Families can once again choose a woodland burial for their loved ones after the re-opening of a natural burial area in Durham.

Durham County Council took over the picturesque grounds, next to South Road Cemetery, following the liquidation of the Woodland Burial Trust in 2016.

And now, as well as honouring previously reserved plots, it is ready to welcome more people seeking a less traditional final resting place.

Cllr Brian Stephens, the authority’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “We know that the local community is keen to see it continue to operate as a natural burial area and, following record checks, we are very pleased to announce that we are once again able to offer this alternative to more traditional cemetery burial.”

Surrounded by wild flowers and trees the peaceful and tranquil site has capacity for around 700 burials, with near 70 people either currently interred or having reserved space there.

The site, which is the council’s first woodland site, will be maintained as a natural glade setting with no headstones and only biodegradable coffins allowed.

The council will be operating the grounds with the support of the Friends of Durham Woodland Cemetery, who own the lodge at the site.

As well as helping to maintain and improve the site, members of the group will be on hand to offer advice and support to families planning a funeral and also supply a plaque if required.

Oliver Sherratt, the council’s head of direct services, said: “We are well aware that a number of people have paid to reserve a plot and we’re pleased to provide assurance that previous commitments made by the Woodland Burial Trust will be honoured.”

Newly requested burials at the woodland site will cost the same as at one of Durham County Council’s other cemeteries.

The group’s Stephen Hare, said: “We are pleased the council has taken action to honour the agreements made by the WBT and are committed to supporting its efforts.

“Operating as a friends group, we are very passionate about the site and are keen to support the ongoing operation and development of the site.”