15 September 2015

Peaceful resting place by the sea

A cemetery nestled in a beautiful location overlooking the sea and the South Downs is taking shape on the edge of the city. The Woodland Valley Natural Burial Ground has been created by Brighton & Hove City Council and offers an environmentally friendly burial option.

In 2012, Brighton & Hove City Council’s bereavement services began work to transform a field behind the Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Woodingdean into an environment suited to natural burial. Trees and foliage can take up to a decade to reach maturity and a rolling plan for landscaping the area has been underway. Now the true potential for the site is becoming clear as the plants become established.

The new burial ground differs from a traditional cemetery in several ways and is for those wanting a more environmentally friendly means of burial. To keep the area as natural as possible only biodegradable coffins, caskets or shrouds are permitted to be buried. Instead of headstones, wooden memorial plaques can be added. Wild flower planting is welcomed on individual graves which can give a personal touch for visiting families.

There are also three sections allocated for cremated remains at Woodland Valley Natural Burial Ground. Seaview and Woodland Glade are scattering areas. There is also part of the grounds where cremated remains can be buried.

In total there is space for 1,500 burials and 440 cremation plots. The first burial took place at the grounds in 2013. 

Cllr Maggie Barradell, Deputy Chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said: “Woodland Valley Natural Burial Ground is an amazingly beautiful and peaceful place. It’s a perfect location for a natural burial ground, providing a quiet and restful place for reflection when visiting. I hope this new burial ground enables those choosing a natural place for loved ones, or indeed for themselves in the future, a sense of calmness. This environmentally friendly form of burial is understandably becoming increasingly popular. We hope this new addition to the city’s cemeteries gives comfort to those seeking a natural place for burial.”

The grounds will be officially opened on Wednesday 23 September by Mayor of Brighton & Hove Cllr Lynda Hyde and Andy Holter, President of the Sussex County Association of Funeral Directors.

Andy Holter, President of the Sussex County Association of Funeral Directors, said: “I am honoured to have been asked to attend this very important occasion and the opening of the New Woodland Valley Natural Burial Ground. This new burial ground has beautiful surroundings and is a welcome addition to the current cemetery offering more choice to the local community. Sussex County Association of Funeral Directors supports many of the funeral directors in Brighton & Hove and looks forward to supporting Brighton & Hove City Council at this event.”

A new elm sapling will be planted to mark the occasion and others elms will be planted over the winter months. The young trees have been donated by The Conservation Foundation.

David Shreeve, Director of The Conservation Foundation, said: “These trees will help to regenerate the elm tree population in Brighton & Hove which is home to the National Elm Collection and one of the last bastions of the elm in Britain. In the years to come they will also provide important habitats for many other rare species including the White-letter hairstreak butterfly. I am delighted Woodland Valley Natural Burial Ground is planting saplings from The Great British Elm Experiment.”

As with all the city’s existing woodland burial grounds, Woodland Valley is available to everyone, irrespective of faith or religion.

More information:

Natural burial options in Brighton & Hove

Brighton & Hove City Council bereavement services 

Each year approximately 350 to 400 people are buried in the city and more than 2,000 are cremated.

Woodland Valley cemetery opening times are 9am to 5.30pm in summer and 9am to 4pm in winter months, with opening at 11am Sundays and Bank Holidays.