The creation of a Natural Burial Ground is among the plans for the future of Northwood Cemetery, as the Island’s largest ever cemetery restoration project continues.

There are more than 270 sites across the UK but no public-owned and operated sites on the Isle of Wight. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund and led by a group of volunteers from the charity Friends of Northwood Cemetery, the project aims to restore the site to its former glory whilst at the same time creating new on site facilities. Jon Matthews, chairman of the Friends’ Group said:

“There were two overgrown plots at the rear of the cemetery…that were intended for burial but which over many decades had become so overgrown there was actually no access to the land so they couldn’t be used. “Our proposal was to bring these plots back into community use, retaining where possible the healthy, specimen trees but removing all the bramble and scrub to create a woodland setting for a more natural form of burial”.

Common practice is for these sites to encourage the use of more biodegradable coffins such as wicker or cardboard and to restrict the use of metal or plastic handles or large memorial headstones. The exact approach to be adopted in Northwood Cemetery is currently being developed by the Isle of Wight Council Bereavement Services Manager, Susan Campion, and the Friends’ group, in consultation with the local community. Susan Campion said:

“We’re very excited about this new choice for local Island people. It will create new burial space which is needed and will provide a beautiful and peaceful woodland setting for those who are interested in having a more environmentally friendly burial or scattering of cremated remains. “The number of burial spaces created will, however, be limited and high demand is expected, with expressions of interest from local people keen to secure a space already received. “The Natural Burial Ground will include a woodland trail with rustic seating and sculptures beneath the canopy of the retained large oak and ash trees. “Spring bulbs will provide a carpet of colour to the front of the site and a rustic timber gazebo will be erected nearby to provide a place for funeral gatherings or for quiet reflection.”

An information event is being held on 12 March at 11am, at the Island’s Crematorium. lucymorgan