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A Natural Burial Grave in Whaletown
General News · 27th January 2022
Margaret Verschuur
Natural Burial (also called Green Burial) is now something people can choose in the Whaletown Cemetery.

In a natural burial the body is returned to the earth as simply and gently as possible, where it will contribute to and protect new life. The un-embalmed body is clothed or wrapped in biodegradable material such as cotton, linen, or wool, and optionally placed in a locally sourced biodegradable box. It is laid to rest in a grave shallow enough to encourage rapid natural decomposition, and deep enough to ensure it will not be disturbed by wildlife. Rather than mowing, native shrubs and trees are planted, or encouraged to grow, on top of each occupied grave. The grave is marked with a biodegradable marker, and each person buried in this area is remembered in a communal memorialization structure.

The expanded or ‘new’ section of the cemetery has been mapped for both natural and conventional graves. For the natural burial area, we still need to design and build a communal memorial structure. The temporary grave markers will biodegrade as the occupied spaces revert to their natural ecological state, but all those buried will be memorialized in this communal structure.

The cemetery was donated years ago to the community, then managed faithfully by volunteers. The plots are available to residents, past and present, free of charge.

Two natural burials have already taken place – shrouded bodies laid to rest on a bed of cedar boughs, and the graves filled by friends and neighbours. The simplicity, intimacy with the earth, and participation by the community, was lovely.