Garden blogs

From Chainsaws to Charcoal


We are very lucky here at the Garden to have some amazing supporters. The Patsy Wood Trust, established according to wishes of maverick tree planter and inspirational environmentalist, Patsy Wood, provided the funds to purchase our Exeter Retort, as well as supporting the replanting of our historic parkland tree clumps.

This mobile retort provides the means to produce high quality charcoal on site, or in collaboration with other local groups, allowing us to turn low quality timber destined for the chipper, into a valuable resource.

It is able to produce everything from fine artists stick charcoal, to BBQ lump wood and biochar, using a design which is far more efficient than a regular ring kiln and more mobile and human than a processing plant.

Charcoal production has a deep heritage, dating back over 7000 years and driving human development in the home, the arts, metal work, industry and agriculture.

Clean burning and capable of producing high temperatures, charcoal can be used in filtration and soil improvement, even paint, makeup and toothpaste, all from waste material.

It being a physical, sensory process is important, as it allows us to engage and work with many different groups, bringing the activity to life.

An entrepreneurship program running alongside enabled young people to explore the world of business, artist groups have been involved in developing our charcoal products.

Volunteers get an opportunity to work with the retort, helping to load and feed it; monitor the temperature and package charcoal for sale in the Garden shop, and of course, when we can, our own organic produce is used to provide a BBQ buffet for everyone.

So next time you visit the Garden, why not pick up a bag of BBQ charcoal, or ask about our artists sticks. You’ll be supporting conservation and empowering volunteers to learn new skills, plus you’ll get a fantastic BBQ, just don’t forget to let the embers die down – this charcoal burns hot and long!