A HEREFORDSHIRE couple has won an award at this year's Cemetery of the Year for the third year in a row.

Sarah and Richard Vale own and manage Hay Meadow Burial Ground, near Hay-on-Wye, which has been given a silver award in the Natural Burial Ground category.

"We are just over the moon," said Ms Vale.

"We felt a little bit out of place because we realized that we were the only little business compared to the big businesses.


The Cemetery of the Year Awards competition is designed not to improve standards within burial grounds and encourage best practices with information and support from leading Burial Authority Organisations.

The couple, originally from Dorstone in the Golden Valley, has run the ground for five years and offers an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation.

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There is a traditional hay meadow that people can be buried in where they become a part of a cycle of taking the hay from the field, or can also become part of the creation of a new wood.

Ms Vale said: "We've both been foster carers and it's a very similar sort of thing that you're helping children when they're got troubles, you're helping families with their troubles and their grief.

"It is a really, really rewarding thing to do, to go away and to feel that you've helped that family."


The graves are hand-filled where wildflowers eventually will grow which means many families don't feel the need to buy bouquets and are asked to not bring plastic decorations.

They also ask for people to not be embalmed because chemicals would be released into the soil which would disrupt the balance of the ecosystem at the grounds.

People from all walks of life are welcomed.

According to the Association for Public Service Excellence, 37.51 per cent of authorities in the UK provide natural burials, and 60.71 per cent also make specific provisions for promoting biodiversity in cemetery grounds.