Tithe Green Natural Burial Ketton

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Burial Site Category: East Midlands

  • About the burial ground

    Family owned and run since their first site was established in 1999, Tithe Green Natural Burial now have two beautiful natural burial grounds in the East Midlands,  one at Oxton in Nottinghamshire, and the second at Ketton in Rutland.,

    The original Tithe Green site at Oxton is one of the earliest natural burial grounds in the UK. It is part of a large estate which has been owned by the Sherbrooke family for almost 500 years, and James O’Donnell is the third generation of the family to be the custodian of the natural burial ground. Together with his wife Helena Bloomer, James is on a mission to transform the way that we handle death; the couple have both left previous careers to immerse themselves in providing the best possible experience for people during a time of grief, and they are absolutely passionate about what they do.

    It was James’s late grandmother who created Tithe Green Oxton at the end of the 20th century. She had been inspired by reading about the concept of natural burial that had been pioneered by Ken West at Carlisle, and determined that some of the land on the large family estate could be used for this purpose in Nottinghamshire.

    The 45-acre burial ground is close to the cathedral town of Southwell, and is a beautiful mix of growing woodland and meadow, within the boundaries of Sherwood Forest, and many hundreds of people have chosen Tithe Green as the final resting place either for themselves or for someone they love. It’s easy to see why.

    When you turn in from Salterford Lane, you will find yourself in a large, well  maintained car park with space for 30 vehicles. The gates to the car park  are open 24 hours a day, although access to the burial ground itself is via another gate, which is secured at night. As you walk into the burial ground, you are immediately enveloped by a sense of tranquillity, enhanced by an awareness of the care and dedication that has been invested in the management of the land here. We visited on a lovely bright April day. when some of the trees were in blossom, and cowslips and bluebells gleamed against the fresh green of Spring grass, so it was especially pretty, but,  as with all well managed English countryside, it will be attractive and appealing in every season.

    Skylarks sang high above, and bees moved purposefully among the flowers as we walked through the different areas of the ground. Some have maturing trees,  others have younger ones denoting more recent burials or ash interments, while open areas of meadowland offered space where wildflowers will appear as the year turns. We missed seeing a spectacular display of poppies which had graced the land here last year, but the photos we were shown were stunning. The thoughtful creation of varying different, complementary habitats has led to the mass  of biodiversity already evident here, and is an ongoing project.

    Since 2021, more than 30 acres of the land over both the Oxton and Ketton sites have been drilled with wildflower seeds, and these areas are carefully maintained as the project continues. Colonies of bees live in hives adjacent to the site, cared for by one of the local celebrants who they work with who is  an apiarist in her spare time.

    Wide accessible handgates ino the burial ground and wide footpaths around the site enable access for visitors, and while we were looking around, we saw several groups visiting graves. Some carried collapsible chairs and a picnic, others were with children and a dog, one couple came over to speak with Tracey, while others headed off to the grave of their person without feeling any obligation to check in – it is clear that people feel welcome to come and go whenever suits them.

    Both sites are deliberately low key and light touch, there are no permanent structures on either burial ground, although at Oxton, James and Helena have recently installed The Keep, a beautiful, hand-built structure made in Somerset from locally grown trees, with a canvas roof. The Keep offers shelter from the elements for funeral ceremonies, and can be heated with a fire if need be. The canvas above you and the large round porthole windows of the circular space around you makes it  light and bright inside, and it has seating for up to 50 people. This quirky, almost playful structure can be hired for an hourly fee, and many families have already chosen to hold their ceremony inside it.

    The slightly smaller site at Ketton is 37 acres, and is a mixture of mature woodland and wildflower  meadows. Located close to Rutland Water Nature Reserve, Tithe Green Ketton is set on land that slopes gently down towards the River Chater.

    Both sites offer clients the choice of woodland or meadow burial for both coffins and cremated remains. Coffins or urns must be fully biodegradable, and no gardening of plots is allowed. Planting of approved wildflowers and native woodland bulbs is permitted on graves and cremated remains plots, and the overall management of the sites ensures that any unauthorised items or plants are removed.

    The day to day

    The company ethos is to do good by being helpful, kind, respectful, supportive and straightforward, and they filter all their decisions about what they offer by considering whether whatever they are thinking of is beautiful, helpful, value for money and environmentally sound. If it doesn’t fit with these principles, then they don’t choose it.

    This process applies to items they have on site, such as places for visitors to rest (they have individually crafted seats made from tree trunks  rather than memorial benches) memorial plaques (made from Welsh slate and individually inscribed), memorial trees (all locally sourced from Leicestershire, and species suitable for woodland in this part of the UK) or the suppliers of coffins and urns that they recommend. The result is a subtle but unmistakable sense of quality and value in everything about the company.

    James and Helena instinctively understand the reassurance of the long family history associated with the land, and they are looking generations ahead to the time when their grandchildren or great grandchildren will be taking their place. Any decision making is something that has deep thought behind it, and must always align with the values behind Tithe Green and its role for future generations – this longevity and provenance is really relevant when people are considering choosing the permanent resting place for their most precious person.

    Alongside their awareness of the responsibility they carry, the team at Tithe Green want to extend their reach and to raise awareness about the experience that a natural burial can offer, and to let people know that it can be a simple and affordable choice that can be transformative for those who choose it. Under Helena’s expert eye, the look of the company has been carefully updated, with a fresh new logo and a clean, informative website which is scheduled for a re-launch in Summer 2024. Their social media is engaging and informative, with imagery and content and news from the sites, and they are building strong links with the communities that they are growing and curating.

    Annual wildflower planting days at the sites bring families together from all around; several hundred people from different generations attended the most recent one. The resulting connection between people and the land where their loved one is buried is a practical, physical link for many, while bereaved people have a chance to meet others in an unpressured, relaxed way.

    The people

    Husband and wife team – and co-CEO’s – James and Helena clearly live and breathe their work. They have two young sons (and a baby daughter expected in the autumn of 2024), so one would think their lives were busy enough without growing the company too, but they are committed to their ambition of creating a better experience for people who have been bereaved, and of constantly increasing the quality and the reach of their offering at Tithe Green. This immensely likeable couple have spent a lot of time, energy and investment in enhancing the site at Oxton, and in acquiring the second site at Ketton, and the feedback they have received since they took over is testimony to the calibre of their approach.

    Helena and James have a small, trusted team of staff who alongside them, managing both the land and the natural burial company. Tracey Gelder is the company’s customer relationship manager who works closely with both Helena and James, and she is likely to be the person you first encounter at Tithe Green.

    Tracey has horticulture qualifications and experience alongside her significant business management expertise, and she has been managing the grounds since 2021. She’s someone you instantly feel comfortable with, she has a natural ease and a wealth of experience and knowledge that combine to make you feel you are in very safe hands – a feeling that will be instantly reassuring to bereaved families or those contemplating their own future funerals.

    We spent several hours with James, Helena and Tracey when we visited, and were immensely impressed by their collective knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for the work, and their close collaboration together. They are all deeply dedicated to getting it right, both in their roles as custodians of the land for future generations and in the positions of service they hold for the community of bereaved people they work with.

    The small team at Tithe Green is completed by Tracey Byrne, the site manager at Oxton, and Emma Stafford, the site manager at Ketton. Both come from backgrounds working for funeral directors, and they have many years of experience between them making funeral arrangements, working with bereaved clients and caring for those who have died.

    Other staff are brought in as needed from the estate team to assist with tasks on the land, while graves are prepared by a contracted gravedigger.

    The details

    Types of plots: Graves and plots for cremated remains in both woodland and meadow areas of both sites.  Graves are single depth, prepared to around 4 – 5 feet depth. They are filled in by hand.

    Prices: See here for current prices. The cost of preparation of the grave or cremated remains plot is included unless the plot is purchased in advance.

    Facilities: Currently the only facility is The Keep at the Oxton site.  There are no loos at the moment, so anyone attending for a funeral does need to bear this in mind before arrival.

    Memorial options: 100% natural Welsh slate memorial plaques can be purchased and inscribed with a dedication of your choice.

    Right to burial: 99 years. Tithe Green Terms and Conditions can be seen here and the Rules and Regulations can be seen here.

    Long term plan: Once the sites are full, the intention is for them to be woodland with general public access. Future management of the woodland will be funded by either a NGO or the family’s own trust, a fund will be added to each year of operation to ensure that the future of the woodlands is viable.

    Access: Pedestrian access and the car parks are both available 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Vehicle access to the sites is by appointment.

    Dogs allowed? Pets are permitted, including to attend funeral ceremonies, animals must be kept on a lead and under control and any mess cleared and taken away by the owner.

    Coffin types: Fully biodegradable coffins and urns only. A  list of recommended suppliers is available from the Useful Resources section of Tithe Green website here.

    Grave depth:  Single depth,  prepared to between 4 and 5 feet deep.

    Scattering or strewing cremated remains? Not permitted.

    Planting on graves? Permitted but plants  must be chosen from the approved list of species.

    Restrictions at ceremonies? No candles or balloon releases. Otherwise ceremonies can be as the client chooses.

    Funerals without a funeral director? Tithe Green will work directly with any families organising a funeral without the assistance of a funeral director to ensure their individual requirements are met.


    Tithe Green Natural Burial offers a beautiful, affordable alternative to traditional choices of cremation or burial in a cemetery. Environmentally sound, ethically run and with thoughtful, considerate people to assist you, these are the perfect places to choose for a funeral that will bring you close to nature, and to the healing sense of the circle of life.

    Tranquil, peaceful and carefully maintained, the two Tithe Green locations are places where life goes on all around you in its magnificent beauty, and where sadness and grief are part of the natural rhythms and seasons. There is a sense of coming home, of finding the right place that you may not have even known you were searching for.

    The careful custody of the beautiful landscape, and the care and devotion shown to bereaved people at the most difficult time of their lives are equally admirable, and we wholeheartedly recommend and endorse the work being done here by a wonderful team of people with a vision for a better future.

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