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Paws for Thought with a Unique Bereavement Project

One of the best things about being here at Nature Sign Design is the diversity of our work. Never are two days the same and there is no predicting what kind of work might come in.

It’s not just nature and wildlife signs that we create – we receive a myriad of different commissions every month that take us everywhere and stretch our imaginations.

Still, we are able to be out and about a lot and very often in the most beautiful of places. We all regard the great outdoors as our office and place of inspiration.

So, picture the scene: we are sitting in NSD towers and we receive an enquiry via the website from The Friends of Philips Park Cemetery in Manchester about our solid brass rubbing posts, a speciality of ours.

Our rubbing posts are made to traditional standards, hand cast in English brass, hand polished and finished with deep embossed lettering. We mount the brass rubbings onto oak posts using anti-vandal fittings and countersink them with glue to make them even more secure.

Generally, rubbing posts are used along nature trails and allow people to take rubbings at points of interest along their walk. Each post is different and depicts an animal or plant associated with the area it is located in.

We have a catalogue of ever-increasing designs but if there is something a customer wants we are happy to design a bespoke plaque. The styles can be designed for children and have no sharp edges which means that they are suitable for all.

This was an interesting one for us. Philips Park Cemetery is in Miles Platting and was the first municipal cemetery in Manchester, when it was opened in 1866. Next to the River Medlock, it is a gorgeous green space, a perfect place for contemplation and exploration.

The Friends community group wanted a permanent feature for children who have recently lost loved ones – a place where they could visit and grieve too. Obviously this is a timeless response, but it seems much needed in the confusion and chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s something we support wholeheartedly and what made it even more appealing as a commission is that it is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK. Called Children Grieve Too, the project’s aim is to help young people learn and accept that grieving is a normal part of bereavement. The park is a large physical space, but the signs are there to offer guidance and direction to young people and their families and help break down any fears for them in such an unusual environment as a cemetery.

The commission was therefore very specific about having eye catching coloured signs that would stand out and encourage investigation. The signs and posts were designed to engage and prompt children to talk about their feelings.

The signage is for children, parents and carers and have information about how to contact local support groups and charities that specialise in bereavement support. They also indicate the start and finish points of the Teddy Paws Trail featuring a nature hunt of hidden animal carvings and animal themed rubbing posts with an activity pack available from a box on the sign for children to complete along the way.

The customer ordered four rubbing posts and two upright signs: the first in the shape of a bear, with a stone teddy at its feet and showing pictures of a bat, a squirrel, a bumble bee and a butterfly; the second in the shape of an apple tree containing a large box to display children’s art work, as well as flowers and butterflies. The whole manufacturing process took around three weeks to complete.

Our customer was so delighted with our signs and posts that there are plans now to roll
this scheme out nationwide.

And the scheme also won praise from Manchester City Council, with the executive member for skills, culture and leisure, Cllr Luthfur Rahman saying: “I think the project is a wonderfully considerate gesture by the Friends of Philips Park Cemetery and I am sure it will go on to help many young people who no longer have to suffer in silence.

We are delighted to have worked on such an amazing initiative and hope it continues to help many unfortunate children for years to come.

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