Recently on the Arran Community Forum webpages there has been mention of woodland burials as an option for the island, so here is some information from an organisation in Wales, The Eternal Forest Trust, who provide funeral, burial and dedication services in a peaceful woodland setting.
From the Eternal Forest Trust website
“Woodland burial means becoming literally part of the wood. In death, the body is transformed into new forms of life. The physical remains of the dead are gradually absorbed by microscopic life-forms in the soil; these pass the nutrients to fungi, which in turn feed the roots of the trees. Cremation is not environmentally friendly; it turns the proteins in the body into oxides of carbon and nitrogen, which go into the atmosphere to add to the problem of greenhouse gases. Natural woodland burial is part of the solution to our current eco-crisis. We seek to enhance biodiversity, celebrating the beauty and variety of Nature.
All these aspects of our Vision are reflected in the four Objects of the Charity, which, in summary, are:
1. Provision of amenity woodland for the public;
2. Education about native woodland;
3. Provision and maintenance of a green burial ground;
4. Succour for the bereaved.
We hope that in the long term, The Eternal Forest Trust will be able to propagate this vision, assisting other groups in setting up green burial grounds where trees and wildlife may enjoy sanctuary alongside people.”
The following is a piece from The Guardian’s Country Diary, ‘Laying our friend to rest in the woods’ from 3rd February 2018, where Jim Perrin describes the burial of a friend at the Boduan Sanctuary, the woodland of the Eternal Forest Trust, in Pwllheli, Wales.
My dear old friend loved birds. They brought her joy. I’d spent many peaceful hours in her garden room, keeping her company, watching the nuthatches, woodpeckers, goldfinches and siskins at her bird table during these recent years of illness patiently borne. She died in the last minutes of the old year, at the age of 88. A woodland burial was arranged at Boduan Sanctuary. Waxy-white clumps of snowdrops reflected in the hearse’s paintwork as she left her home for the last time.
At the sanctuary wood’s car park we lifted her into a sturdy rustic cart with iron-rimmed wheels. On the narrow path into the wood, one of these ran over my foot. I imagined the quip this lively, humorous woman would have lanced my way, and changed position to push from the back. We held straps to lower her into the grave, and as we did so the sun’s barred rays threaded through the trees, traversed her wicker coffin, and illuminated the moss and the pale trunks of the silver birches.
Twm Morys, musician and poet, played slow Welsh airs on his telyn farddol (poet’s harp). Her daughters spoke their eulogies at the graveside. Bramblings flitted among a rain-pearled delicacy of branches. Buzzards mewed overhead. Ravens chuckled to and fro on an opposite hillside. A priest officiated, through humanity and kindliness, eschewing dogma. Our friend had spent her last 40 years looking out to the hills above the birch copse where her corpse now lies.
Years ago a Gaelic poet, Aonghas MacNeacail, told me that “in profound grief there is profound joy”. That insight is now tempered with a further understanding: that peace is attained through acceptance of the natural cycle, and death itself can become a celebration of life; while nature is the mirror and foundation for every resurrection myth.
What a rightness, then, in the end, to be put to rest in nature. For my dear old friend’s daughters, the solace of this birchwood glade as place of retreat and communion, where their mother can become the trees, the flowers, all that draws sustenance from them, all the sweetness they give to the air. No amens here, only blessings.
For more information go to the Eternal Forest Trust website
The featured image shows the Boduan Sanctuary wood. Photograph: courtesy of The Eternal Forest Trust.