The business of burial
The UK funeral market turns over more than £2 billion each year but it provides little of lasting value.
A business set up near Bristol aims to change that by encouraging more environmentally sound funerals and creating a traditional woodland habitat at the same time.
Bristol Memorial Woodlands at Earthcott Green, near Thornbury, Bristol is a 100-acre burial ground and is creating a nature reserve that can be enjoyed by future generations, all held in a charitable trust – the Bristol Memorial Woodland Trust.
Christopher Baker, founder of Bristol Memorial Woodlands, said: “Burial is an ancient and traditional way to lay someone to rest and the growing concerns about the environment mean it is also the most modern.
“In the past people were buried in the churchyard in their local community. In the 20th Century with headstones to maintain, and few other uses that the land could be used for, the upkeep of churchyards and burial grounds became a problem.
“Cremation was promoted as a way of minimising land use and as being cheaper than burial. We have totally turned that on its head and now burial is not only environmentally better – because it does not burn gas and puts nutrients back into the ground – it is also cheaper.”
Bristol Memorial Woodlands set up the charitable trust that will maintain the land in the future and is creating a woodland that can be used by all for walking, recreation and enjoying nature.
Said Christopher Baker: “We are carefully planting native British species and burying people in the most environmentally friendly way and we believe this is the way forward in the 21st century. We intend to replicate what we do elsewhere. Why can’t other towns have a woodland on its doorstep that is also a place where our loved ones rest in peace under nature’s green canopy?
Traditionally, nature reserves have been a way of preserving the threatened countryside. The founding principle of Memorial Woodlands is to create new areas of Nature Reserve, increasing the diversity of flora and fauna. Not only funded through charitable donations it is also funded as a consequence of providing a high-quality service.
Planting a commemorative tree is an ancient gesture steeped in tradition and meaning. It is a symbol of continued life, strength and family connections. It gives relatives and friends a memorial to visit which they can enjoy watching as it changes over the years and seasons. Equally, it is a gift to the woodlands as they continue to grow and mature.
Predominantly British native tree species are planted along with permitted meadow and woodland bulbs and flowers. As this is a woodland rather than a graveyard no vases, edgings, statuary or personal effects are placed by graves, and all gravestones and benches are supplied by Bristol Memorial Woodlands to ensure they fit in.
Chris continued: “It makes environmental sense and sound business sense. We sell individual or family plots so that families can once again have an area of their own as they did in ancient times. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing families picnicking under a tree in our woodlands in a beautiful spot where their grandparents are laid to rest.”