Tag Archives: woodland habitat

Charcoal, the Good, the Bad and the Dirty

Locally produced Charcoal

With the Summer weather improving there will be more opportunities to cook on a barbecue and dine with friends and family outside. You might not think that there could be many differences between brands of charcoal, but there are. In this post I will compare home produced from our native hardwoods with that from tropical hardwoods. Unfortunately, the UK still imports the majority of charcoal consumed annually. British hardwood charcoal is a higher quality and a better product than that produced from tropical hardwoods, and here are some reasons why:

Benefits

  • There are far fewer impurities in the finished product so it will not taint the food being cooked. The same thing cannot be said for that produced from tropical hardwoods.
  • It is easy to light with a taper of twisted paper, so does not need any lighter fluids or firelighters. When using lighter fluids or firelighters with charcoal, you will increase the chances of tainting any food being cooked from the extra residues.
  • Charcoal made from UK hardwoods has a high carbon content. It will burn slower, you will use less, so it will last longer than tropical hardwood.
  • UK production is often associated with sustainable forms of woodland management like coppicing. This type of woodland management enhances and maintains a diverse mix of wildlife habitats in our woodlands, thus keeping our woodlands healthy and thriving with wildlife. Whereas tropical hardwood charcoal often comes from rainforest and mangrove swamps, that use unsustainable and ecologically damaging harvesting practices in the form of deforestation.
  • Buying British helps sustain rural employment. It is more environmentally friendly than imported charcoal that has to be shipped long distances using more fossil fuels in the process. Importing less will, in a small way, contribute to reducing our trade imbalances.
  • Making it is a good method for using up small otherwise unusable pieces of wood by converting them into a higher value product.

Based on retail price British hardwood charcoal is more costly than imported tropical hardwood charcoal. However, comparing purely on price is not a fair comparison as I hope you will appreciate from the points mentioned above.

There are many smallscale producers all over the country. Some do supply big retail outlets directly, but be aware that big retailers squeeze producers in all sectors. So if you can, try and source either directly from the producer or from small local retail outlets and distributors selling their products.

British Hardwood Charcoal in a round Kiln

Fresh from the kiln

Heywood Wood

Fine Douglas stemsDouglas Fir Veteran TreeDouglas Fir Veteran Tree main trunk


A great place to visit is the Forestry Commission’s Heywood Wood, near Eggesford in Devon. There are fine examples of well formed Douglas fir growing throughout; it has a stunning veteran Douglas fir growing in the northern part. A short distance from here you will find the motte and bailey remains of a Norman fort. Whilst walking along one of the rides I managed to take a photo of a Speckled Wood butterfly, which is with the rest of this photo set on Flickr.

Exe Valley Woodland

Wonham KilnI paid a visit to a 14 acre woodland today in the Exe Valley after receiving an enquiry about nesting boxes for Dormice. This small wood is in its first year of management after not being managed for about 30 years. The owners main objectives are habitat management and providing a sustainable supply of woodfuel for their home and two holiday lets Wonhan Oak. The site is dominated by an old Limestone quarry that closed circa 1910. It is stocked with plently of Ash, Willow, Hazel, Oak and some Beech. Dormice are known to be in the local area and the Hazel in the wood does produce large quantities of nuts each year. There are numerous old hedgerows providing wildlife corridors that link the woodland with other areas. The site is a promising one for installing some Dormouse nesting boxes, especially in conjunction with the coppice restoration work.