In deepest Dorset, the ancient craft of charcoal burning is undergoing a revival. A great plume of smoke billows across the field, hugging the hawthorn hedge before rising into the Dorset sky...
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Best served with
Singe your sausages with a clear consience this summer by using local charcoal produced to traditional methods, says Bruno Harley. Britons have come to love barbecuing...
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There are many by products from Jim Bettle's Dorset Charcoal Company. He makes charcoal for art shops and he supplied charcoal to the Evercreech company...
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The Daily Telegraph
are in Crisis
The world depends on trees. They recycle our waste gases, converting the carbon dioxide that we each exhale (not to mention that produced by our cars, power plants and industry) back into life-giving oxygen...
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A pall of smoke hung over Turnworth Wood, clearly marking the spot where Jim Bettle was at work making charcoal. This isn't a permanent site for him though, for he moves his kilns each season...
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Barbecues are not
always so healthy
96% of charcoal in this country is imported from the developing world, supporting slave labour and destruction to the rain forests. Its ironic, when in Britain we have all the resources to make top quality charcoal...
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Country Life - June 1993
No need to barbecue with mangrove swamps
As much as 97% of the charcoal presently used in Britain is imported, generally from Third World countries. About a third comes from Indonesia, and is made from mangrove wood. Little can be done to police whether the raw material in Indonesian and other imported charcoal comes from sustainably managed forests. The method of production is so inefficient that only some 60% of the charcoal is likely to be carbon: it is the other 40% - still wood - that gives off the clouds of smoke in burning. No doubt many of the people who unwittingly use imported charcoal on their barbecues would be horrified to imagine the effect, however slight, that they are having on rain forests and mangrove swamps.
English charcoal, by contrast is of higher quality, with carbon contents of up to 90%. Consequently, according to Mr Pooran Desai of the Bio-regional Development Group in Sutton, "it is easy to light and reaches a high temperature in about 15 minutes". Bought by weight, it may be more expensive than the foreign competition but that is partly because carbon - the desirable ingredient - is lighter than unconverted wood. There are other benefits to the home product. Some of it is made from forest thinnings (a waste product), some from coppicing (a renewable resource). Coppiced woodland offers an attractive habitat for wild flowers.
Forestry & British Timber - Winter 1993
British makers, or burners, now number nearly 300, as against a mere 50 a few years ago. They are finding that the green credentials and superior quality of British charcoal are spurring demand for their product. In the absence of precise statistics, the British Charcoal Group, which represents producers, estimated that in 1995 British barbecue enthusiasts bought 40,000 to 50,000t of charcoal, of which only 3,000t came from British burners. In addition, around 20,000t of charcoal went to industry for such products as filters and for chemical processes and agriculture and horticulture. While we import well over 90% of our charcoal needs, the British Charcoal Group points to the 90m m³ of Britain's broadleaved standing resource, which is estimated to grow at around 2m m' per annum and only half of which is used by manufacturing industry. It would seem therefore that a million cubic metres of broadleaved timber is available each year for uses that could include the making of charcoal.
The Independent - June 1996
Over the last few decades the ancient woodland industry of charcoal burning has been relegated to the museums, while we have imported charcoal from tropical rain forests swamps.
Birds Magazine - Winter 1993
The heyday of coppice woodlands was over 100 years ago. Sadly, a dramatic decline in demand for woodland produce left most ancient woodlands, especially in southern England, as abandoned coppice with declining wildlife. In an effort to restore woodland wildlife, conservationists seek new markets for produce to make coppice management viable again. One of the most promising new products is charcoal for the barbecue market. About 60,000 tonnes of charcoal are sold in Britain each year: 90 per cent is imported, often from non-sustainable sources.
In Spain, holm oaks are traditionally used to make charcoal in a sustainable way but there is a trend to use eucalyptus from plantations that replace native wildlife habitat. In South-East Asia tropical rainforests and mangroves are felled to make charcoal, simply to enable us to cook out of doors. There is, however, enough coppice woodland in south-cast England alone to supply the whole of the barbecue charcoal market with a superior product. British native hardwoods produce excellent lumpwood charcoal, which requires no lighter fuel and gives a good heat within 15-20 minutes. Even the dust residue is in demand for high grade steel production.
The Times - June 1995
Burning Desire to Buy British
The deciduous woodlands that supply the raw materials for the charcoal should benefit from 1 the industry's revival. England in particular has a vast resource of broadleaf woods that have received little if any management for more than half a century. Ancient coppice stools, formerly cut to the ground on a regular seven to fifteen year cycle, have towered into high, dense canopies. Overgrown coppice woods provide a valuable haven for rare insects and fungi, but they also inhibit the growth of young trees and exclude many Spring flowers and butterflies. Provided sufficient areas are left untouched, cutting down the excess growth for charcoal will help restore the balance of woodland ecology.'
Farming & Conservation - October 1995
The Quality of British Charcoal
Let us begin by saying that British made barbecue charcoal is the best. It is superior to the heavy imported materials made from tropical hardwoods or mangrove woods. It ignites easily without extensive use of lighter fuels, comes up to cooking temperature quickly and bums cleanly. The reason for this is the lighter structure of British wood species which results in a more open structured charcoal. Moreover it is made from properly managed woodlands where full attention is paid to maintaining the environment and wildlife habitats.