Louise Kelly contacted us recently to start making arrangements for her mother's ashes to be interred at Usk Castle Chase.
"My mum was born in the Ponthir House in Monmouthshire in 1926, she was then Audrey Harris" Louise told us. "Her grandfather and grandmother ran the pub. He was also the local coal merchant. Mum was one of nine children of whom only one remains. They all stayed in Newport except my mum, who moved to London in her twenties and lived there for rest of her life. "
Louise came to look at the Lower Meadow as a final resting place for her mother. While she was there she did a drawing and then a painting when she returned home to London.
"As I also live in London, I just wanted the meadow in my own home," said Louise. "I am hoping to bring my mum to the meadow in January 2019."
We are grateful to her for letting us share the image on our website for others to appreciate. For me, it certainly captures the essence of Lower Meadow in the winter mists. I love it and hope you do too.
I love a historic churchyard or a Victorian cemetery, the craft and sculpture of the memorial mason. The darkness of mature yew trees, the statuesque sequoias and grand cedars. The mellow tones of limestone and lead and the flash of verdigris from weathered bronze. Wrought and cast iron railings, sundials and globes, anchors and chains. Such decadence. Rich and competitive displays of grief. They were never sustainable and continue to drain the resources of those who care for them.
The Second World War cut labour and material resources. It also brought about a change in attitude towards death and equality, which put a stop on the exuberance and rich craftsmanship of previous generations. Enter modern municipal cemeteries. These strived to take a more pragmatic approach with the aim of reducing maintenance requirements. The lawn-cemetery was conceived in the 1950's, taking inspiration from the simple uniformity of the war graves. They adopted the principle but lost the soul.
Today's lawn cemeteries have no charm or beauty. They feature narrow strips of mis-matching, back-to-back memorials bolted onto bands of cast reinforced concrete, that steps down with each change in level. Between the rows of memorials, aisles of barren, mown grass continue the austerity. They present a rather sad, perfunctory arrangement; stock headstones of indestructible polished rock, imported from halfway around the world. Alongside clichéd epitaphs, sandblasted into the stone, new technology has allowed images to be laser etched or full-colour printed onto the stones. Flowers left in integral vases range from fresh to spent, while artificial blooms linger longer to end in faded brittleness. Across an internal tarmac road might lie an area of 'traditional' graves with kerbstones and more substantial memorials. Here, to avoid strimming and fiddly grass-cutting lawn has been replaced by buff coloured gravel, interspersed by resin-bonded micro-gravel paths. Further on is an array of stone tablets each with its own flower vase and inscription. A sea of artificial silk flowers on plastic coated wire stems, cast stone figurines and solar powered lights, it's all too much for the eye to settle on.
My heart sinks in these places. I don't belong here. I long for the calm uniformity, and crispness of a war graves area, or to browse the heritage, art-forms and craft of the high Victorians, or to feel the patina of weathered, local stones leaning in God's green acres. But I'm most at home in the peace and simplicity of a truly natural burial ground.
Our mantra - 'Simple, natural and beautiful' seems to work best.
Often a person will have told the family not to waste any money on their funeral. Direct cremation is a low cost option that is growing in popularity. It simply means that the body is removed and cremated with the minimum fuss, with no service at the crematorium, and at the funeral director's and crematorium's convenience. This means that the family won't be able to visit and view the body after removal and cannot attend the cremation, which some might not want, but the cost reductions can be significant.
A number of national companies have been formed specifically to offer this service, but you don't necessarily have to use one of those, as your local funeral director should be able to provide the same service for you if you ask them.
It is quite possible to organise a direct cremation yourself. You will need to liaise with the staff at the crematorium about paperwork that you will need to complete, the type of coffin to use and the timing and method of bringing the person who has died to them. Guidance from the government is published here online
When a cremation is separate from the farewell, family can stay with fellow mourners after a memorial service. This has the benefit that they won't miss the opportunity to mix with everyone at the post-funeral gathering and enjoy the support that brings. Often by the time the family get back from the crematorium quite a number of the people who have gathered for the funeral have departed.
Cremation is never the final rite, but you have longer to decide what you do with the ashes. What you choose to do can be to fulfil the person's identity; put them somewhere they'd love to be...
you'll take my dust
and lay it down in peace
'neath leafy boughs
and moonlit skies
for there, I'll feel released”
Visit the National Memorial Arboretum
On Tuesday 26th June 2018, we attended a conference organised by the Church of England at the National Memorial Arboretum. The title of the conference was...
"Just put me in the bin" - Contemporary issues around ashes and bodies
On one of the hottest days of the summer, speakers from the church academia and funeral professionals addressed a marquee full of clergy, celebrants and a couple of cemetery managers (us).
Some interesting points we took away are: -
"A good funeral gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be."
When planting an apple tree at Bath in memory of her husband, his wife told us that she wears his wedding ring on a chain around her neck with the longitude and latitude of his grave engraved into the ring so that she would never forget.
We love this idea and searched for something similar so that others could do the same. That is when we discovered Silversmith, Cari-Jane Hakes, who hand-makes highly personalised sterling silver necklaces with a minimal and contemporary design, specifically to record those moments when our lives change forever. Her design lets you commemorate these events by engraving them onto the silver bands of this necklace - past moments, worn close to your heart and carried with you into your future.
The engravings can be uniquely yours...
"Let me know if you have any ideas you want to explore. Basically anything that involves metal and text I can do!" Cari. Contact Cari by email email@example.com
Her work is available through her ETSY website.
A frequent feature of Scottish funerals is the presence of a piper which is becoming more and more popular.
On 28th February, we held a funeral at our Delliefure natural burial ground, Grantown on Spey and the funeral procession was lead by "Award Winning" Spud The Piper aka Callum Fraser.
Dressed in all his finery, Spud played his bagpipes during the service and instead of stopping at the end of the service, he walked away into the distance still piping, with the music floating away with him.
Spud is known worldwide and plays at weddings, ceilidhs and just about every event where music adds something special to the setting.
His website is full of information and gallery photos as well as contact details to book him directly.
We think this week's guest blogger, Kitsty Reid's work is beautiful and inspiring, it is absolutely the type of craft that we wish to support and promote...
We are based in Morayshire and grow cut flowers and herbs on site here, using organic and sustainable practices. Our funeral work seeks to honour the seasons and locally harvested materials, including materials cut from our own gardens and where requested from the gardens of the deceased or their loved ones. We are also happy to include materials foraged in places that were of particular significance to the deceased - on the beach, in the forest, by the river etc.
Our wreath bases are handwoven by us from gathered materials including blackberry, willow, hazel, and birch. We decorate them using flowers and herbs (in season), pine cones, seedheads, leaves and more. We are a listed supplier for the woodland burial ground at Findhorn and have also provided flowers for a funeral in our local village church. As well as wreaths, we make funeral sprays and coffin garlands, and even tiny little herbal posies which we have made for people to carry at funerals as we (and they) have found the scent helps to comfort, calm and ground them in moments of particular stress and emotional overwhelm, such as during the reading of a eulogy.
We'd love to work with more green and natural burial grounds as restoring a sense of seasonality and of the cycle of nature to the processes of dying, death, burial and grieving is something we feel strongly committed to.
The Teeny Weeny Farm
Sustainably grown cut flowers, edible flowers & herbs
Dyke, Forres, Moray IV36 2TF
Inevitably, professionals are busy and lack the time and inspiration to treat everything as an individual case. I am sure families would love what our guest blogger, Alison Eddy, can offer...
As a designer and artist, initially I was asked by friends and family to create bespoke Order of Service brochures. Having myself witnessed loss, I wanted to contribute something at this difficult time. By creating a unique design, we could remember their loved ones more intimately and vividly than many readily available designs. I also hoped to combine a level of professionalism with my genuine desire to reflect, albeit on this modest stage, a little about the person and their life.
I felt there was a place for bespoke cards that marked a person’s life with celebration and with a non-denominational approach. Where the design could reflect their passions, work or incorporate something unique that would allow their loved ones to smile as they remembered it.
Revelling in the beauty and grandeur of nature, many of the background images I use are full-bleed imagery which give a visceral sense of being somewhere beautiful and important, perhaps providing some comfort as they picture their loved ones there. After the service it can also serve as a small reminder of the occasion and sit alongside other
memories and treasured photos.
How it works
Initially, we can give advice on how others have approached this to simplify the process during this difficult time. For example, I’ve found that an A4 size (an ordinary sheet of paper) folded to A5 creating 4 sides, is a format that works well. Giving enough space for important details without having to worry about providing lots of content.
We can discuss the imagery a client would like to use, which they can send as scanned images. I also have an extensive library of original photographs I have taken which lend themselves to evocative backdrops for other images and information about the service. Sometimes when using vintage photographs, I can also enhance them with a little digital restoration, and make them print worthy once again.
Once we have settled on an idea I can design the order of service card and send an initial design proof to you via email for your comments or updates. I can make these adjustments and then when you are happy to sign-off the design, I will send it to a trusted local printer. The finished printed, trimmed and folded brochures can be delivered to a chosen UK address.
I appreciate that during this time, the last thing you want to think about is cost or timings. So I aim to work with agreed fixed costs that include managing print and delivery. This ensures expenses and production are kept simple and timely, so you have what you need, when you need it. Out of respect, I have only included a few finished designs. As an example, prices for this complete bespoke design service range from £350-£550, with print costs averaging between £30-£55 dependent on the quantity needed. My website, designandpurpose.com, gives broader examples of my design and experience".
SUNDAY, 23RD APRIL 2017 - 2.00 P.M TO 4.00 P.M
Our lovely landowner/custodian, Rosie Humphreys, at our natural burial meadow at Usk came up with the brilliant idea of how we could occasionally be present at the site to answer any enquiries from visitors. She has purchased and sited a shepherd's hut at the top of the drive just before you reach the burial ground's car park. We have been there each Sunday afternoon for the month of April. There are just two Sunday afternoons to go, so please come along if you would like to have a chat, have any questions or would simply like to have a look around.
At a recent funeral at Usk, assisted by Helen Williams of Treasured Funeral Ceremonies, a family posted a notice in the memorial shelter where people gathered for the funeral. We think it explains why people choose natural burial beautifully...
Stories and thoughts from the Leedam camp.
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