For a list of current Charcoal Stockists in the
area please see
(website run by CANW member Ian Taylor).
CHARCOAL MAKING and SELLING TODAY
contributed by Brian Crawley and Tony Saunders December 2007
Coppice Association North West has an active band of charcoal makers. About 10 to
15 separate businesses produce mainly domestic barbecue charcoal from broadleaved
woods, mostly coppices. Other types of charcoal are made for horticultural use, restaurants
and artists. The charcoal is made mostly in metal ring kilns although some is made
in metal barrels and some in "earthburns".
CANW has organised a supply of bags for packaging the barbecue charcoal ready for
sale to the user. Some members use their own personalised packaging.
Much of the output is sold to local retailers like late-night-stores, garages, newsagents,
garden centres, etc. Other bagged charcoal is sold via the national Bioregional Charcoal
Company contract to B&Q stores and some charcoal is sold in bulk to E&S fuel suppliers
in Lancaster for eventual sale in Booths supermarkets. Outlets are constantly under
The major competition to locally made charcoal is imported charcoal currently providing
about 95% of UK consumption but gas barbecues are gaining popularity. However, the
attributes of locally made charcoal make for convincing publicity:-
- encourages management of woodlands with benefits for rural employment and wildlife
- lower transport costs and emissions than with imported charcoal
- lights more easily (10-15 minutes using only newspaper) than most imported charcoal
(eliminating lighting fluid food tainting)
- almost 'carbon neutral' - unlike gas barbecues burning fossil fuels
Courses in charcoal making are arranged from time to time by Cumbria Woodlands and
some CANW members.
BRITISH WOOD CHARCOAL - HORTICULTURAL CHIPS (BIO-CHAR)
The addition of charcoal chips enhances the moisture properties of most growing media
in two apparently contradictory ways:-
- They aid drainage by virtue of the relatively large particle size... and...
- they help moisture retention by virtue of their excellent porosity. Charcoal is able
to absorb it's own weight of water.
The mild alkalinity of charcoal (pH of 8-10) will sweeten over-acid soils and composts.
It's use also improves levels of calcium, potassium and magnesium.
- Use in flower bowls, bottle gardens, hanging baskets, etc.
- A ring of charcoal spread on the surface of the soil around young Hosta plants(and similar) will deter slugs.
- It is believed that charcoal is a useful treatment for the recently experienced box (hedge) disease.
- Larger quantities can usually be supplied, for more extensive purposes, on request (in which case it is often referred to as Bio-Char).
All charcoal created by CANW members is made from well managed, sustainable, broadleaved,
A report from an Italian investigation - to which both Ian Taylor and
Rebecca Oaks supplied material - is available as a *.pdf HERE and may be helpful
to those wishing to promote sales.
Stock 'bio-char' or charcoal 'fines'
'Bio-char' mixed with finely sieved soil for evenness of spreading
Soil surface 3 years after application of a clay-rich site
Turned-over soil - structure and drainage is greatly improved