Natural burial ground approved in West Dorset

19th June 2020#dorset-downs#leedam
Natural burial ground approved in West Dorset

Congratulations to our newest landowners

Jeremy and Tessa, our latest landowner partners, have received planning permission for their natural burial ground in Dorset. The burial ground is just west of Dorchester and it has taken a while for this to go through. We are really excited to see Dorset Downs natural burial ground take shape.

Jeremy and Tessa, the Custodians at Dorset Downs Natural Burial Ground

The land approved for the natural burial ground is located on top of the downs above Compton Valence. This offers natural resting places for the population of Dorchester, Weymouth and Bridport. For the rural communities within West Dorset and for areas beyond.

“The field has been taken out of arable cultivation and we will re-seed with a wildflower-rich mix. This will create a permanent downland pasture and return the area to the way it was before the last war. This is when it was ploughed in the drive for more food. We will be restoring locally distinctive landscape”, said landowner, Jeremy Russell.

This type of restoration is a key priority within this part of the Dorset and Dorset’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“We are really fortunate that the neighbouring area of Special Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) is part of the farm. We hope that over time this will gradually help to populate the area with indigenous wildlife including plants and insects. The hedges planted will help encourage wildlife and they will also give shelter to the reborn downland.”

(Update 2022: You can see a few images of how this project has progressed below, the difference is amazing).

Management of Dorset Downs

Management of the natural burial ground is in the same way as the SNCI. By sharing the livestock that grazes the SNCI land to the north, the seed bank of flora from the ancient grassland will gradually spread and grow. This will help to repopulate the regenerated pasture. This close partnership between the two pieces of land is advantageous to the downland restoration and could over time extend the designation.

Sheep grazing natural burial ground

James Leedam, director of Leedam Natural Heritage who co-manages the burial ground, said “We are delighted that this scheme now has approval. It has a special meaning for me. My aunt, Elizabeth Leedam, who inspired me to follow this path, lived locally in Preston. This, our tenth natural burial ground, is a fine tribute to her.”

Our ethos is to keep things simple, natural and beautiful. The burial ground is open to people of all backgrounds, all faiths and none. It offers an alternative for people who don’t align themselves with any particular religion. It provides a place for partners with different religions or beliefs to be at rest together.

An eco-friendly option

The environmental case for this type of natural burial is strong. It locks away the 18% of carbon stored in our bodies and it also locks away the carbon contained in the coffin and linings. These flow out of the crematorium chimney during cremation into the atmosphere. This is along with the CO2 from the fossil fuel used for incineration.

It supports eco-friendly practices including using sustainable, biodegradable materials. Discourages the use of carcinogenic chemicals like formaldehyde. It highlights the use of non-biodegradable products like plastic for coffin linings, where there are now better alternatives.

Natural burial nullifies the production of particulates and noxious gases that result from cremation. The new natural burial ground, its grassland, trees and new hedges act as a carbon sink. They restore lost native habitats and they will connect green spaces to create wildlife corridors and enable species movement. This produces richer, more resilient biodiversity in the face of a changing climate.

Wildflowers at Dorset Downs Natural Burial Ground


Since writing this blog a lot of changes have taken place at Dorset Downs. Jeremy and Tessa have worked hard to complete the infrastructure and there is now a beautiful car park and memorial shelter which is open to the public.

We are now offering natural burials and are welcoming people to the meadow. We also have permission for pets’ ashes to be included as part of a natural burial.

The pasture regeneration is a continuing green project. Our first wildflowers grew in 2020 and they are already helping our local flora and fauna. We have started to mow the meadow with the help of our natural lawn mowers, the sheep. We do this at certain times of the year so grazing works alongside our wildflowers.

You can see some photos of our progress at Dorset Downs Natural Burial Ground Below.

Find out more

For further details about Dorset Downs Natural Burial Ground visit the website below

You can also keep up to date with the wildflowers and burial ground by following our social media: