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A charcoal kiln takes shape

by Rod Kebble & Conway Churchill

A good turnout (13 volunteers) meant that the conservation group was able to undertake a number of tasks simultaneously on Saturday 23rd July.

While two groups dealt with Himalayan Balsam in Wey Wood and across the river in Wey Meadow, another group tackled some recalcitrant rhododendrons with a drill and glyphosate. The barbecue was taken apart and given a good clean after Monday’s visit from DEFRA (see the second post below) and some of the bracken near the dairy was cleared again.

But the prize for the most original activity goes to farmer Mike Clear and CRT volunteer Conway Churchill, who set about making a charcoal kiln from an old diesel storage tank, some old gate posts (for chimneys) and a length or two of old angle iron (air inlets and chimney bases).

Countryside Restoration Trust tenant farmer Mike Clear using an angle grinder to clean the tank.

Farmer Mike Clear takes an angle grinder to clean the inside of the old storage tank.

Conway writes: “We did lots of cutting, grinding and welding. This is recycling in its purest form and the kiln will be used to make a useful product that we can sell to raise funds for the Countryside Restoration Trust.

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer Conway Churchill does something clever with a piece of angle iron.

CRT volunteer Conway Churchill does something clever with a piece of angle iron.

“The tank has a coating of oil on the inside so Mike is going to burn some rubbish in it to ‘clean’ this off. The plan then is to have a trial charcoal burn and get an idea of how long we need to leave it lit and the quality/quantity of charcoal produced.

“My guesstimate is that the kiln should be allowed to burn for no more than 12 hours and will produce about 20 5kg sacks of saleable charcoal. These numbers will depend however on how well seasoned the wood is, the direction/speed of the wind on the burn day and my limited abilities.”

Charcoal was made last year from hazel and chestnut coppiced at Pierrepont and it is hoped that rhododendron will also prove suitable, not least because there is still a large amount of it to be removed from around the farm.

Farmer Mike Clear, his son Patrick, herdsman Tony Timmis and Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer Conway Churchill with the finished kiln.

Farmer Mike Clear (front), his son Patrick (front) and herdsman Tony Timmis (right) and CRT volunteer Conway Churchill (back right) with the finished kiln.