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Oystermouths woodland burial ground offers a natural alternative by tyndale

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                Woodland Burial at Oystermouth Cemetery

Oystermouth's woodland burial ground offers a natural alternative to
conventional burial and cremation options. Whilst woodland sites have been
established already in various parts of Britain, this is the first of its kind in
Swansea and South West Wales and there are many features associated with
it that certainly make it unique.

Under Local Authority control, the Cemeteries and Crematorium Service is
part of the Environment Department of the City and County of Swansea,
which is also responsible for one crematorium and six other cemeteries.
Service requests, on average, amount to approximately 2,250 cremations and
1,000 burials each year.

The aim of the department is to provide a dignified burials and cremations
service which meets the needs of and offers choices to the bereaved. The
introduction of a woodland burial ground further enhances the service
available to families and has generated a great deal of interest from the public
whether choosing this option for a loved one or, perhaps, contemplating it for
their preferred option in the future.

There is increasing concern within society for the protection of the
environment. However, many people do not realise that, since 1949,
woodland clearance has increased and over 50% of our ancient woods (more
than 35 million trees) have been lost. This loss is not only to the landscape
but to the associated wildlife. A single mature oak can be a home to several
hundred species of insects, birds and mammals whilst the bark supports many
mosses and ferns.

Oystermouth's woodland site is managed as an area where new trees are
planted to complement existing mature trees - all being allowed to flourish and
remain, whilst also being able to accommodate burials. This approach
reinforces the concept of life's regular renewal, and it 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.
The original intention was that the area would be seen as a living memorial in
itself, though it has since been agreed that individual graves can be marked
discreetly by a wooden marker which, in time, will 'weather' down again in
accordance with sustainability and returning to the soil.

An increasing number of people are choosing to be buried in this
environmentally friendly way and we advise the following for guideline
purposes:

   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.

As mentioned above, the area will be maintained by the Council very much in
a low key manner; the minimal amount of mowing positively encourages and
protects trees, shrubs and wildlife. Wild flowers will thereby be encouraged
also and it must be emphasised that the traditional 'neat and tidy' appearance
portrayed in other parts of Oystermouth Cemetery will not apply to this area.

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.
Why green burial?
 Kind to nature
 No pollution
 Pleasant surroundings
 Celebrate a life by giving new life
 Low maintenance or risk of neglect - nature will take care
 Support wildlife
 We all need trees

What does green burial offer?
 Beautiful, natural surroundings
 Peaceful but not isolated
 Greater choice of type/style funeral
 Use of natural materials
 All graves will be prepared by hand

We do point out that the woodland section is not intended for those who want
graves of a neat and tidy appearance, and, due to the lack of 'traditional'
memorialisation, 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.

The Cemetery Supervisor has played a key role in the planning, establishment
and operation of the woodland area and has obtained a great deal of job
satisfaction from seeing it develop from an unused piece of land into an
environmentally friendly burial ground.

Due to the fact that it was already part of the existing cemetery, there was
very little establishment cost involved. In fact, two days work for a JCB was
all that was needed. Additional planting of young trees took place and seed
sown to provide seasonal covering and colour. A rustic gate entrance way
was installed and some seating made from locally felled trees complete the
picture.

As stated previously, the minimal amount of labour involved with maintenance
also means that there is very little ongoing cost either. Though it would be
totally unacceptable to the vast majority of bereaved families if this
maintenance regime was introduced throughout the cemetery, we have
successfully reduced the grass cutting frequencies in order to demonstrate
our commitment to sustainability within all of our cemeteries.

Woodland planting can ensure a pleasant visual aspect all year round and
can highlight the expectancy of seasonal trends and when different flowers
can be anticipated, though at times it might appear that there is not much
happening.

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.

We aim to reassure and fulfil the expectations of all those involved by helping
as much as possible at a difficult time. Many people regard woodland burial
as an opportunity to see to all arrangements themselves without using the
services of a Funeral Director. In such cases, our helpful staff are available
and competent to provide appropriate information and assistance. However, it
is worth noting that funeral directors have many years of experience, as well
as necessary facilities and vehicles, and will usually guide families expertly
through the process.

Our woodland burial ground is part of an existing cemetery; dating back to
1883 when the first ever burial took place, the old memorials, monuments and
statues represent a signified period of local history. The cemetery was
extended in the 1930's which saw the introduction of a more modern lawn
type section, with beautiful views over the bay of Mumbles. This setting is
most appropriate for the occasion when the crew of Mumbles lifeboat lost their
lives and are all buried in this part of the cemetery looking out to sea.

The woodland section is accessed via these traditional areas – a fact which
many people have commented gives them a sense of reassurance that the
woodland burial ground is not a remote site, but is part of a cemetery.

Whilst the surrounding area is a fairly built up environment, it is also on the
doorstep of Gower, which was the first AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural
Beauty) to be declared in Britain. It is therefore, especially important that the
facility is located where it is.

Establishment - It was already there! All it took was some inspired thinking by
a member of staff, and an area of land - that would have been difficult and
wasteful to turn into traditional burial land - was quickly established as an
appealing and meaningful alternative to 'conventional' burials.

It cost very little to set up, did not require any special planning permission and
it has very low running and operating costs. Yet it provides families with a
greater choice, it provides families with an environmentally friendly choice and
demonstrates a commitment on behalf of the Council to provide services that
the public want.
To date, many burials have been accommodated in the section and a great
deal of interest has been generated with enquiries for future 'intentions'.
Feedback has been very positive and some burials have taken place of
people who lived outside the Local Authority area. Having visited alternative
sites, families were convinced that Oystermouth was indeed the most natural
setting and could provide them with the green burial they required.

Local Funeral Directors have also reacted favourably to the facility as they
also face increasing requests for non-traditional funerals.

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.

Environmental issues may not have featured too prominently previously with
regard to bereavement, possibly due to the extreme sensitivity of the subject.
However, this view is changing, as environmental issues become increasingly
important. The inclusion of the cremation process in the Environment
Protection Act 1990 and current discussion about mercury abatement are
examples of this together with the concept of woodland burial. Services
associated with bereavement may have more impact perhaps than initially
considered. Improvements in this area are very relevant to 'acting locally -
thinking globally'.



Oystermouth Cemetery Supervisor (Andy Parsons) tel.no: 07980 721559
Cost of Woodland Burial, Depth for One (Apr 2009 - Mar 2010) = £660
Purchase of Wooden Marker for single grave (Apr 2009 – Mar 2010) = £68

City and County of Swansea
Cemeteries and Crematorium Division
Room G4.6
Civic Centre
Swansea
SA1 3SN

Tel. no: 01792 636389




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