A new natural burial ground has opened up in Edenbridge after being in the pipeline for five years. Eden Valley Woodland Burial Ground has now opened in Crouch House Road and the first two burials on the site have taken place.
Thousands of bluebell seeds have been scattered over the graves of its first two residents buried there last week. Rosie Inman-Cook, manager of the Natural Death Centre Charity, has been planning the site for five years.
She said: “There’s nothing in Kent apart from one small site in Sittingbourne so other than that people have to go to Brighton. “It’s beautiful and the site is huge so there is plenty of room.”
The 20 acre site opened on July 8 and lets people who are getting their affairs in order to select and book a plot, as well as bereaved families looking for an affordable natural cemetery. The price of a burial is comparable with cremation costs in the area and the site also means it is now a permanent green space. “People are being forced to cremate because a burial is so expensive, so this gives people the choice,” said Mrs Inman-Cook who has been in the business for 16 years, who went to St Andrew’s Convent School after growing up in Hever, before moving to Hampshire.
“I grew up in Hever and run natural burial sites around the country and for my day job I get calls from people in this area going some distance to get this kind of burial.”
The space allows for 10,000 natural burials and there will be no headstones or coffins allowed. Instead, the deceased would be buried in biodegradable eco-coffins to allow them to decompose and relatives could opt to have a tree or flowers planted on the site of their resting place, expanding the existing seven acre, ancient, bluebell wood across the whole site.
Amy House, the manager of the site, said: “Choosing this kind of burial gives families the opportunity to have a very gentle, unique farewell. “Being part of this nature reserve site is a positive choice and leaves behind a living legacy, a memorial to those buried here. It is a quiet, secluded and beautiful site that we will be sharing with many families”. Funerals can be as traditional or as modern as is required by the family or following the deceased’s wishes.
Some families will choose to have a ceremony at church and come to the site afterwards for the burial and others will hold the whole ceremony at the graveside. And people of all faiths are welcome.
In keeping with the eco-friendly ethos of the project, all the graves are hand dug by Amy’s husband Martin, which causes less disturbance to the existing wildlife “especially our wonderful nightingales” she said.
“There is complete freedom here to hold whatever ceremony or service is appropriate. We expect to see everything from full choirs to grandchildren playing their recorders at the graveside,” she added.
The charity, which also runs the Association of Natural Burial Grounds will also be offering free training at Eden Valley to would be burial site managers from around the UK and abroad.