As part of the ongoing restoration of Brookwood Cemetery, Woking Borough Council has remediated 7,000 cubic metres of contaminated land within the cemetery to create a beautiful new burial site and wetland area.
The new five and half acre site within the North Cemetery will be used predominantly for Muslim burials as other sites within the cemetery begin to reach capacity. The new site has space for 480 individual burial plots spread across two grassland areas which are linked by a raised boardwalk complete with contemplation spots and benches looking out onto the wetland.
The mature and established trees on site, some of which date back to the cemetery’s original plantings in 1852, continue to play a pivotal role in the design providing cover for the meandering pathways that connect to the boardwalk. New planting includes a number of unusual ornamental tree and shrub species that resonate with the cemetery’s Victorian design, along with native shrubs and wildflower.
Speaking about the works, Ian Tomes, Woking Borough Council’s Asset Manager, said: “It has taken us three years to remediate the land which was used by the previous owners as an illegal tip site. The original enforcement noticed served by Surrey County Council required the removal of all of the dumped material but with the help of property and construction consultants, Synergy LLP, and landscaping architects, Terra Firma Consultancy Ltd, we’ve been able to screen the material on site and use it to form two grass covered mounds, the tops of which will be used for internments.
“The creation of a wetland has enabled us to turn the site’s complex hydrology into a feature. The boardwalk design takes into account the site’s fluctuating water levels, and we’ve added marginal aquatic planting to enhance the appearance of the wetland.”
As well as the provision of good quality grave space and environmental improvements, the £800,000 project also capitalised on some of the cemetery’s historical features, supporting the council’s aim of transforming Brookwood Cemetery into a major heritage destination.
Ian Tomes explained: “We had to widen the main entrance of the North Cemetery to get vehicles and machinery on and off site so we used this opportunity not only to improve the appearance of the main entrance but also to make reference the cemetery’s historic railway.
“Feature paving, which forms part of the new road surface, mimics the tracks of the London Necropolis Railway that brought Victorian mourners and the deceased to Brookwood. The tree lined route which the trains took has been emphasised by the new ‘tracks’ making it much easier for visitors to identify and appreciate.”
A small tree planting ceremony involving the Mayor of Woking, members of the Brookwood Cemetery team and representatives from each of the specialist contractors took place on Monday 20 September to the mark the completion of the project.
Addressing the group, the Mayor of Woking, Cllr Liam Lyons, said: “This wonderful new wetland and burial area will further enhance one of the borough’s greatest historic assets. I congratulate you all for your efforts and think you’ve done an amazing job, not only in returning this part of cemetery back to public use but also in transforming it into a beautiful, nurturing space that will support the grieving or anyone looking to find comfort in nature and the outdoors. Well done all.”
Woking Borough Council’s Lead Member for Brookwood Cemetery, Cllr Kevin Davis, said: “In July 2020, the Council approved the Brookwood Cemetery Masterplan and Experience Plan which set out a number of broad policies by which the site will be managed and developed in the future. They support a vision of a sustainable working cemetery leading the way in heritage conservation which other sites will look to. I think these latest works are a really good example of how we intend to improve the site while also retaining and enhancing all the special features that make Brookwood Cemetery so unique.”
For more information visit the Brookwood Cemetery website.