Ham Down Woodland Burial Ground

Burial Site

The Land

Situated in an outstanding position with an uninterrupted view of Hambledon Hill, this small woodland burial ground of 2 acres was originally a vineyard and is surrounded by a neat ringfence. It is sited in an area renowned for its conservation features and great variety of trees and shrubs.

One of its boundaries borders the River Stour which can be seen from the site. Although remote it can be approached by a tarmac road, which is extended along ahard surfaced road to a small car park alongside the enclosure.

As the site is adjoining a bridle path which runs through the farm it will be possible for relatives and friends of the deceased to enjoy the surrounding countryside.

According to the previous owner, over 140 species of birds have been recorded on the farm, which included such nesting species as barn owls, nightingales and herons. Nearly 30 acres of the farm consist of woodland, some of which has recently been planted.

Behind the burial ground lies the disused line of the Old Somerset and Dorset Railway, now part of the North Dorset Trailway, which is home to many species of butterflies and plants. Badgers, roe Deer and foxes are also plentiful.

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The Plaques 

A simple wooden plaque with the dimensions shown on the right can be placed at the head of the grave.
We feel it is important to keep the plaques as simple as possible so just the name and lifespan of the deceased can be engraved.

Choice of Trees 

There is a choice of native trees to plant at the top of the grave. This will be done at the appropriate time of the year and the tree will be replaced if it should die within five years.

Small Leaf Lime (Tilia cordata)

Native tree, known to have been abundant throughout England in antiquity but nowadays more usually confined in the wild to woodland areas.

Stands of wild Small Leaf Lime trees may indicate the area as ancient woodland. Small-leaved Lime is a deciduous tree, up to 25 m in height, with a main trunk often forking above and a smooth grey bark which breaks up into plates later. It is a native of woods on deep, fertile, base-rich soils

The Small Leaf Lime tree can grow in excess of 30m. tall  The wood beneath the bark of this tree is known as ‘bast’ and was historically used to make low grade cords or ropes. It is soft and even-grained, ideal for carving and was used by one of England's best known carvers, Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721).

Nowadays the Small Leaf Lime is typically found growing on ancient banks in woodlands in the south of England.

English Oak (Quercus robur)

Quercus robur (Latin quercus, "oak" + robur "strength) or English oak, is a large deciduous tree 25–35 m tall (exceptionally to 50 m), with lobed and nearly sessile (very short-stalked) leaves 7–14 cm long.
Flowering takes place in mid spring, and their fruit, called acorns, ripen by the following autumn. The acorns are 2–2.5 cm long, pedunculate (having a peduncle or acorn-stalk, 3–7 cm long) with one to four acorns on each peduncle. It is a long-lived tree, with a large widespreading head of rugged branches.

While it may naturally live to an age of a few centuries, many of the oldest trees are pollarded or coppiced, both pruning techniques that extend the tree's potential lifespan, if not its health. It is remarkable for the large number of wildlife species it supports.

Hornbeam (Carpinus Betulus)

Hornbeam is a sturdy deciduous tree superficially resembling Beech.
Height max 30m. Age max 150 years. It prefers low lying rich soils or clays and is shade tolerant. Hornbeam can be coppiced or pollarded and is good for hedges.
This tree is native to Europe and Asia Minor, including southern Britain. It is superficially like beech but is more tolerant of frost and poor ground. The leaves are mid-green and it has green catkins from late spring to autumn, turning to clusters of winged fruit in autumn providing food for wildlife.

The wood is white, hard and heavy, but not flexible. It has few modern uses but it was formerly much sought after, not least for fuel because of its high calorific value. As a tree hornbeam is still highly valued. It will grow on stiff clays, thin gravels and lime rich soils. Ancient stems and pollards are still retained, managed and cherished for amenity. Ornamental hedges, mazes and pleached avenues are increasingly being reinstated.

Silver Birch (Betula pendula)

Silver Birch (Betula pendula) is a medium deciduous tree, typically reaching 15-25m tall, exceptionally up to 39m , with a slender crown of arched branches with drooping branchlets. The bark is white, often with black diamond-shaped marks or larger patches at the base.
The shoots are rough with small warts, and hairless, and the leaves 3-6 cm long, triangular with a broad base and pointed tip, and coarsely serrated margins. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins, produced before the leaves in early spring, the small (1-2 mm) winged seeds ripening in late summer on 3-5 cm long catkins.

Silver birch is distributed throughout almost all of Europe and in Asia Minor. As pioneer species, one of the important functions which birch trees fulfil in ecosystems is that of improving soils. They are deep-rooted, and their roots draw up nutrients into their branches and leaves, which the trees use for their growth.

 Birches support a large community of insects and other invertebrates, with 334 species known to feed on them. The invertebrates in turn are food for various bird species, whilst other birds such as the siskin (Carduelis spinus) feed on the seeds in autumn.

Ham Down Woodland

Burial Ground
Bere Marsh Farm

For further information about the Ham Down Burial ground, please call: Dave Pike on 07973 120903 

Names and Addresses of Local Clergy

The Church of England - The Okeford Benefice
Priest-in-Charge: Revd Lydia Cook 01258 863774

The Roman Catholic Church
Revd Michael Budge,
The Presbytery, Old Mill Lane, Marnhull, Sturminster Newton, Dorset.
Tel: 01258 820388.

The Natural Death Centre

The Natural Death Centre is a charitable project launched in Britain in 1991. It aims to support those dying at home and their carers, and to help people arrange inexpensive, family-organised, and environmentally-friendly funerals. It has a more general aim to helping to improve the quality of dying.

In 1994 The Natural Death Centre launched the Association of Natural Burial Grounds to assist the growing movement of farmers, local authorities, wildlife charities and others who wished to establish Natural (also known as woodland and green) Burial Grounds, often with commemorative trees instead headstones. 

The Natural Death Handbook this comprehensive guide to Natural Burial is an invaluable help when planning a funeral, covering such subjects such as where to source the right biodegradable coffin, whether to organise the funeral with or without a funeral director, financial and other preparations for one's own death, writing a Will, probate, bereavement resources etc.

Completely revised and expanded into a boxed set of three books, the new Handbook not only provides updated insight into the hidden world of dying and death, but also includes a compelling and ground breaking book of essays on the subject by some of the best writers in the field. The trilogy is completed by the latest directory of recommended funeral directors and natural burial grounds in the UK. It can be ordered online or over the phone.

The Natural Death Centre
In The Hill House, Watley Lane, Twyford, Winchester SO21 1QX.
Tel 01962 712690 www.naturaldeath.org.uk