Clandon Wood Natural Burial Ground
A Natural Burial
Most people don’t like to think about death and why would we? Life is for living and we generally put thoughts of our inevitable demise to one side. We infrequently focus on any aspect of that part of our future and although some pass on their final wishes to their family, many people don’t make any end of life plans at all.
I have attended a number of church funerals and cremations in recent years but I have never been to an environmentally friendly natural burial and so I was very interested to go and find out about the three-year-old Clandon Wood Natural Burial site near Guildford in Surrey.
Set in 31 acres of former fallow farmland, the Clandon Wood Natural Burial Ground is a charming wildlife and biodiverse habitat with a calm ambience that I found very soothing. Although the grounds are not yet mature, the intention to conserve the site as a nature reserve is very clear and there is a lake, woodland, newly planted orchards and acres of meadow scattered with wild flowers.
The modern glass Pavilion, where ceremonies can take place, should juxtapose with the rustic landscape but instead, light-filled and peaceful, it just seems to blend in effortlessly.
No specific religious ties required
With no ties to any religion, an interment at Clandon Wood can be whatever you want it to be. All the burial plots are single depth and are kept at ground level so that the pasture runs smoothly towards the horizon. The ashes plots are smaller and generally surrounded by trees. Whether you want your ceremony to be off site or in the Pavilion is up to you; some families administer their funerals themselves, others choose to have them officiated, some have a religious or spiritual stance and some do not – anything goes! Coffins are taken to the graveside either by foot or by a horse drawn hay cart. The mourners form a procession alongside the coffin which is reminiscent of pastoral scenes of a bygone era and is gently comforting.
Plenty of time to pause
There is no sense of rush or urgency at Clandon Wood. The bereaved are encouraged to pause and take the time they need and are welcome to return as frequently as they wish before the burial and afterwards. The kettle in the office is constantly on and visitors are made very welcome.
I found the staff absolutely delightful; friendly, kind and unhurried. Their affinity with the site shines through as does their awareness of the individual needs of each and every person who steps over the threshold. The staff will gently explain the workings of a natural burial, the process of Right to Burial as well as help you find the plot you feel is most appropriate for your needs. They also keep detailed electronic and paper records showing the exact location of each interment so that each grave can be identified easily today and in the future.
What particularly struck me about Clandon Wood was that although it is a burial ground with the capacity for over 20,000 burials, its simple design and sympathetic landscaping ensures it is unlikely to ever feel uncomfortably crowded.
Undoubtedly there are infinite sad moments as families and friends bury their loved ones but the ongoing life that blossoms within the acres of countryside in the form of flowers, butterflies, insects and birds is hopeful, uplifting and really rather beautiful.
Clandon Wood is open all year round and the office is open daily. To learn more, check the costs and find answers to your questions, have a look at their website or contact the office.
There are Natural Burial Sites all over the UK. The Registered Charity Natural Death, can be found here and can provide further information on natural burial.