My friend Sue writes at London Cemeteries and described her visit to Epping Forest Burial Park recently and how it changed her view of burial. Like her, I previously favoured cremation (or even burial at sea, in my more eccentric moments) until I visited a natural burial site.
Cremation strangely felt less gruesome. I felt discomfort at the idea of my own decaying body, not least because I have imagined the putrifying bodies of my own dead, buried friends, and have found that horrific. I have since learnt a bit more about cremation and can’t say I care for that much any more.
To me, graveyards have beauty and sometimes beguiling, architechtural chaos, but they are often little more than derelict. I dislike the ego and disorder, frankly, of crooked headstones and crumbling tombs unless they are seriously old. Most municipal cemeteries are ugly, even if the individual memorials have charm and dignity. Few modern memorials are pleasing.
And so I visited Clayton Woods at the weekend, mostly out of curiosity. It has a serene setting and is delightfully unmawkish. In time, it will simply become woodland. They only allow wooden memorials.
Dust to dust. Put me in a cardboard box when I die and plant a tree, if you fancy. That would be nice. Natural burial is the way to go, quite literally. All of a sudden it made sense that the worms should eat me in a due course and that idea feels like a good one.
Clayton Wood is a wonderful model. Informal but organised on a piece of land that is picturesque but not really of much use for anything else. The barn like shelter where you can hold a ceremony is non-religious. You can have any send-off you want.
But it’s the simplicity that delights me. A beautiful setting. A hole. A body. A biodegradable coffin. A tree. The passage of time and the work of nature. As good as death gets, surely?