An unusual burial site near Wem has capped off a remarkable year with the completion of its latest Iron Age-style barrow.

Soulton Hall celebrated the Winter Solstice with the competition of its upgraded long barrow.

Soulton Long Barrow is a monument specifically designed for holding cremation ashes as an alternative to a typical cemetery.

The first barrow opened was opened in 2018, and was intended to accommodate burial urns in the Neolithic-style burial mound.

Late last year work began on ‘phase two’ of the barrow, which was because of popular demand for remains to be placed in the first new barrow – the first of its type to be built in Shropshire for millennia, and which followed on from similarly successful projects elsewhere in the country.

Work might have been completed if not for the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020, but Tim Ashton of Soulton Hall is seeing the positives of an up and down year.

December marked the final stages of the completion of the second chamber of the long barrow and it was hoped the final stone would be placed in time for the Winter Solstice on December 21.

Fortunately for Tim, the task was completed in time, with all involved celebrating the occasion.

“We did finish it on Saturday and held the event on Monday,” said Tim.

“The kind of the cool thing was that it coincided with the great conjunction.

“We were hoping to meet the solstice but the conjunction was an added bonus.

“Given the level of interest we had to disappoint people, as we could only let 80 people come.”

Tim says he takes satisfaction from the completion of the barrow, rather than pride, dedicating its opening to all the families invested in the project.

“For us it was quite emotional, my family are very pleased the building phase is over,” Tim added.

“It was just a really gentle deep smile from all of us. We hadn’t let anyone down and created something beautiful.

“When we started I was very confident, but you are not sure how people are going to take something like this.

“It’s possible to interpret this as quite wacky and out there, but I’m very grateful for how gentle and kind everyone has been.

“It’s not about me or my family or my farm, it’s about all of us.

“It’s been an opportunity to have a slightly less rubbish pandemic.”

Tim adds that seeing the cap go on the barrow lead to a great sense of satisfaction, and it came in the same year that a new outdoor theatre was built at Soulton Hall to allow for performances during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s very satisfying that we haven’t let anyone down,” he added.

“When the cap went on it was sense of gratitude and relief.”