Green Burials Devon and Cornwall
“ With your kindness, respect, professionalism and comforting advice, I was able to organise a dignified yet intimate goodbye for my dad with a strength he would have been proud of.”
Environmentally Friendly Burials
As well as traditional religious burials in a churchyard or cemetery, we can arrange for a natural burial. Natural burials are increasingly popular and we have strong connections with the growing number of sites in the Cornwall and Devon.
They offer an ecological alternative to traditional burials and are sometimes but by no means always less expensive. The land is managed with the environment in mind and the land is reverted back to woodland or meadows. Instead of a traditional headstone, sometimes a tree is planted with a plaque and environmentally friendly coffins made from materials such as bamboo, wicker or cardboard are used. The body is not embalmed with harmful chemicals.
We can also arrange for burials on private land.
Everybody is entitled to be buried in the parish were they live, but some churchyards are full, and not really appropriate for the non-religious, and many municipal cemeteries, though not by any means all, can feel a bit lacklustre. This is one of the reasons that natural burial grounds came into being. Below are some of the natural burial sites we use in Devon and Cornwall. There are others in Devon that we have not used, namely Great Bradley Cottage near Tiverton, which we understand is very good, but the sites below we have used regularly for the last ten years, or are completely sure of their policy.
Natural burial is a very broad church, and there are various different ethos and styles of management, from the environmentally purist to the more laid back. Your choice may be influenced by aesthetic or environmental reasons, and making sure that you find the right natural burial ground for you may require some basic research. For these reasons we have summarised the ones we use below, but there is no substitute for actually visiting a site.
A common question around natural burial sites is whether their future is secure. It is very difficult to absolutely guarantee the long term security of a site, but it is worth remembering this: in most churchyards and municipal cemeteries you buy a lease on a grave, sometimes for 99 years but sometimes only 40 or even 25. Technically they may be reused after this time. To exhume a grave you need the visiting of the home secretary and is extremely difficult and expensive. Most natural burial grounds are in the countryside and outside of permitted development zones, so getting planning permission for a house is nigh impossible, let alone permission to exhume hundreds of graves, possibly against relative’s wishes for any development of any kind. The few occasions when old graveyards have been moved to make way for essential development have been municipal council run ones, so in many ways natural burial grounds are probably more secure than their conventional counterparts, but always ask the operators of a site what their long term strategy is, and be wary of those who can produce no more of an answer than it will be given to a wildlife trust. Future operators will probably need a financial incentive, and a clear long term management plan that is sustainable and realistic.
Everything you wanted to know about a grave but were afraid to ask..
Here is what an environmentally sound grave dug by hand with love looks like. At 3 ft deep it is shallow enough to ensure that the body decays naturally. The bottom has been lined with foliage, a lovely touch. The grey bit visible at the bottom is actually bedrock, you don't have to dig too deep in Devon and Cornwall before you hit it.
So few people have been to a burial these days that we often walk the family up to see it before the ceremony starts. They are always comforted by their first sight of it. Burying closer to the surface is not only better for the environment, it also stops it from feeling such a huge psychological distance from the living. 6ft down is a long, long way.
Before the service begins we put our two lowering straps and two cross sticks across. The straps are just visible in the top right of the picture. The coffin is placed onto the cross sticks, then the coffin is lifted by the straps, the sticks removed and then you gently lower the coffin. We have helped hundreds of people, old women and children included to do this simple but profound action.
If you only do one thing at the funeral of someone you love, make it carrying the coffin. It helps to physically embody the reality of what is happening in a situation in which it is all too easy to retreat up into your head. I wish I had done it for my mother.
Please note that we receive no financial rewards from any of these sites for recommending them, and add nothing to the price of the grave OR the grave digging.
However we do manage Sharpham Meadow Natural Burial Ground with Sharpham Trust and are paid a small amount to do this.
We believe this to be the very best burial ground. It has a beautiful cob walled turf roofed ceremonial shelter and a central ancestors fire pit, there are stunning views down the river Dart out to sea to the east and clear views of Dartmoor to the north. There is only one burial in a day so you have the place for as long as you need, sitting around the fire long into the night if need be. We have been dreaming of and visioning this burial ground for fourteen years and we are incredibly proud of it. Please go to the Shapham Meadow page on the top tool bar. The ground is opne dawn til dusk please feel free to visit.
We hold regular rituals and ceremonies at the site throughout the year.
Grave plot £980
Grave preparation £400
Bidwell Woodland Burials, Rattery, near Totnes.
This site was established ten years ago, and forms part of a larger piece of commercial woodland. Run by a laconic New Zealander Andrew Lithgow it is just outside of the village of Rattery, which is about 5 miles from Totnes. The parking area is simple, and the surroundings reflects the purpose of the place, a small-holding and working woodland and indeed there are no toilet facilities or building to hold a ceremony in which puts some people off, but we recently held a ceremony at the bottom of the hill under an ancient oak and the procession up to the burial site, across a stream and up the hill situated in maturing deciduous woodland reveals the extraordinary delight of this place. It is wild without feeling neglected, peaceful but not remote. Nothing fazes Andrew, whose laid back exterior belies his knowledge of the natural world. A well run truly beautiful site, which forms part of a wider environmentally sound project. Actually a wood, as opposed to a field becoming one.
Price of grave: £500.00
Price of grave preparation: £320.00
Conqueror’s Wood, Torbay.
A classic misnomer, as this is actually a field becoming a wood. Conqueror’s wood is a bowl shaped field over looking Torbay with sea views. It is owned and run by Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust who manage the Cockington Estate on which the field is situated. It was opened in 2005. It is very near the Paignton/Torquay bypass, which means easy access, but at times of heavy traffic it can be noisy. Despite this, on a summer’s day with the sun glinting off the bay it is a stunning spot and is proving extremely popular with residents of Torbay. It has long term security and forms part of the trust’s wider management plan, it will become part of a woodland of at least 15 acres.
Price of grave: £800.00
Price of grave preparation: £255.00
Telephone: 01803 606035
Yealmpton Woodland Burial Association, Yealmpton, near Plymouth.
One of the only sites to be community owned and run not-for-profit, Yealmpton was established due to local demand, a well structured consultation plan, and the drive and enthusiasm of Dr Linda Durnham who found the field, negotiated for it’s purpose and established the association. Situated on a hilltop a few miles into the South Hams close by to Plymouth, this burial ground has wonderful views of nearby Dartmoor, and on a good day, views down into Cornwall and Bodmin Moor. Of course, on a day in December it can be windy and exposed, and like so many sites there is no building for ceremonial purposes, but in high summer with the ever present skylarks singing over head and wildflowers everywhere it is absolutely delightful. Though you can’t quite see the sea, you can feel its nearby presence. A draw back is that the adjoining rural lane is surprisingly busy, and that the current grave system places them close to this road, but there are acres still to go, and perhaps in time the management will soften and allow the graves to spread down the hill. Well run, with a clear long term strategy, and financially competitive, this ground is perfect for Plymouthians and all in the South Hams.
Price of grave: £600
Price of grave preparation: £350.00
Telephone: 01803 606035
Crossways Woodland Burials, Cheriton Bishop, near Exeter.
This small site was set up by the farmer and his wife, Martin and Julie Chatfield who live nearby, after their friend asked to be buried there. Intimate and welcoming, Crossways is on a hill just outside Cheriton Bishop on the A30, which is ten miles or so outside of Exeter, and indeed the field almost adjoins the A30, but somehow, wind direction permitting, you barely notice it. This is probably due to the breathtaking panorama of Dartmoor, which is almost a 360 degree view. Small, thoughtfully managed with love as is all the farm, Crossways also has a small wooden building in which a service can be held, as well as that burial ground holy grail..a toilet. A lovely site run by lovely people.
Price of a grave: £675.00 (includes use of log cabin for service)
Price of grave preparation: £200 (ish) (includes a tree to be planted on the grave.)
Telephone: 01647 24382
There are currently two sites that we use in Cornwall, but we are hoping that more council and privately owned operators will catch up with Devon. Farmers, think about it!
West Penwith Woodland Burial Place, Near Penzance.
Run by the indefatigable Penny Lally, herself a Cornish institution, West Penwith Woodland Burial Place has been running for the past ten years at Rose Farm, Drift, which is about five miles past Penzance. Penny also runs a long established pet crematorium and cemetery including an orchard where horses are buried. This can put some people off, and you do pass through the pet cemetery on your way to the woodland site, but it is a beautifully lush, semi tropical garden which most folk find enchanting. It is pure higgledy piggledy Cornish, and there is much going on at Rose Farm besides this including a B‘n’B, prize winning Simintal Bulls, dogs, cats, geese, cockerels. The farm looks out onto the last hill in Britain. There is also a building that can be hired for ceremonies, and an ornate horse drawn carriage, that, with some planning, can be used for funerals. Extremely well run.
Price of grave: £1,500.00
Grave preparation: £120.00
Telephone: 01736 731310
Pentiddy Natural Burials, Near Pensilva, Bodmin Moor
Pentiddy is part of a larger project, run by Antony and Ele Waters. Pentiddy Woodland on the south eastern slopes of Bodmin Moor, and is a family run permaculture small-holding providing environmental education, woodland craft courses and much more. Antony and Ele are a couple with a young family, deeply committed to the green lifestyle who live on site in an “off grid” self-built house. We encouraged them to set up the site after burying the mother of a friend of theirs on the land. The whole project is inspirational and the land is stunningly beautiful. The views from the burial ground itself stretch well over twenty miles away to Dartmoor. There is a roundhouse based on a traditional Navaho ceremonial lodge in which to hold the services. They have a very clear idea of how the burial ground fits in with the rest of the project, and can talk you through the next couple of hundred years if you are interested. This site only opened in 2009, but did so with the unanimous backing of the whole local community, including the unambiguous support of the local vicar.
A wonderful heartfelt place.
Price of a grave: £600
Price of grave preparation: £300
Telephone: 01579 362430
Environmentally Friendly Burials Cornwall / Devon
The Green Funeral Company