Essex: Skaters’ project could see green burials at cemetery

WEDDINGS and green burials could soon take place at Saffron Walden Cemetery and Chapel on the advice of the town’s skate group.

Working on behalf of the cemetery owners, Saffron Walden Town Council, the group carried out a review of the Radwinter Road amenity. They presented the council with a glossy brochure of the services currently offered there while also mooting a raft of their own ideas to maximise the cemetery’s potential.

These included offering small wedding ceremonies in the cemetery’s picturesque Chapel, finding space for ‘green’ burials and erecting a plaque to include the names of people buried in other cemeteries so that mourners can pay their respects closer to home.

Tom Halliday, one of the skaters who led the project, explains: “We knew the council wanted to produce a brochure for the cemetery and we offered to do it for them – it just snowballed from there.”

The project has given the skaters, who ply their skills at the One Minet Skatepark behind Lord Butler Leisure Centre, a sense of community involvement. They have a close affinity with the cemetery – Andrew Minet, who was tragically killed in a road traffic accident in 2001 (and who the skatepark is named after) and Andre Young, the County High School pupil who died while on holiday in Crete in 2009, were both keen skaters and are buried in the cemetery – and this project keeps them in the public eye.

“We are part of the community. Why shouldn’t we be involved with what is going on or try to help out wherever we can?” added Mr Halliday, who is a graphic artist and photography teacher.

“A lot of the skaters, particularly the older ones, have lots of different talents and skills and on this occasion we used our niche skills to help make this possible.

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“We are only too happy to assist the council further [with this project]. It does a lot of good work with the cemetery but there is huge potential there.

“I think the members were quite surprised at the quality of the brochure we produced.”

David Watson, currently chairman of the town council’s recreation and playing fields committee, welcomed the skate group’s input.

He said: “The group volunteered to do this and gave us a comprehensive review – we were most impressed with it. They did a really excellent job and a couple of really good ideas have come out of it as well.”

Speaking about the possibility of providing ‘green’ burials – where coffins are made of biodegradable cardboard and the graveyard, when full, can be turned into a nature reserve or picnic site – Cllr Watson added: “If someone wants a green burial it is frustrating for them – we can’t provide that service at present.

“We understand that there were about 18 inquiries for green burials recently in Saffron Walden which were directed to sites elsewhere.

“There is an area at the back of the cemetery which could be planted and developed as woodland for the burials which I can’t see any objections to.

“Clearly there is a demand for this service and we should be able to provide it.”

However, the joint skatepark-council project is on hold for now until the new town council administration finds its feet.

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