The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Burial depth – my last word

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The natural burial ground at Sun Rising taken from their website – www.nrbgrounds.co.uk

For some time now I have been nagging natural burialists about the depth at which they inter their bodies. My concern has been that, beneath the topsoil, a body is not going to enjoy the ecologically positive rot envisaged for it.

I have had this response from Emma Restall Orr at Sun Rising. I think that what she says says it all. Thank you, Emma.

Our burial depth is a standard 4’ – 4’6 on very heavy clay. While I know that many local authority cemeteries bury now at a standard 5’ or 6’, to ensure the option for double interment, I am aware of burial in churchyards that is less than this on occasion, such as where a grave is being reopened for the second interment and the initial burial was not adequately deep. I cannot imagine us ever burying at less than 4’ however, particularly as we have no double graves at all.

While we acknowledge there is an image that our remains will feed the tree planted on top of us, this would require us to bury at 2’ and less. But at this depth, the deceased would risk bring disturbed by badgers or foxes. This is not a risk worth taking, nor is it necessary. The idea is poetic, not practical, and we make this clear to any families who enquire.

Though the sentimental images are valuable in the process of grieving and healing, the ethos of a natural burial ground is (for us) real, down to earth, practical care for the deceased, their families, and the environment, not poetry. First of all, most native trees don’t require rich soil, many preferring soil that is not well fertilised. Secondly, however, burial returns the body’s elements back into the cycles of nature, long term – in a way that cremation does not. The planting of the tree adds to the health of those cycles, and the richness of the environment generally. And this is enough.

2 comments on “Burial depth – my last word

  1. Monday 7th October 2013 at 2:27 pm

    I know this blog item is ages old but at the Dalton Woodland Burial Ground we bury to a depth that allows 1 metre (40inches) of soil cover over the coffin

  2. Monday 25th October 2010 at 7:41 pm

    We bury at the same depth 4ft-4ft6, we feel at this depth nature will in the long term be able to recycle the body and it is deep enough so that wild life will not disturb the deceased and our ethos is similar to Emma’s

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