St Albans Woodland Burial Trust recognises the importance which many people attach to an appropriate memorial at a grave. In commercial cemeteries it is common practice for memorials to be erected made from natural stone such as granite, imported from across the world. The Trustees prefer a more sustainable alternative and have authorised the use of wooden memorials which are inscribed locally by Mr Peter Aspinal. Peter has provided dignified oak memorials which are sympathetic to the setting of our woodland and which provide a personal, individual tribute. We asked Peter to describe how he produces his memorials...
The oak which I use for the production of the simple crosses, plaques and memorial posts is kiln dried. Due to the restriction of lettering space for the crosses and plaques the wording is kept quite simple. This allows for the letters to be large enough to read easily and for them to last longer. The memorial posts are larger, and there is a greater opportunity for the family to be involved in the designs and the wording. I will usually work with clients to produce a special design which is particularly appropriate. One of the first steps is to produce layout drawings for the family to approve, before commencing work.
The designs and the lettering are first cut into a stencil, I will either use a computer or draw by hand, depending on the complexity of the designs. These are then lightly sandblasted into the oak to produce a clear outline to work from. At this stage I use a pyrography machine to burn the letters and the design deeply into the wood, so that it can be seen easily and last longer. Once the design and the lettering have been burnt into the wood, a wire brush is used to get rid of any loose carbon deposits and the timber is sanded to ensure a clean edge. An environmentally friendly organic oil is then used to highlight the designs and to help preserve the oak. A second coat of oil is brushed in prior to fixing. I avoid the use of varnish and other substances, although these might preserve the oak more effectively, I seek always to use a natural and environmentally friendly product. For the same reason, the crosses and plaques are glued together, to avoid the use of nails or screws. Finally the posts are buried approximately 14” into the ground with about 28” above ground level.
The oak will last a long time, but inevitably, out in all weathers, the timber will deteriorate over time. Small cracks will appear, especially in very dry weather. They will be less obvious when it rains and the wood swells. The object of the woodland burial ground at Keysoe is to maintain a natural environment and a place where families can experience a peaceful experience, encouraging an environmentally friendly burial ground. It is always my intention to be sympathetic to these aims, which make this such a special place.
Prices will vary depending on the complexity, but Linda Parry, the Administrator, will always be able to make the necessary arrangements. So do give us a call and we will be happy to discuss options and give quotes at no cost.