Britons are increasingly choosing "green" burial plots as their final resting place for ecological reasons and as space in more formal cemeteries fills up, experts say.
Whether in the shade of an oak or in the middle of a flowery meadow, more and more people are planning for a "natural" funeral as they plan their final journey.
Advertisement"There are more than 200 natural burial grounds in the UK," said Andy Clayden, a senior lecturer at Sheffield University and member of a research team on the development of natural burial sites in Britain.
"The forecast is that more sites are going to open," he said, noting that the first natural burial site was opened in 1994 in Carlisle, northwest England, and 10 years later there were 150.
Thoughts of death are on people's minds this week ahead of Friday's festivities for Halloween or All Saints' Day, when the spirits of the dead are believed to rise again to torment the living.
For the moment, most "natural" burial sites are simply "green corners in traditional cemeteries managed by council authorities," said Rosie Inman-Cook, spokeswoman for the Natural Death Centre, which advises on alternative funerals.
But increasingly landowners and farmers are realising the economic and environmental potential of transforming part of a forest or an unused field into a plot for those seeking to be eternally at one with nature.
"I have organised about 500 funerals and I've noted a 30 percent increase each year," said Inman-Cook.
Nicholas Taylor, managing director of Woodland Burial Parks (WBP), added: "As land becomes more and more precious around big conurbation areas, woodlands are the only thing that is going to be available."
WBP opened its first forest cemetery in 2000 near Norwich in eastern England and stresses the benefits of developing such projects.
"We take a piece of woodland that is generally in very poor condition and through managing that woodland, we rejuvenate it into quality woodland and the wildlife returns in abundance," he said.
The firm, which is currently developing its third woodland cemetery, hopes to open some 10 sites -- accessible by walkers and ramblers -- within 10 years, he added.
One of its sites is in Epping Forest, an ancient royal woodland northeast of London, and offers 21 hectares of oak, cedar and chestnut beneath which to find a final resting spot.
Prices for a two-person plot range from 120 pounds (153 euros, 196 dollars) for ashes to be scattered to 7,000 pounds for coffins.
Some ban users from placing any identification on the plots, others accept discrete wooden or other memorials.
Another advantage of natural burial plots is that the lease on them usually lasts for 100 years, against 25 years for a typical municipal cemetery.
Clayden, who started a three-year study into natural burial in June 2007, said: "There are a tremendous varieties of interpretations of what a natural burial is and what a natural burial ground is."
"But it would be more in the private sector that those natural grounds will open," he added.
Halloween stems originally from pagan Celtic and Christian feasts, although it increasingly involves activities such as trick-or-treating, as well as ghoulish displays of ghosts, witches and other monsters.
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