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Dalton Hall estate owner’s bid for natural burials

Francis Mason-Hornby.
Francis Mason-Hornby.
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An estate owner is aiming to educate people about the environmental impact of cremations and why natural burials are a more sustainable option.

Francis Mason-Hornby, owner of the Dalton Hall Estate, introduced the woodland burial ground seven years ago in a bid to offer a greener alternative to cremations.

The 30 acre site is based in woodland at the foot of Dalton Crags, Burton-in-Kendal.

Francis said: “Over the years, we’ve found that people often aren’t aware of the environmental impact of cremations.

“Personally, I found out about natural burial as a sustainable option through an article in a newspaper, it came as a surprise because I hadn’t heard of it before.

“After reading the piece, the idea stayed with me for a while.

“I did some research through the Natural Death Centre and looked at introducing it to the estate.

“The main reason why people might not be aware of natural burial as an option is probably because talking about death and letting your loved ones know your own funeral wishes is typically a taboo subject.

“If you go back 150 years, death was a constant companion.

“When a loved one died, the coffin would be there in the front room for three or four days.

“Death was simply accepted as a natural part of life and all the funeral arrangements would have been organised within family and you would have been buried locally.”

Statistics reveal that nowadays at least 70 per cent of the UK population opt for cremation.

However, it has been estimated that a typical cremation releases about 320kg of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere.

Francis is keen to spread awareness of natural burials as a greener, more environmentally friendly option.

He said: “Attitudes are changing and the word is spreading.

“It’s the combination of people taking green issues much more seriously, coupled with the fact that more and more people are beginning to talk about death generally, such as on the radio, on TV and the recent rise of the Death Café movement.

“The common misconception of a natural burial is that it’s a much more ‘hippy’ alternative than it actually is.

“Aside from the environmental aspect, we feel a natural burial can give families a more positive experience than a cremation.

“A cremation is a very industrial process; when the curtain closes you don’t know what happens and you don’t really want to think about what happens.

“At a natural burial, mourners will often tell me how it was the perfect option for them and their loved one.

“We’ve found that people want more control over their funerals and the way they say goodbye to their loved ones – they’re planning ahead and making their wishes known.

“Natural burial is certainly not for everyone but if you love the countryside and care for the environment it offers a real choice to do something positive at the end of a life.

“We’re all going to die, it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.

“Death is a part of life, we couldn’t have life without death.”