Back to the Land. Dorset 11th October 2013

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Kate Semple visits Dorset 11th October 2013

My visits to Natural Burial Grounds have been a great surprise to me in several ways – how I’ve enjoyed seeing them, how many inspiring people I’ve met running them, and what beautiful spaces they are.

View from Higher Ground Meadow
View from Higher Ground Meadow

I think Higher Ground Meadow in Dorset must have the best view of them all.

Joanna Vassie the owner, conceived the idea of turning some of their farm over to a burial ground some years ago, and has seen through every step of producing a wonderful, natural ground, and a bright, contemporary space for services, with a magnificent view of the Dorset hills rolling into Somerset and Wiltshire.

Joanna Vassie
Joanna Vassie

It has struck me that Natural Burial Grounds are producing some interesting architecture. I’ve seen a roundwood timber frame structure at the Sustainability Centre, made by Ben Law; a sleek metal and glass structure at Clandon Woods and the building at Higher Ground was equally interesting.

There are no services to this isolated spot, but it has an open fire for the cold days and solar panels to provide electricity enough electricity for light and music. There’s no running water, but a loo flushed using collected rainwater. Joanna is one of those practical people, who faced with a problem rolls up her sleeves and sorts it out, and makes a great job of it.

She is expanding and building another space at the farm to provide a full funeral service. She hopes to be up and running in six month time. She really liked Elysium Memorials, and we’re going to design some handblown glass urns especially for her new venture.

Beaminster Church Lectern
Beaminster Church Lectern

After my visit to Higher Ground Meadow, I set off to Beaminster for a coffee and a
walk – I can’t resist striding up a hill on a bright and breezy Autumn day! What a treat it was and I thoroughly enjoyed a good few miles walking straight out of the town. Setting off, I called into the Church which felt well loved and much used, and I had a good chat with a couple of women on flower duty. It is one of those churches which has rather grand sculptures and plaques mapping the history of the towns wealthiest over the centuries. It also has some very stylish pieces of contemporary furniture. I was informed that one of the congregation trained under John Makepiece, and had produced several unique pieces for the church. I’m always happy to see high quality contemporary craft being made for ecclesiastic buildings, they are such a great addition, and speak of our own times, which is so refreshing when often the emphasis seems to be for preserving the past.

Kate Semple