If you wander up to the far reaches of the Landscape Garden here at Hestercombe, you’ll stumble upon our kiln. It’s not for firing clay and it’s not for heating glass… it’s for the hot, dirty, smoky work of making charcoal.
Tucked between the trees, close to the Cascades, stands the Charcoal Burner’s Camp, in an area once used for quarrying. For the past 250 years, Hestercombe has used it to create fuel from fallen or cut-down wood from the estate.
It’s a tradition we continue today, with several Charcoal Burning Days throughout the year. It’s worth the climb up to see us when the kiln is in action, with marshmallows to toast and charcoal to sketch with – something for everyone, whether you’re arty, foodie or a bit of both.
Making charcoal is not something to be rushed - the gardens team are up from dawn ‘til dusk, watching over the smouldering process. This year, we’re extending our opening hours for one night only so you can enjoy the gardens on a summer evening and see what we're up to. Find out more about our evening opening here.
But for now, back to the charcoal. After a long, slow burn and a few days, the wood that went in is transformed. Our gardens team bag this up in sturdy paper sacks, ready to sell in our Shop & Plant Centre.
Making charcoal is more than just a historical tradition here at Hestercombe, though. It's a sustainable solution too. We love a good BBQ at the Stables Café and by using our own charcoal, we do our bit for the environment.
Imports count for 90% of charcoal in the UK, with a significant amount taken from endangered hardwood forests. So, by buying local at Hestercombe, you could do your bit to help too. It burns slowly but it gets hot, hot, hot – essential for a brilliant barbecue, and it means it lasts longer too!
See what the burn is all about at our next Charcoal Burning Day (find dates here). Don’t forget to stock up in our shop - enjoy the BBQ!