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Peaceful and serene More people opting for cheaper and greener eco-friendly woodland burials

Cost of buying a plot in woods can be half of a traditional cemetery

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Knockma Woodland Burial ground in Tuam Co Galway

Knockma Woodland Burial ground in Tuam Co Galway

Knockma Woodland Burial ground in Tuam Co Galway

With a burial plot for ashes costing €400 and no gravestone to buy, more people are opting for eco-friendly burials as a cheaper option to the traditional grave plot.

This is due in part to the high cost of graves in urban areas, where single plots can cost around €2,400.

Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, the burial site for Ireland's 1916 rebels, is the most expensive graveyard in the country, with its cheapest burial plot costing €4,200.

Donagh Hawtin is site manager of Knockma Woodland Burials, which lies outside Tuam, Co Galway.

She said that while some clients want humanistic burials, the cost factor of a more natural funeral is also proving attractive.

"I would say the price consideration is perhaps more attractive, over the factor of the non-religious or the humanist approach," Ms Hawtin said.

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Donagh Hawtin of Knockma Woodland Burials says it is a peaceful, serene place to be buried

Donagh Hawtin of Knockma Woodland Burials says it is a peaceful, serene place to be buried

Donagh Hawtin of Knockma Woodland Burials says it is a peaceful, serene place to be buried

 

The cost of being buried in a coffin in Knockma is €1,000, with an extra €450 for the opening and closing fee.

For those looking to bury ashes, it is €450 in total.

Meanwhile in Co Wexford, Woodbrook Natural Burial Ground charges €950 for a single plot, with €450 for the opening and closing fee, or €400 for an ashes plot.

In comparison, a traditional burial plot in an urban graveyard can cost from €2,000- €4,000, while in rural towns it can cost between €350 and €1,000.

Colin McAteer of the Green Graveyard Company, which runs Woodbrook Natural Burial Ground, said although being buried in his natural cemetery is "significantly" cheaper, he also believes people appreciate the experience of visiting their deceased loved ones there.

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"People are also choosing it because they like the idea. They like the surrounding and they like that their family can come and sit on a bench in woodland," he said.

Ms Hawtin said the reason for a person opting to be buried or have a family member buried in her cemetery does not matter.

"We will take anybody, we're not prejudiced," she said.

Ms Hawtin said people travel all over the country to bury a loved one in the natural woodland grounds. The graves are no deeper than five feet so human remains 'return to nature' sooner than in a traditional cemetery.

It does not have a stacking system, as the remains need to be closer to the ground to ensure quicker decomposing.

The deceased must be placed in a coffin, shroud or casket that is eco-friendly and made of untreated and biodegradable materials.

No tombstones are allowed in Knockma, the only markers are 10in x 12in plaques that have the person's name, birth date, and death date on it.

Knockma Woodland Burial opened in 2015 and in the beginning there was a rush for people to buy plots, however Ms Hawtin said there is still plenty of room left.

"We've been open six years and there was an initial rush of people buying their spaces but we have plenty of space, we're not going to run out of space in our generation," she said.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she said there has been an increase in the number of plots being used.

"In the last 12 to 18 months, we've had more than we used to, as there have been the unexpected deaths," she said.

"And then there have been the others that have known their time was coming."

Those who opt to be buried in the woodlands also tend to have their ceremony there.

Despite the cost savings and eco-side to natural burials, Ms Hawtin said a lot of people opt for a natural burial because it is a peaceful environment.

Once someone buys a plot on the burial site they have access to enter it 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"They like the fact that it is a peaceful, natural environment and it is more serene than a normal graveyard," Ms Hawtin said.

"You know, they don't want to see the concrete and the rows and rows.

"It's a perfectly manicured yard and you can come and walk around and there's a lot of spaces that you wouldn't even realise or recognise as being somebody's burial space."

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