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Woodland burial at Oystermouth cemetery

Oystermouth's woodland burial ground offers a natural alternative to conventional burial and cremation options.

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The woodland site is managed as an area where new trees are planted to complement existing mature trees whilst also being able to accommodate burials. This approach offers the opportunity to contribute to the future quality and health of the natural environment, and in doing so to create a meaningful memorial to past lives. This can have a particular significance for those coming to terms with their own mortality or having to face the permanence of a loss they have experienced.

Each burial will help to enhance the woodland habitat whilst every woodland grave offers the opportunity for those departed to 'return to nature' and help contribute to the formation and preservation of a natural and beautiful woodland. 

This service is available to people of all beliefs and denominations and encompasses funeral services and ceremonies, both religious and secular, and provides for the emotional and spiritual needs of the bereaved or of those who wish to plan for the future during their own lifetime.

The area is designed to allow visitors full appreciation of the natural beauty of the woodland while offering at the same time an appropriate environment for remembrance, meditation and quiet contemplation.

As this is an environmentally friendly burial we ask people to follow these guidelines:

  • It is preferable that a coffin or casket made from natural material is used. This can include cardboard, wicker or wood, from a sustainable source, but does not include the standard chipboard or MDF coffin. A wool or cotton shroud could also be chosen.
  • We do not insist on the use of coffins. Families may choose a shroud and something practical to carry or contain the body to the woodland area, for example a stretcher or wicker basket.
  • Identification of the deceased must always be clearly visible and provided in the form of a name plate or small plaque made from a sustainable source i.e. wood, card board, paper etc.
  • It is preferable that the body is not embalmed (often called hygienic or cosmetic treatment by Funeral Directors).
  • Funeral wreaths should be kept to a minimum and if possible composed of earth friendly material rather than containing plastic, wire or oasis holders.
  • Mowing will be carried out by the Authority twice per year - once at the beginning of the growing season and once at the end - and we ask people not to cut any grass themselves. At times the area may be difficult to access when the grass is growing strongly.
  • No herbicides or chemicals will be used.
  • The area will be maintained by the Council in a low key manner; the minimal amount of mowing positively encourages and protects trees, shrubs and wildlife. Wild flowers will be encouraged. The traditional 'neat and tidy' appearance portrayed in other parts of Oystermouth Cemetery will not apply to this area.  Families are encouraged to consider this carefully before choosing woodland burial. Other areas of Oystermouth or other cemeteries offer traditional graves with regular memorial options.

All graves are recorded on a plan to allow for location in the future as and when the woodland further develops. Each grave will accommodate one coffin burial only, and/or burials of cremated remains. A lease is granted for each plot for 99 years. Granite or stone memorials are not permitted, though we try to ensure that families can express their grief in the way they feel most appropriate by offering the perfect environment for quiet contemplation and remembrance of loved ones.

Woodland Burial through the year

Winter to early spring, when there are no leaves on the trees, light levels on the woodland floor are good. The conditions are damp and as the soil starts to warm up the first flowers begin to show. Typical flowers at this time are snowdrops and wild daffodils, followed by wild primroses, violets and wood anemones.

During late spring, the soil is still moist and continues to warm up, daylight hours increase and the trees start to produce new leaves. The amount of light reaching the woodland floor is reduced, but is enough for shade tolerant varieties such as bluebells, wild arum and ground ivy.

As summer arrives, the trees are growing strongly and taking large amounts of moisture from the soil. The leaf cover continues to thicken rapidly to a point where much of the woodland floor is in shade. In these conditions only the shade loving plants will be seen. These include ferns and wood sage. The wild arum starts to show their berries. The woodland floor may have a 'bare' appearance at this time. On the edges of the woodland and where tree thinning has been carried out there is plenty of light for sun loving plants such as foxgloves, rosebay willow herb, red and white campion, nettles and bugle.

The reduction in daylight hours and lower air temperature starts the process of autumn colour and leaf drop. There are few woodland flowers visible in these conditions. Instead, various fungi can be seen along with berries, fruits and seeds.

Trees are not planted on individual graves as this could result in an over-population. Instead, trees are planted where and when required and to provide as much cover and colour all year round.

Natural Burial in Swansea at Oystermouth Cemetery

Thank you to the Journal of the Insitute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management for allowing us to display this story on our website.  

 

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