Saturday, 6 November 2010

An alternative...

On the lane that takes you into the village that my friend lives in, there is a sign on the left-hand side that has always piqued my interest.  For almost four years I have driven past it but a couple of weeks ago I decided to stop and look.

The sign says Natural Burial Ground and I have slowed my car to watch with interest what has been happening in what seemed at first, a rather unkempt field.  As my friend and I walked in, along with her young son, we were greeted by a softly-spoken lady who was treating a wooden post.  She enquired as to whether we were visiting someone or would just like to look around - which we were more than welcome to do.  Over on one side there was a gathering of what looked like a family and so we respected their space and explored the rest of the site.

In the roundhouse, pictured above, were slate plaques with inscriptions: some simple and other more poetic.  It seemed that a wonderful assortment of people had chosen this to be their final resting place.  We smiled at one that simply said a fine man  and then actually giggled at another that said Mickey the roofer.  I liked the plaque on a wooden post that said that the lady would be remembered for her wit and charm.

I remember when I was arranging Tom's funeral that I think I stunned the funeral director by requesting a woven bamboo basket instead of a wooden coffin for him.  It just seemed wrong to have my last memory of him in an ugly wooden casket.  Instead, my memory is of a wonderfully natural basket with a calico lining and smothered in ivy and sweet peas.  Had I known about this, I think I would have chosen it as Tom's final resting place.  I love the philosophy behind its creation:

    A nature reserve burial ground is not only a place of peace.  It is an extraordinary memorial to those who have gone before us.  It is an important gift for our children, their children, their grandchildren.

As we approached the gate again, the lady who had spoken to us earlier came over.  She introduced herself as Emma and I asked about what her vision was for this area.  She told us about the plans to create a woodland and nature reserve and that they had recently created a pond at the bottom of the site.  I found myself telling her about Tom and how much I would have loved to have him here and she suggested that I could consider a memorial tree.  I loved the sense of peace that I found there and the openness with which I felt able to talk about such things.  It is a part of the country that has many strong memories and ties for me so although it may seem far from home, the thought of being part of a landscape is very appealing.

As we were walking around, we noticed that there were fossils amongst the stones on the paths and Emma told us that this area was once an inland sea and evidence of that was all around.  My friends son found an unusual looking fossil and we were told it was known as a devil's toenail!  You can imagine how much this appealed to an eight year old boy!

I hope it isn't too early for me to consider that I would like to become part of this landscape too and I am glad that my mind is open enough for me to consider it. I guess because I am writing about death and grief, I feel strangely comfortable talking about it and I will definitely be discussing this alternative in the book.

So far, what we have written has been met with a really positive reception and we have a meeting scheduled for the week after next with an editor at a rather prestigious publisher.  But that's all I'm saying at the moment as I don't want to tempt fate.

A weekend of writing awaits...


  1. I did not expect to spend part of my morning looking at a burial ground, but your post and their website have been a strangely peaceful and very beautiful beginning to the day.

    Keep writing. It's a good thing you are doing.

  2. Yes, I'm like Ali. Just spent a happy half hour on my Saturday morning looking at their website and other bits and pieces. Such a lovely philosophy and a great place.

    G and I both know that each other wants willow caskets and a natural burial when the time comes. It is very important to me that everyone I love (and now half the internet - ha!) knows this so I'm always reminding G, who rolls his eyes at me and says "I know!".

  3. Goodlord! I have been there (and have some of those very 'toenails' the ground is littered with them. The lady you spoke to was Emma Restall Orr. She is the founder and head of The Druid Network. She was my teacher for 10 years and married Mr M and I. It is because of her that Druidry has been accepted as an official religion by the Charities Commission. What a small world Tracy.

  4. It looks like a wonderful place. I would certainly consider it. x

  5. A dear friend was buried a few years back in a Natural Woodland burial site near Cambridge. It was an intensely moving occasion and an extremely beautiful and peaceful location. When my time comes, I'm thinking I may make the same choice.

  6. The burial ground sounds like a wonderful and peaceful place. I definitely do not want a traditional funeral and I have told my family so. I have heard you can get caskets made from wool. I'd quite like one of those I think.

  7. It seems a much more sensible and beautiful way of completing the process of "dust to dust." Personally, I've always found embalming and coffins to be creepy.

    (I have an old friend who lives near there, too -- in the wonderfully named village of Fenny Compton.)

    Have you ever read Jessica Mitford's book about death, dying and the funeral industry?

  8. Thank you for telling us about this wonderful place.

  9. it looks like a very special place x

  10. It seems a beautiful and peaceful alternative.


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