Our charcoal story started 10 years ago with a course on the Hampshire/Dorset border, just outside Cranbourne, with the aptly named Pete “the Charcoal” Jameson (PJ). Pete threw us in at the deep end and we learned the processes and the smells of charcoal burning.
Our next journey took us to Wales to collect our shiny new ring kilns from B.M Wilson (now sadly retired) who was the premier kiln maker at the time.
Within a week we had the kiln set up on site and loaded with wood. With the help of PJ we fired our first kiln load of mixed hardwood on the 17th of July 2008. In the ensuing 10 year the kilns have been filmed several times for tv/radio and websites. In 2013 we move the kiln to a site in our own wood from one nearby.
Fast forward to 2016 and the ring kilns were joined by our Hookway retort kiln as we were finding it hard to empty the ring kilns due to 2 wet summers. While the Hookway kiln improved the turnaround time and could be emptied in as little as 10 mins between showers, it is limited to 6-8 bags per burn, which has got us out of a few holes. It also made us realise that the retort was the way to go, as it has a much faster turnaround time. With a ring kiln you have to wait for the fire within to go out which to be safe is a minimum of 24-36 hours. The retort works by cooking the timber so there is no flame in contact with the wood.
We had been looking at the mobile Exeter Retort kiln for a number years and knew a local Wood Collier who used one, but we also thought there were some issues with the early models. We also knew that the Carbon Compost Company who designed it, had been working on these issues and were willing to listen to suggestions. At the South West Wood Fair at Longleat 2017 and we spent a good time looking at the latest design and talking to Robin and Geoff about the improvements and design changes they had made which had removed all the reservations we had previously.
Returning from the show we looked at the price and possible funding available. We had been involved with the Fieldfair Leader scheme in the past and knew that there was European Grant money available to support companies like us. Thus started the process of applying for funding towards our new investment. Although it would take longer than anyone had planned we were awarded our grant in June 2018 and placed the order straight away.
On the 25th of July 2018 our new kiln arrived; not only did Goeff bring the kiln up from Devon, he spent 2 days teaching us how to fire the kiln putting first a half load and then a ¾ load of timber through giving us a good amount of charcoal to bag.
Not only is the new retort quick to load and empty, but another bonus us the reduction in wood needed because of the way the kiln converts the wood to charcoal. The losses to fines (small charcoal/dust) are reduced and the number of brown ends (unburnt wood) are reduced to virtually zero.
Title: Hamble Festival Location: Hamble-le-Rice Description: Another new show for us this year in the lovely village of Hamble-le-Rice (Hamble) and again we will have our full range for sale as well as a slightly different demonstration Start Time: 09:30 Date: 2017-05-06 End Time: 15:00
Title: Beltain Festival 2017 Location: Butser Ancient Farm Link out: Click here Description: This will be our third year at this beautiful event and it gets better every year. but remember it is a ticked event so get your tickets now. Start Time: 16:30 Date: 2017-04-29 End Time: 22:00
Title: Shamrock Quay Festival Location: William Street, SO14 5QL, SO14 5QL Southampton Link out: Click here Description: This is a new event for both Hampshire Farmers Markets and us but it looks like being a stunning show. even better we will have our full range of products for sale and a few little surprises too 😉 Start Time: 10:00 Date: 01-04-2017 End Time: 15:00
Title: Beltain at Butser Location: Butser Ancient Farm Description: We are honoured to have been invited back to demonstrate and sell at this year’s Beltain Event. We have been moved along the site this year opposite the beer tent (event better) and we will have lots of Celtic a Pagan Theme. Start Time: 16:00 Date: 2016-04-30 End Time: 24:00
Title: Meon Springs Country Experience Weekend Location: Meon springs Westmeon Link out: Click here Description: The Meon springs countryside event gets bigger and better every year and as always we will be in a prime position in the main show field along with other members of Hampshire Coppice Craftsmens’ Goup.
Start Time: 10:00 Date: 2016-04-09 End Time: 16:30
Title: Easter Ancient Demo day Location: Butser Ancient Farm Description: We will be demonstrating pole lathe tuning and green wood work at Butser Ancient Farm. As an added bonus you will be able to by our wares including our latest leather Items with an ancient theme. Start Time: 10:00 Date: 2016-03-28 End Time: 17:00
It has been a long time since we wrote a blog post on here (2014) and a lot has changed in that time.
One thing that doesn’t change is the log orders we are still keeping the home fires of Hampshire and west Sussex burning. Since our last post we have delivered over 500 loads to both private and commercial customers. All of the timber has been come from our own woodland, which is helping the sustainable management of our ancient woodland and continuing a tradition that stretches back over a thousand years.
One thing that has changed in the nearly 2 years is the addition of leather to our product range. With the initial intention of making sheaths for our tools, Kester has in the past two years developed a range of leather work with a distinctively Celtic/pagan/Viking theme, which as we work in a very Celtic landscape is rather apt. Within the woodland complex we work there are at least half a dozen burial mounds, as well as wood banks and field systems.
Rain and the resulting mud are the bane of any countryside workers life and this winter has been no acceptation, although thankfully we are not flooded, like our friends in the north. Not only does the mud put more strain on man and equipment, it can be very draining looking into a leaden sky every day wondering when it is going to drop more of the damp stuff on us. Having said that we have had a short spell of cold in the last week although the mercury is heading into the teens again now so we will see what Mother Nature has in store of us next.
Title: The Meon Springs Country Experience Day… Location: Meon Springs Whitewool Farm, East Meon Hampshire GU32 1HW Link out: Click here Description: We will be supporting this event again this year as part of the Hampshire Coppice Craftsmens' group (HCCG) display. HCCG will be demonstrating varous coppice crafts including pole lathe turning, besom broom making as well as country crafts. Start Time: 10:00 Date: 2014-04-13 End Time: 16:00
This winter we have delivered more log loads than ever before, many to our regular customers, but we also have a lot of new customers. We hope you were happy with your firewood and will back to us again in the future.
It has been a difficult winter for everyone. For those of us that work in the countryside, the wet and windy weather has made working conditions hard at best, and sometimes absolutely impossible. We were fortunate in that our land is high and on a slope, so we just suffered from mud and wind and had no flooding. There were days when we couldn't work though, as working in a wood in a gale or worse is dangerous, so we just had to stop. Felling becomes impossible with even a reaonably high wind, especially if it is gusty.
Hambledon, Finchdean and Dean Lane End were flooded near us. We had to deliver one load of firewood to a house where the bottom of the drive was under water, but luckily the house was higher. We have also been delivering log sacks to the Peoples Market in Hambledon all through the floods. At first, we were allowed to come into the top of the village as long as we drove very slowly, then access was only by the Denmead end and only for certain vehicles. In the end we found it easier to deliver down Speltham Hill. It meant we didn't have the problem of turning between the sandbags, and there was only one line of sandbags to carry the log sacks over too.
I am glad to say that the water has gone down and Hambledon at least is now water free. The access is open again, but there is a lot of clearing up and road works to do before the people of Hambledon have got back to normal. We were glad that we were able to play our very small part in helping while so many volunteers in the village did so much.
We don't know whether winter is over yet, but we are still delivering log loads for use this season. Please think about your firewood requirements for next winter over the next few months. If you order during the summer it helps us to spread the load, you get a chance to season your wood that bit better, and you know you have something to keep you warm next winter. It spreads your heating costs too.
The next thing is charcoal. We hope to be able to load and fire at least one kiln this week so we have some to sell at Winchester Farmers Market at the end of the month.
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