On Wednesday the 3rd of February 2016, I took the opportunity to enjoy a pleasant social evening with friends in Nottingham, using the usual monthly meeting of the Nottingham Empyrean Pagan Interest Group as an excuse for the same. This particular month saw a visit from Steve Barnes, the manager of the Tithe Green Burial Ground. This green and natural burial ground is part of the Oxton Estate, situated south of Edwinstowe, east of Newstead Abby and close to Oxton village on the Old Rufford Road (A614).
The primary focus in this presentation was the ethical and ecological elements of a natural, green burial. To cover this and explore the subject, it was necessary for Mr Barnes to place the Tithe Green Burial Ground in context. Comparing factors influencing the history and present running of the venture, with other burial grounds.
Some such grounds may have less firm rules and guidelines, bearing upon what is and is not permitted. Some are run along similar lines and some may even be stricter. An important factor being the preparation of the body, avoiding preservatives such as formaldehyde. Nor is glue or varnish permitted in the manufacture of the casket, as both contain chemicals not desired for a green burial. Even the clothing of the deceased and the lining of the casket if appropriate, are required to be of a natural fibre.
These regulations on first examination appear unnecessarily strict but in point of fact, the necessity becomes apparent with closer scrutiny. If indeed we are attempting to create a natural burial and therefore, a green space, whether it is part of the woodland or a meadow site; then what is the point of interring preservatives? The casket and the contents are deliberately set to decay in a natural manner and such would prevent that desired aim.
The marking of each grave or tree planted in memoriam, may be designated by a slate plaque of a standard size. These when laid upon the grave, will eventually have grass grow over them. Those placed upon a wooden post in front of a tree, will once the post has rotted, fall to the ground and be covered in the same manner.
One noted rule is upon the specifications of the trees permitted, the saplings are grown in Nottinghamshire and the permitted species have been chosen with advice from the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. The six specially selected tree species, are intended to represent the indigenous fauna of Sherwood Forrest and therefore, Nottinghamshire itself. The six trees listed as permitted are; the oak, the rowan, the birch, the lime, the wild cherry and the pine. The deliberate mixture of these trees will, in partnership with the meadow sites and the planting of wildflowers, create an environment favoured towards wildlife.
Many if not all of us present, did not at the beginning of the evening; have a full understanding of the requirements, which lie behind the management of such a burial ground. That lack of knowledge and insight, was expertly addressed by Mr Barnes. The evening ran over by a considerable time, as he fielded questions and explored particular points in greater detail, than at first expected or discussed.
The Tithe Green Burial Ground presents for those wishing to take up the opportunity, a viable green, natural and ethical choice for burial, irrespective of religious persuasion or any other social factor. The presentation by Mr Barnes was surprisingly down to earth, peppered with both serious and amusing anecdotes, whilst maintaining a highly informative element.