Remember your loved ones at Adlington Memorial Park

PUBLISHED: 10:54 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:32 16 June 2020

Mark Simpkin opened the park four years ago. Photo: Jake Simpkin

Mark Simpkin opened the park four years ago. Photo: Jake Simpkin

Archant

Adlington Memorial Park is set in 26 acres of parkland and is a beautiful and tranquil place to pay your respects to friends and family

The wildflower meadow at Adlington Memorial Park. Photo: Jake SimpkinThe wildflower meadow at Adlington Memorial Park. Photo: Jake Simpkin

When Vicky Devon’s mother died on Mother’s Day, her first thought was how to plan a fitting send-off in these exceptional times.

Coronavirus restrictions mean funerals can only be attended by up to 10 people, and those 10 people must remain two metres apart. But Vicky is one of many to have found solace at Adlington Memorial Park, a space offering an alternative approach to the traditional cemetery.

“It’s a jewel in the crown,” says Vicky, who opted for the park as a resting place for her mother Audrey for its living memorial-style features. “Mum died the day before lockdown was enforced and my main thought was what the heck do you do in a situation like this? It’s the worry and the sleepless nights.”

The memorial park was the natural choice for Vicky after her daughter Georgie carried out work experience there last year. “The park has such a lovely, family-orientated homely feel,” says Vicky, managing partner of her family business Devon Eggs. “We’re a farming family in the village and it just seemed fitting that we approached Mark Simpkin, founder and owner of Adlington Memorial Park and Funeral Services, to handle the funeral for mum. He included us, took everything on board and made the whole thing much less scary.”

Vicky Devon and her daughter, Georgie.Vicky Devon and her daughter, Georgie.

The memorial park is set in 26 acres of beautiful parkland and meadow within the 2,000 acre Adlington Hall Estate – an integral part of the village which started out as a simple Saxon hunting lodge 700 years ago.

“The park has a special beauty and its own unique feeling of serenity,” says Mark, who opened the park four years ago. “We want people to use the space as you would a normal park: to sit on the bench, read a book – drink champagne if you want to. We have one guy who brings fish and chips down every Friday, and other people who simply come for a chat.”

His less-than traditional approach is attracting families from South Wales, London and the South west for its tailor-made service. The focus is on living memorial options such as planting a tree, scattering wildflowers and scattering ashes in the rose garden or wildflower meadow. For Mark, it’s about offering ‘a lasting tribute in a natural and sustainable way’.

“Some people like a traditional approach,” the former television presenter says. “Others really hate it. The main part of the site – which used to be a medieval deer park – is protected and is home to a wildflower meadow, planted to attract bees and butterflies.

“We try and make it a positive experience. For the kids we have what we call a bee bomb with 14 species of wildflower wrapped in soil and clay, which we ask them to throw as far as they can into the field so that when they come back to visit, they’ll see those wildflowers. Or if people choose to plant a tree, we ask the children to bring their wellies and we physically plant the tree with them.”

Vicky and her family decided on having a direct cremation, and they will bury Audrey’s ashes at a later date when social gatherings are allowed. “It’s good to have something different; to have that time to grieve and to have a ceremony with as few or as many as you’d like,” Vicky says. “If we wanted the traditional side of things, we could have done that, but it’s good to have the option to show our respects in other ways.

“Organising a funeral is not an everyday occurrence and at this stage we didn’t really know which way to turn. It was important that we felt we had somebody who was in control and was there to comfort us. That is important any time, but especially now.”

Mark has extended the times available for funerals and services, also offering them at weekends – and people, such as Vicky, are starting to think about plans for their own funeral, too. His team is made up of his father, John, and close friend, Sue Brocklehurst, who look after the gardens; his son, Jake, who films and edits funerals; and friend Debbie Kirk, who manages the office and helps with the planning and directing side of things.

“We’ve always offered to film or livestream funerals, but it’s never been that popular,” Mark says. “But during these unprecedented times, it’s almost the norm so that family and friends are still able to be involved.

“The situation at the moment is heartbreaking. It’s hard enough for a family to deal with death at the best of times, but this crisis means they’re not able to have the send-off they would’ve liked. So far, so good, though. I think we’re managing well in these strange times.”

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