Durham’s residents will once again be able to choose a final resting place among trees, nature and wild flowers.

The city’s picturesque natural burial grounds, next to South Road Cemetery, were previously run by the Woodland Burial Trust.

Following the liquidation of the trust, however, in 2016, burials were temporarily suspended. But now Durham County Council has taken over and reopened the natural burial grounds.

The grounds have space for 700 burials, with 70 plots already taken or reserved.

The council has said that the peaceful, tranquil site will be maintained as a natural glade. No headstones are allowed and only biodegradable coffins will be permitted.

Durham County Council will run the grounds with the support of the Friends of Durham Woodland Cemetery, who own the lodge at the site.

The Friends of Durham Woodland Cemetery can offer support to families planning a natural burial and can supply a memorial plaque if requested. The friends will also help the council to improve and maintain the site.

All newly requested natural burials at the woodland grounds will be the same price as burials at any other council-run cemeteries.

Durham County Council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, Cllr Brian Stephens, said, “We know that the local community is keen to see (the site) continue to operate as a natural burial area and, following record checks, we are very pleased to announce that we are once again able to offer this alternative to more traditional cemetery burial.”

The council has stated that it will honour all previous reservations for plots made with the Woodland Burial Trust (WBT).

The council’s head of direct services, Oliver Sherratt, said, “We are well aware that a number of people have paid to reserve a plot and we’re pleased to provide assurance that previous commitments made by the Woodland Burial Trust will be honoured.”

Stephan Hare, from The Friends of Durham Woodland Cemetery, said, “We are pleased that the council has taken action to honour the agreements made with the WBT and are committed to supporting its efforts.”

“Operating as a friends group, we are very passionate about the site and are keen to support the ongoing operation and development of the site.”

(Featured image courtesy of Elke Mader from Flickr Creative Commons.)

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