Westmill Woodland Burial Ground has won the Best Cemetery category in the 2015 Good Funeral Guide against competition from seven other sites shortlisted for the award, whilst gravedigger Andy Slade came top in his category.
The Good Funeral Awards are wholly independent of the funeral industry and are supported by consumer advocates, the Good Funeral Guide and the Natural Death Centre.
Westmill is located close to Watchfield, off the A419, and is run by Liz Rothschild. She said: “We were amazed and grateful to be nominated and felt very honoured that our work at Westmill was being recognised
“We try our hardest to work with families to show them what is possible, affordable, personal and appropriate for them and the person who has died. We support them in being involved with every stage of the process and as hands on as they want to be. Andy does the same, helping them fill in, occasionally assisting with lowering and always on hand when needed.
“Every family we work with teaches us something new and every person in our team finds it a privilege to be involved in such a significant time in people’s lives.
“Our site looks up to the ancient Uffington White horse and the line of the Downs, a view which gives us all a lift. It is the marker point for everyone who lives around these parts.
“We aim to break down the isolation caused by bereavement and believe that being close to nature can be a very effective way to begin to heal. Winning the award has meant a lot to us as a small business aiming to serve our local community. We feel recognised at a national level for the work we do and very honoured to win against some very good competition.“
Andy was taken aback when told he had won the top gravedigger award. He said: “Wow! I’ve never won anything in my life; it feels lovely. The award is down to everybody who help at Westmill, and most important my two sons Henry and George who work with me.”
Awards organiser Brian Jenner said: “The Good Funeral Awards recognise all those unsung heroes who work so hard for the bereaved and whose role can so easily be overlooked. Some of the nicest people in Britain work in the funeral business.”
Westmill is run as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) offering burial plots to people of all faiths and none within a wildlife woodland and meadow setting. A closeknit friends and family group is involved in helping to organise events throughout the year including an open day, a memorial event and a family day when trees are planted and visitors are involved in looking after the site around a communal lunch and a talk. Tea and homemade cakes usually involved too.
The next open day takes place in June 2016 and will include an evening folk concert with any profits being donated to the newly formed charity Wiltshire Treehouse supporting bereaved children and young people in the county, of which Liz is chair.