Using rhododendron to make charcoal
Rhododendron was introduced into Allen Banks during Victorian times as an ornamental plant. Since then it has steadily increased its size and range to cover a significant proportion of the site, making it difficult for other native plants to grow.
To make space for other plants and increase the diversity of the woodland, the rangers and volunteers cut down this invasive rhododendron and stack it in the wood to dry out.
When it is dry, it is then cut and stacked in the kiln. Once the kiln is lit, air vents at the base are opened and the chimneys are moved around to control the rate of burn.
After eleven hours, the chimneys are removed are the air vents blocked. The charcoal inside then continues to cook without any oxygen.
After being left for a couple of days to cool completely, the kiln is opened and the charcoal is collected.
To help raise funds for the conservation of Allen Banks and neighbouring properties Cherryburn and Housesteads, the charcoal is sold at Housesteads' Visitor Centre and Cherryburn.