Natural Burials Information Pack
Nestling under a canopy of broadleaf trees and a yew grove, our natural burial site lies in a peaceful and secluded corner of The Sustainability Centre, near East Meon in Hampshire. It is bordered on three sides by woodland, creating a true sense of intimacy and privacy. Part of the South Downs National Park, the south side overlooks a 50-acre sheep pasture and, on a clear day, gives breathtaking views across Hampshire Downs to the coast.
Many families have found great comfort here, laying their loved ones to rest with natural and simple dignity.
In keeping with our ethos, each grave is dug especially by hand to minimise any impact on the flora, fauna and tranquillity of the site. Coffins and shrouds are made from fully biodegradable materials. No grave-markings or headstones are used here (again, to protect the natural surroundings) but families are most welcome to plant native wild flowers. Naturally, the location of each grave is meticulously plotted and recorded, and families are provided with a map.
For the burial itself, the coffin is conveyed through the grounds using a hand-drawn bier, or a horse-drawn cart. We also offer rooms in which services can be held, and we can arrange hospitality. However, these rooms are not always available.
Our natural burial ground is managed with ecological principles in mind. The woodland is managed to restore broadleaf woodland and coppice, to ensure a rich bio-diversity, encouraging wildlife including owls, badgers, raptors and stoats.
"A beautiful, peaceful place which is well managed by people who care about the ethos of the place, but also those buried there. I really can't think of how it could be improved."
Viewing the Site
Please make an appointment to view the site and talk through all of the arrangements by contacting the Burial Site Manager via email or telephone. If you or a member of your party is unable to manage the walk to the burial site, there is a four wheel drive car which will be made available to convey you there.
If you wish to see a member of staff on any subsequent visits please make an appointment to avoid disappointment and a wasted journey especially if you require the use of the 4x4.
We are not able to provide a full Funeral Director Service but are able to work alongside your chosen funeral provider.
Those families who choose to carry out the whole or part of the funeral themselves are supported by our experienced and capable team both beforehand and on the day.
Step By Step Guide
The Funeral Director or Undertaker
These are skilled professionals who are available to make this difficult time easier for you. They have the experience that will allow them to offer you valuable advice.
If you are not planning to use a Funeral Director/Undertaker, but are conducting the procedure yourself, please let us know so that we can support you and make you aware of all aspects involved.
We welcome people of all beliefs and none. We offer a very personal touch enabling you to choose the most appropriate way of conducting a service. Many people use a representative of their religion, but you could also use a non-religious celebrant or a family member. We can provide contacts and advice.
The Sustainability Centre has rooms which can be hired for services and catering if they are available. Some families have a service elsewhere before they come for the committal; other families prefer to hold the service at the graveside.
As an eco-friendly burial site, we only accept bio-degradable non toxic coffins. There are many types of eco-coffin available.
Traditional, solid wood coffins welcomed, as long as they are not made of or veneered with tropical hardwoods. Untreated native oak and pine are fine. Woven willow and bamboo are preferred. There are also coffins made with sea-grass, banana leaf and water hyacinth. However, when making your choice you may like to consider that many of these have travelled great distances adding to their carbon footprint. Cardboard is very popular and inexpensive, and there are a variety of designs are available. Some families choose not to use a coffin at all in these cases we are happy to accept bio-degradable body bags or shrouds. We do allow grave-goods as long as they are made from natural materials.
In support of our ethos MDF is prohibited and we do not permit non-degradable linings and fittings. We do not allow embalming.
As we intend that the woodland naturalises over time we do not preserve the identity of individual graves, and we do not allow grave markers. This does mean that the individual graves become harder to locate over time. However a plan of the cemetery showing plot locations is supplied to each family and is also available to view during normal office hours.
In keeping with our ethos, we recommend that you ask attending mourners to remove plastic from floral tributes. We also ask that any funeral tributes are constructed using natural products and not formed with oasis and plastic trays as this creates a considerable disposal problem. Tributes containing oasis will be removed immediately and you may be asked to take it home with you. Cut flowers may be placed on the grave at any time but will be removed after a reasonable period.
Planting of appropriate wild flowers is encouraged as part of our woodland restoration practice, but these must conform to the list of species provided. This is necessary to prevent cross-pollination and the irreversible contamination of our native species. The planting of shrubs and trees is not permitted. The woodland restoration is undertaken by our staff to fulfil a long-term management plan for the area as a whole.
Reservation of a plot, by a partner or family member may be made at the time of burial by purchasing a double depth plot. These reserved plots will be available for a maximum of 30 years and may not be transferred. Application can be made to extend this time period if required after the initial period is elapsed.
Woodland Management and Tree Planting
Our Natural Burial Site was a conifer and beech plantation planted about 40 years ago by the Royal Navy. The woodland had never been managed so the trees have failed to thrive.
As part of our woodland restoration and management we are now felling most of the conifer and replanting with species that belong on the South Downs. The re-stocked woodland will consist of native species that may eventually be coppiced and
harvested for rural industry and wood fuel.
This ‘working woodland’ will dramatically extend the life of the trees and shrub-layer species. This, in turn will enhance the opportunities for wildlife. Tree planning will planted in the winter months, when the young tree has the best chance of survival.
Not all plots will have a tree planted. This may be because the plot is already under an existing tree or in an area where a tree would be inappropriate, or the plot is not yet fully occupied.
There are a wide variety of wildflowers and native bulbs that are suitable for this habitat and may be planted. Only species that are native to the South Downs are permitted.
Nature is wonderful and will naturally re-colonise the site given time, so if you can be patient and allow natural regeneration it will provide the most suitable plants for this location.
All species which are not native to the South Downs are removed. This is to prevent cross-pollination and the irreversible contamination of our wild, native species. The most common plants that need to be removed are Spanish Bluebells and Primula or Polyanthus.
If you wish to plant flowers in graves we strongly recommend Naturescape.
They are a mail order nursery who always supply the correct species from our list.
The South Downs Natural Burial Site is owned and managed by the Earthworks Trust and these regulations have been developed to enable The Trust to shape and preserve a natural area for the benefit of nature and for future generations. It is essential to combine a proper respect for the dead with a suitable and sensitive management and planting program. We aim to create an area which is peaceful, ecologically rich and a fitting memorial to those who rest there.
Management of the Burial Site
Please be aware that if a burial is taking place near your plot, it may be necessary for us to construct boarding over your plot to manage the spoil. This is done in a sensitive way to protect plant species and the area is returned to its natural state as soon as possible. We apologise for any distress or inconvenience caused.
In order to maintain and manage a natural burial ground to the high standards expected by the Earthworks Trust and our clients we have drawn up a set of regulations. These clearly set out our expectations and reflect our ethos.
General Care and Behaviour
Wild Plants and Their Management
South Downs Natural Burial Site
The Sustainability Centre
Monday - Friday
9.30am - 4.30pm
If you need to speak to a member of staff please make an appointment to avoid a wasted journey. Informal visits are welcome at any time.
Winner of the People’s Award for the Best Natural Burial Ground in the UK 2013
A Member of the Association of Natural Burial Grounds
The South Downs Natural Burials Site is owned by the Earthworks Trust
Charity No. 1079866