Urn burial in the woodlands, shells for the sea

Monday 23rd February 2009
Ceramic urn discovered in a funeral mound at Plomeur, Morbihan, in Brittany. Decorated with juxtaposed stamped geometric shapes based on metal originals the pottery typifies the transitional period during the fifth century B.C. from the Hallstatt to the La Tene. Used as cremation urns they have been found in tumulus burials, but mainly in flat grave cemeteries which often hold standing stones carved into geometric shapes. Corbis

Gaberlunzie is confident that technology and IT will play in woodland burials, and fond of Thomas Browne's baroque lucubrations in the Hydriotaphia line 'What song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women,' thinks it a very fine thing that everyone in Scotland will have the option of this within five years, as a spread of new sites is under consideration for eco-friendly graveyards. Scotland currently has seven woodland or natural burial sites, a figure set to rise dramatically in the coming years.

Glasgow City Council for one is to turn part of the land at a crematorium in the south side of the city into a natural burial ground as the first of three possible sites. From this summer, Linn Crematorium will offer a number of plots where trees will be used instead of headstones, with traditional, cardboard, eco-pod or willow caskets options for burial. If successful, it is believed the Western Necropolis in the city (which alaready has a heritage trail) will be next for consideration.

Private company Native Woodland, presently operates three woodland burial sites in (right) Scotland: at Delliefure in Speyside, at Cothiemuir Hill near Alford, Aberdeen, and Hundy Mundy Wood near Kelso. It  is to apply to a further four local authorities in to open new sites near Dundee, Perth, Lanark and Inverness.

Ian Wells of Native Woodland said the firm is "desperate" to secure sites near Glasgow and west of Edinburgh, and is currently assessing 17 sites across the UK. "There is a huge demand," he says adding that the concept of a natural burial is "rapidly becoming mainstream now" and it is important for people to have local site access, adding that the company are selling plots in the Borders to people from Northern Ireland.

According to Well, it is not easy to secure a site for woodland burial due to strict environmental regulations laid out to protect the water table Site assessments can cost upwards of £25,000  " New sites planned for Northern Ireland and Europe and Wells is hopeful the firm can secure 50 new sites in the next five years.

Where burial at sea is also an option, it appears to be curiously for an island, a slightly tricky issue in Scotland and the UK. In the US, it is undertaken by the United States Navy Mortuary Affairs Burial At Sea Program. But interestingly, Lots Design of Sweden do have an eco-friendly sea offering

Orkney Islands Council has also had talks with a natural burial operator, although they are understood to be in the pre-planning stage. Considerations are also being made by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) for a site in East Lothian, after it gained planning permission from the local authority.

Mike Jarvis from the Natural Death Centre (NDC), a UK-wide body, said "There is a big generational grouping of baby boomers getting older that are going to want to have a woodland burial when their time comes." Research by the NDC predicts that by 2010, 12% of the 180,000 burials that take place each year in the UK will be in woodland or natural settings.

Sources: Corbis
Sunday Herald
Glasgow Necropolis
Native Woodland
Natural Death Centre
Sea Burials
US Navy Mortuary

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