Very appropriately as our charcoal season builds to a crescendo, today 11 August, is the feast day of Saint Alexander of Comana, the patron saint of charcoal burners. He died in 250 AD and during his adult lifetime, he had taken up the work of charcoal burning out of humility to escape worldly honors. He was noted for being exceptionally dirty as a consequence of his lifestyle! Hopefully he still looks over our charcoal burners today.
Since our last newsletter, the focus in Pondhead has been entirely on charcoal production and despite the stop/start nature of the summer and water/puddles in the inclosure more akin to March, we look like we’re heading for another record year of sales. We have already produced over 4.25 tonnes which has required over 13 tonnes of cut timber. Thanks for this goes to our small team of “wood colliers” who undertake the burns and our team who empty and bag – a great effort by all involved and especially those of you who have signed up for sawing duties which has ensured that we have maintained sufficient cut timber to stack the kiln. There are still spaces available for these duties if you want some fresh air and excercise.
However, our sales success has not been without its issues! As we couldn’t do any significant cutting last year our supply of charcoal timber is running very low and we have been scouring the inclosure for any suitable piles that have been left lying around. Hopefully we should have just enough to get us to the end of the season which is usually mid September unless we have an Indian Summer. The other issue we have is that the kiln refurbishment that was undertaken during the winter has not been successful and the inner chamber is distorting badly but it should just last the season (fingers crossed) but with little hope of it being able to complete another year’s production.
Earlier in the year we were given a smaller kiln (known as “Little George” as it was deleivered on St George’s Day), that had been made by a friend of Dave Dibden. This kiln was made from an old LPG tank and hardened steel and has worked perfecly throught the summer doing two burns a week, producing around 25kg each burn while keeping its shape with no buckling under the high temperatures at which it operates. Based on this experience we have now commissioned him to build a bigger one for us using a larger LPG tank. After seven seasons the old kiln will be scrapped although we will retain the trailer and mount the new kiln on it – watch this space!
Once we get to the end of the charcoal season by mid/late September we hope to get back to some semblance of normal with a new autumn/winter programme of conservation tasks. We’ll get back to you early September with details as we are currently awaiting final details of the Limewood sewer works which is being routed through the inclosure and which will impact on where we can work for the duration of the works. Discussions on this have been ongoing for more than 18 months and we were closely involved in the planning process. The fine details of the works are changing constantly and the initial plan has changed quite significantly. Work could start as early as next week and is estimated to take 6 weeks (originally advised as 10 days). It is likely that the main gravel track up to Limewood will be closed and parking in Beechen Lane will be severely restricted. They will also be using some of the grass rides so, unfortunately, we can expect a certain amount of disruption. We will be attending another meeting shortly to to discuss how they can keep disruption to our tasks to a minimum – we’ll keep you posted.
Finally, we now have a supply of Pondhead car window decals (self cling) – just ask Derek for one when you see him. As it is likely that we will be able to park in either of the INEOS/Limewood properties in Beechen Lane while the work is ongoing, you will need a sticker to identify your car as a PCT volunteer.
Take care everyone and enjoy the remainder of the summer.