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Dragon Interview: Simon Ferrar – Founder and Manager of Clandon Wood Surrey Hills Natural Burial

Published on: 13 Mar, 2013
Updated on: 14 Mar, 2013

Simon Ferrar  Founder and Manager of Clandon Wood Surrey Hills Natural Burial, talks to The Guildford Dragon NEWS about his vision for Surrey’s newest and largest natural burial ground.

Interview and photos by Dani Maimone


Simon Ferrar

Nine years ago Simon Ferrar, a former local builder, witnessed his first natural burial in a field in Worcestershire.  It was for his aunt. “I was standing there, in this farmer’s field,” he said, “and I just knew that this was the way forward.

There is something so profound and special about a natural burial, the simplicity of it all, it’s more poignant somehow. Suddenly,” he added,  “It all made sense. The creation of a self-sustaining, wildlife environment was the answer to the enduring question: how do we find enough space to accommodate human burials responsibly?”

His aunt’s funeral gave Simon a vision, to create a totally sustainable and responsibly managed natural burial site here in Surrey. A space for an unhurried funeral at a more relaxed pace without feeling under pressure to leave within a matter of minutes to make way for the next one.

Simon has been working hard to bring his vision to life and finally succeeded in doing so by opening Clandon Wood, Surrey Hills Natural Burial. It is located at the foot of the Surrey Hills and is the largest fully managed site in Surrey but you don’t have to be based in the county to make use of it.

Anyone can be buried there. There are 31 acres of native wild-flower meadow surrounded by hedgerows, incorporating a lake and wetland area. This year they plan to plant hundreds of native trees on site. You can hold a religious service, a simple graveside ceremony or something non-religious there, whatever you choose, it’s entirely up to you.

Their first funeral took place in October last year. “It was a very emotional moment,” said Simon: “We organised a horse and cart to take the simple willow coffin through the wild-flower meadow to the grave. Although it was raining, as soon as we reached the top of the meadow, the clouds parted and the sun came out. I have to admit to shedding a tear, not just for the family involved but also to see the many years of hard work reach fruition. It sounds a bit strange but finally the site had come alive.”

Clandon Wood - The first burial procession

Clandon Wood – The first burial procession

“Thankfully,” continues Simon, “with natural burial sites emerging throughout the country the way we deal with death is gradually changing and we are starting to do things differently. The Natural Death Centre charity and organisations like Final Fling, readily offer advice on what to do when someone dies. They can guide us through the process and the different options of what we can and can’t do with regard to services, funerals, cremations and burials.”

As it happens, there are no set rules to follow as we are often led to believe by many funeral companies and past traditions. Although a large percentage of us choose to be cremated, natural burial provides us with a more environmentally friendly alternative.

Clandon Wood is providing valuable ecosystems for a variety of wild flowers, plants and wildlife. It is a far cry from the hurried, often soulless experience of cremation. Just last week they cut the meadow grass using Suffolk Punch rare breed working horses and a traditional cutter supplied by Daniel Brown an experienced horseman who also provides the horse and cart to carry coffins to the grave. It’s a far cry from the somewhat impersonal black hearse.

It means that the body will be buried in its natural form without leaving behind any chemicals that could pass into the ground. Coffins are made out of natural substances such as willow, cardboard, woollen shrouds, simple pine boxes or bamboo, they naturally biodegradable unlike many commercial massed produced ones.

You can normally choose where on the site you would like the plot to be and the location will be marked on a plan. There are no headstones as the aim is to keep the site as natural looking as possible.

Whilst many council owned graveyards are running out of space and charge extra if you live out of the immediate locality the same does not apply to Clandon Wood. The cost remains the same wherever you are from. By May 2013 full interactive funeral and memorial services can be held in the glass Pavilion. This specially designed building, will provide an innovative and informal space for gatherings, supported by full audio-visual aids and heated with a bio-mass boiler for the colder months. Glass walls will provide occupants with an open view of the landscape and surrounding meadow.

Cutting the Meadow Clandon Wood

Cutting the Meadow – Clandon Wood

“We are a member of The Association of Natural Burial Grounds adds Simon, “and like all sites on the register we have to meet certain criteria to comply with the Association’s standards and code of conduct. Many sites like these are run by local authorities and some like Clandon Wood are privately owned.

“We have had some amazing testimonials from the families who have buried their loved ones here, which just blows me away every time I read them. I feel very privileged to share such an important and personal occasion with the families involved and to be part of something so special.”

If you would like to find out more about natural burials please visit the National Death Centre website at  

For more information about Clandon Wood contact Simon Ferrar on 07870 518292 or look at the website at Daniel Brown, Horseman,

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