Death and dying, whilst often not being the easiest of subjects to talk about, are matters which will affect all of us at different points in our lives. It can be difficult to talk about what we would like to happen after death for ourselves and our loved ones, and this can result in these conversations not happening, and families and friends first having to consider funeral options at the point when their loved one has passed away.
This week I visited Old Park Meadow, a natural burial ground just north of Chelmsford, set in a beautiful area of natural countryside. I was greeted by Delyse, the manager of the project, who showed me around the facility which opened in September 2017.
The main building where services take place has a real sense of peace, not least of all contributed to by the amazing views across the grounds. Services available include full body burials, interment of ashes, wakes, memorials and celebrations of life in whatever form they choose. You do not have to reside in Essex to use Old Park Meadow, and all faiths and beliefs are welcomed. The team here work to accommodate every individual wish of the deceased and their loved ones.
Currently Old Park Meadow is the resting place for over 500 people. Some people have purchased their graves in advance, and people are encouraged to visit and look around if they are considering a natural burial ground as an option. Delyse advocates for families and loved ones having discussions about their post death wishes in advance.
‘I have noticed over the years that families who have had some kind of discussion or have been left instructions by their deceased loved one, are still of course grieving but tend to be less traumatised than families who have no idea what their loved one wanted. There is a definite comfort in knowing that you are carrying out someone’s final wishes.’
In a natural burial, everything which goes into the ground must be biodegradable, so for example, coffins and urns must not contain any metal or plastic. Ashes must also be interred and not scattered, as this is not environmentally friendly.
The team here are committed to preserving and investing in nature, as well as creating a picturesque setting for families, and with land spanning 34 acres, they have planted over 3500 trees, 500 metres of native hedgerow and 400 metres of yew. Whilst the grounds are highly maintained by staff, maintaining the natural element is extremely important, and they work closely with Essex Wildlife Trust. Whatever the season, those attending services or visiting loved ones are able to take some comfort in the beauty of the surroundings.
Burial plots may be in the bluebell wood, the wildflower meadow, spring corner, or with a view of the scenic pond, depending on personal preference. Graves can be marked with a wooden marker or left unmarked. The team at Old Park Meadow use a mapping system to ensure that they have a record of the location of every burial site.
Old Park Meadow is one of many natural burial grounds across the country, yet many of us have no idea that such places exist. They offer not only a highly bespoke service, helping to make after-death services personal and meaningful, but also a stunning resting place surrounded by nature and the elements. They are undoubtedly an option to consider when having those discussions and making the decisions about what we want to happen when we die.
If you would like to access support around any of the issues mentioned in this blog, give the Healthwatch Essex Information & Guidance Service a call on 0300 500 1895, email [email protected] or text/WhatsApp on 07712 395398.
If you would like to find out more about Old Park Meadow, contact them via their website Home – Old Park Meadow