Monday, 21 December 2020 00:00

Multi-habitat Norfolk sanctuary offers celebration of life through nature

Written by  Andy Bash
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Multi-habitat Norfolk sanctuary offers celebration of life through nature

A unique countryside burial park has become dear to the hearts of many Norfolk people since it opened five years ago. It plans to open its gates and welcome visitors on Christmas Day.

Norfolk Bluebell Wood Burial Park is an 18-acre multi-habitat parkland nature oasis. It has proved to be a place of huge comfort to relatives who want to take a few minutes of quiet reflection as they remember – and celebrate – the lives of loved ones who have been laid to rest there.

“That is true all year round – but we have found it is especially true at Christmas,” said Andrew Morton who, with his wife Caroline, is the driving force behind the Burial Park. “And that has never been more pertinent than in this Covid-hit year of 2020, which where family and friends have had to cope with additional heartache relating to limited numbers, social distancing and face coverings at the funeral service of their loved one. If opening on Christmas Day helps, then we would love people to have the freedom to visit.”

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The Park, at Hainford, marked its fifth anniversary earlier this month by adding a short but powerful film clip to its Facebook page and website, reinforcing the message that nature provides the perfect catalyst for a positive celebration of the life of the recently departed – not merely grieving a loss.

The Mortons, part of a long-established North Norfolk farming family, are convinced the natural world has a vital but undervalued part to play in the mourning process.

“We believe that when we mark the passing of someone close to us, it should not only be about grief. There are enormous mental and physical benefits to be gained from using nature to celebrate the life that has been lived. There is more to the process than just grieving the fact that they have gone,” said Andrew.

“Too many people fail to realise just how soothing it can be to sit in the shade of centuries-old trees that have seen so many generations come and go, or walk quietly among the bluebells or the wildflowers in the meadows and reflect on the loved ones who have departed.”

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Andrew continued: “People are drawn back here time and time and time again to be at one both with nature and the family members or friends who are no longer present. Hundreds of interments and ash scatterings have taken place here over the past five years. The overwhelming feedback we get is about how beneficial and comforting the setting has been, both at the time as well as on repeated subsequent visits.                               

“That’s a particularly relevant message in the present climate. Every day when we turn on the TV, listen to the radio or read the newspaper, we hear how many more people have died in the last 24 hours from Covid-19. There are so many constant reminders of death all around. In the midst of the widespread sadness, we are encouraging people to experience the peace that can be found through a bond with nature, enabling them to reflect positively. It has such a huge part to play in the healing process.”

The ‘Celebrating Five Years of Celebrating Life’ film clip (www.facebook.com/ norfolkbluebellwood/videos/524212195202721/?t=2), released this week, with its soothing music and shots of the Park’s spectacular natural habitats overlaid with reflective captions, echoes the owners’ philosophy that: “It is in the still silence of nature where we find inner peace.” That the life which has just ended should be celebrated.

The Park takes its name from an ancient five-acre bluebell wood that lay undiscovered for generations, an oasis of beauty, marooned in a sea of agricultural land.

Having purchased the wood 12 years ago as part of more extensive land purchase, Andrew Morton vowed to find the best way to enhance its setting and bring the stunning vista back into the public domain.

As the vision developed, the Mortons added another 13 acres, enlisted local children to help plant 4,800 trees, created swathes of wildflower meadows, cultivating 16 types of wildflower in the process. Flora and fauna have been encouraged to flourish, with habitats preserved and enhanced, new hedgerows planted and wildlife corridors created.

The result is the Norfolk Bluebell Wood Burial Park, which offers something quite different to anything else that exists in the county, for burials, ash interment and ash-scattering. The Park also holds a series of open days in spring when the carpet of cobalt bluebell blooms is at its most dazzling.

Two years ago, a state-of-the-art, environment-sensitive ceremonial hall which can seat 120 people with standing room for another 80 (when Covid-19 restrictions permit), was added, built according to the strict code of sustainability principles that have governed the development of Andrew’s vision.                                                                                               

Constructed of oak and cedar, the multi-functional Cedar Hall enjoys a panoramic outlook across the tranquil park’s ancient bluebell wood and is available to people of all faiths and none to choose their own way to celebrate the life of their loved one.

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Last modified on Monday, 28 December 2020 20:34

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