Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 12:48 UK

Green burials' growing popularity

Iolo ap Dafydd
Environment Correspondent

Enid Hagon's funeral in Usk
Enid Hagon's daughters wanted a simple funeral for their mother

As the trend for holding funerals at natural burial sites appears to grow, Iolo ap Dafydd tries to find the reasons why.

Enid Hagon's immediate family came a long way, they travelled from Birmingham and Botswana, to attend their mother's funeral in Usk.

Mrs Hagon was born in Ferndale, Rhondda, but left to train and work as a nurse in England.

Her daughters Jennifer and Lesley were looking for a simple funeral with a "lack of fuss and a lack of formality, because that was the sort of woman she was".

They chose a natural burial site.

Currently there are more than 200 dedicated natural burial sites in Britain, some of them are plots in council owned cemeteries.

Although up to 72% of Britons choose to be cremated, a lack of space in existing cemeteries and a greater environmental awareness, means more turn towards an alternative resting place, and a less traditional funeral.

Mrs Hagon's funeral took place at Usk Castle Chase.

But the 10-acre (4-hectare) site, a few miles from Usk's town square, owned by local landowner Rosie Humphreys and Native Woodland Ltd has had 45 "green" burials, with 120 more committed to be buried there.

A biodegradable coffin
Sea-grass, cane, wicker and cardboard coffins are used

The planning permission for the tree-lined glade which looks down on the Usk Valley is for "additional use". The land is agricultural grazing land, with permission now to bury up to 2,500 people.

Wales' fourth private and dedicated natural burial site, called Cardiff and the Vale, five miles from the city centre was opened earlier this month. This site is even bigger and is 20 acres (10 hectares) and co-owned again by Native Woodland Ltd and another local landowner.

James Leedam is Native Woodland's director. He said: "The land is grazed by sheep, and if the sheep have not eaten off the good grass, a crop of hay is taken off... and so the meadow has its own sustainable future.

"We just work with the land rather than separating it and really sterilising the land with headstones and burials - it's got a life of it's own," he added.

Green burial site in Usk
People can expect to pay 750 for a single plot at the site in Usk

Dorothy Brunt is a pensioner who lives in Usk. Her mother has been buried at Castle Chase, and she's booked a plot for herself as well.

"My mother always said she wanted to be near me, and as I just live a mile down the road, to me she was near. And so many memorial stones are forgotten about anyway, people don't bother with them - that's why to me this was better."

The Church in Wales does not view natural burials as being un-Christian, and holds services - for those who ask - at natural burial sites as Mark Soady, a canon at Newport's cathedral church said.

"The church doesn't have strong views one way or the other, although it is our Christian duty to be good stewards of the earth, and we are environmentally conscious - but what's important is that the spirit has gone back to it's creator God, and not really where the body is left to lie," he said.

Scots eyeing green Powys burials
10 Mar 06 |  Mid Wales

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