses. Ah, yes, here’s some guidance: http://www.woodlands.co.uk/blog/cons…n-my-woodland/ http://tinyurl.com/ayk4do • The site should be more than 30 metres from any spring or any running […]

Tracy Pepler
27 January, 2009

I have just come across a woodland burial place in Wales


Rosie Inman- Cook
29 May, 2009

At the Natural Death Centre here in the UK, we offer help and advise on all the above topics. We also run the Association of Natural Burial Grounds helping landowners and organisations open new burial sites. We provide a ‘watchdog’ monitor service, campaign to promote alternative and green funerals and run a helpline. In fact it was the NDC that started the whole ‘natural burial’ movement back in the early 90’s.
There are now well over 200 sites throughout the UK with more opening every year.
Please contact the Natural Death Centre for any guidance.

lesley chambers
2 June, 2009

Are there any places in the tyne and wear area for natural green burrials. I like the idea o a green burriaal instead of a cemetary.

david phillips
8 September, 2009

There is a green burial site in Ketton in Rutland, quite close to Stamford. Called Ketton Park Green Burial it is a very appealing site. Can be contacted on http://www.greenburial.co.uk.

5 December, 2009

I purchased a piece of land next to a small cemetary, for the purpose of a private graveyard for me and my family. Does anyone know if I would still need planning permission for a headstone?



m floyd
25 February, 2010

Please can i have a total cost of a woodland buriel, all inclusive.

Joanna Vassie
28 August, 2010

It is a while ago I first left a comment. Since this time our burial ground has been very well received. We have to date taken 17 burials and also sold 25 plots for the future.
Of the 17 burials only 3 have followed a church service, all the rest have held a ceremony at Higher Ground Meadow, some with religion but mostly not. 2 families have chosen to deal with proceedings entirely on their own and just used a funeral director to look after the deceased until the funeral day, these have both been very special occasions with great love and respect shown. I find great pleasure in owning this burial ground, you may think that a strange comment, but it is so rewarding to see how pleased families are that their loved ones are in our beautiful countryside and they then have a special place to come to and remember them.

rozalee homan
27 October, 2010

I buried my long term partner last week in a wood land site at fenwick scotland.At first I was apprehensive and unsure,I walked the site alone the day before and felt great peace.No doom or gloom,just a lovely view and the sound of birdsong.I recommend it.A perfect resting place for him and myself to follow on.Be warned wellie boots may be necessary,but thats nature at her best!I didn’t do it for the money saving aspect,I did it because I truly believe it is more personal and peaceful.

Jerry Sloan
8 April, 2011

I’m about to bury my grandmother this way and as you recommend, I think a mini digger is the way forward for the actual digging as I’ve seen them using that down the local cemetary. But does anyone have any tips on what type/ size of digger is most appropriate for the occasion? I’ve been looking at the mini digger hire section of the erento site, but there’s so many to choose from. Any guidance much appreciated.

Woodland burials on a grand scale | The Woodlands.co.uk Blog
20 April, 2011

[…] burials on a grand scale ~ by Dick In the UK, we tend to think of woodland burials as a very informal and personal thing. On a recent trip to Sweden, I visited a woodland graveyard […]

9 November, 2011

Anyone know if you can be cremated on a natural pyre in the open?

27 December, 2011

Hi everyone,
I live in Derbyshire in the beautiful Peak District in the north of England. I own a 1+ 1/2 acre field and a 13 acre hill. I’m thinking of burying my dad (when he dies) either on the field or on the hill. Are there any authorities etc. that I should inform or do I just hire a JCB and get on with it?
All comments welcome.

9 February, 2012

Hi everyone,

I’m writing an article on green burials and was wondering if anyone would be so kind as to share their experiences/plans of a green burial with me?


9 February, 2012

Hi Gemma, I’m from the previous post, send me your email and I’ll tell you of my experience when I bury my dad, everything is in place now, just waiting for his big day.
Jimmy sheepstroker@gmail.com

margaret Giblin
13 June, 2012

I was so upset when i came on this site, because we have just lost a dear friend, She is to be buried at home on her own land. You have helped to make it all so nice. Thank you.

5 August, 2012

Well the deed has been completed. It was a very pleasant day and no hitches at all. If anyone wants any help or info just email (at email above)

Gary hunt
21 November, 2012

Hi I own my own woodland in Hertfordshire which is surrounded by fields and breathtaking views across the countryside ,which i would like to be a natural green burial site . I would be very grateful of any advice that any one can give me/ has already obtained planning permission ,or seeking planning permission or anyone has any advice .on what steps I need to take regarding planning .I spoke with one of the local planning officers and he wasn’t quite sure on what advice to give me . I understand you need to take the water table into account ,and it has to have no impact or disturbance on the natural land scape .
Regards Gary

Jo Vassie
21 November, 2012

Gary, You NEED to talk to Rosie at The Natural Death / Association of Natural Burial Grounds, she will give you all the advise you need and you will be able to see where the nearest site is to you already. http://www.naturaldeath.org.uk

We have been going since June 2009 in Dorset. Our web site is http://www.highergroundmeadow.co.uk

Good luck Jo Vassie

16 January, 2013

Gary, if you want any info email me on the above address.

Roger Fowle
11 May, 2013

A great article,one word on the coffins,the trade is inundated with imported willow coffins,also bamboo,banana leaf sea grass ect. all sold under the green,eco banner.
they are shipped in containers.
How green can this be? Make sure you choose a coffin that really is green and make locally if possible.The Good Funeral Guide website has good info. Also http://www.weavermanbaskets.co.uk ..Here you can help make you own .


Christopher Voaden
16 September, 2013

Yes, a good read!
Would also like to inform people of my burial ground in Devon. The closest woodland Burial to Dartmoor, near Okehampton. At present it is a young plantation set within a 6 acre location. Views to Dartmoor and directly west so a good sunset can be had.

Christopher Voaden
16 September, 2013

Sorry, my website was not included in comment above.
Please see http://www.beercrosswoodlandburials.co.uk

Lesley Hewitt
27 January, 2014

Does anyone know of a woodland site near Mayfield, East Sussex that would accept the burial (not scattering please) of cremated ashes?

jayne kaye
14 October, 2014

There is the most Beautiful sheltered Woodland valley near to Durham City, Northern England, peaceful tranquillity, the perfect place, a natural Heaven on earth

ken harris
14 March, 2015

My sister-in-law would like to plant/purchase a tree in Memory of her late husband and would like to somehow mark the tree as a recorded memorial.
Is this possible?
If so, are there any suitable sites within easy travel distance of Swansea as she would like to visit on occasions.

jayne kaye
27 July, 2015

Regarding the natural woodland valley near to Durham City, I am informed that anyone interested in this location will be suitably advised and assisted.

A preliminary meeting and visit-tour is welcomed. 07580-930560

Janine Chitticks
11 December, 2015

My father died in 2007. He knew he was dyeing and found a NBG in Wales Coed Bell Cemetery where he wanted to be interned he bought a plot for three burials and my mother joined him there in 2012. I also buried my father’s Uncle there too, because he was not married and had no surviving siblings or children of his own, and was very close to my side of the family. The sight of the NBG is at the top of a hill between cemetery and the blue bell woodland it will be part of the woodland in time and we chose a tree to place on the graves that will become a part of the wider woodland. It is a lovely place to visit and walk. I hope to go one step further when my own time comes,I would like to be buried on my own land and I’m looking at doing that.

Janine Chitticks
11 December, 2015

Here is a site you can get advice on if you wish to set up your own NBG or go down the unconventional way of burial http://www.naturaldeath.org.uk

19 April, 2018

When my husband and I pass away, we have choosen to be cremated and wish for a natural burial. How and who cremates us?

19 April, 2018

My husband and I wish to be cremated and have a Woodland burial in North Yorkshire, how and who would cremate us please?

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