Coppicing Chestnut by Hand
When you are out driving or walking around the Kent countryside you might come across a bit of woodland that looks like a Hurricane has just ripped through it. Don’t worry about that though, as it’s probably just a bit of coppicing, a centuries old wood land management technique that helps our local woodlands and wildlife thrive.
The Romans originally brought Chestnut over from Spain to provide fuel for the iron industry in the Weald and the woodlands they planted have been used by generations in Kent to supply everything from hop poles to fence posts, pit props, the raw material for paper production and of course firewood. Bertie’s helps carry on this tradition by using locally coppiced timber for all our firewood production.
When a wood is coppiced the trees are cut down to about a foot of so from the ground and this allows them to regrow (think of pruning roses on a giant scale). Coppicing usually takes place every 12 – 15 years in blocks around the wood and this allows many types of flora and fauna to flourish during the coppicing cycle. If the trees are not cut back regularly they tend to grow too large and can ‘topple’ over and die, so coppicing is a very important practice that helps keep our Kent woodlands healthy.
The simple answer to this question is any wood that’s dry!
The slightly longer answer is that any wood that’s dry, but preferably dense too.
Timber when freshly felled usually has a moisture content of 50-60% and as with burning anything damp will not be easy to light or provide much in the way of heat. As a rough guide firewood like Bertie’s Kiln Dried logs with a moisture content of 20% will produce around twice the heat of freshly cut logs with a moisture content of 55%.
The density of the wood has an effect too, with slow growing hardwoods being much denser than quick growing softwoods. This means that you will need to burn about 4 softwood logs to get the same heat output as 3 hardwood logs of the same moisture content. Softwoods can also contain more sap and this can lead to the build up of tar in the chimney.
That’s why we produce our kiln dried firewood from locally sourced hardwoods including ash, birch, beech and oak.
We think the Bluebells looked particularity fine this year and it just goes to show how important coppicing is on the Weald,
Bluebells and many other woodland flowers like rare Orchids can’t thrive in over grown, un-cared for woods. They only do well when the woodland is managed regularly to allow light in under the canopy. It is not only flowers, but many other forms of flora and fauna benefit greatly from letting more light into the woods.
Coppicing is a woodland management technique that has been used for centuries in Kent & Sussex. It involves cutting trees back to about a foot from the ground, with the trees allowed to regrow and the process repeated every 12 – 15 years. Coppicing is usually carried out in blocks around a wood and this means that different parts of the woodland are at different stages of regeneration during the coppicing cycle. The wood harvested from coppicing was originally used by the Romans to smelt iron, later it was used for fencing, pit props and hop poles. More recently the timber has been used by companies like Bertie’s to produce local, sustainable wood fuel.
So you can thank coppicing for the beautiful show that Bluebells put on every year!
Lighting your new stove can take a little bit of practice, but hopefully the tips below will help you get started.
Make sure all the air controls on your stove are fully open.
Place a Waxling firelighter in the middle of the grate and build a ‘wigwam’ of Bertie’s kindling around it. Light the firelighter and close the door almost completly, leaving it slightly ajar.
Once the kindling is burning well add a small klin dried log or 2 to the fire and allow them to catch well alight. Still keep all the air controls open and the door slightly ajar.
Once the fire is burning well with a bed of glowing embers close the door and then start to close down the bottom air control. This allows the stove to start to warm up.
Once the stove is warmed up, start managing the heat output of the stove using the amount of fuel and air added to control the heat produced. Add more fuel and more top air and the stove will produce more heat.
Remenber that firewood burns best when it’s on a bed of ash, so always leave an inch or so of ash on the grate. To get the best heat out of your stove and to eliminate ‘sooting’ on the window always use kiln dried logs.
Finally it takes a bit of practice to get a stove working well!
He’s at Hadlow College Farm Shop, don’t forget they sell Bertie’s logs and kindling.