Using rhododendron to make charcoal

Cut and dry rhododendron ready for the kiln

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.

The kiln at Allen Banks
Smoke coming out of the chimneys of the kiln at Allen Banks
The kiln at Allen Banks

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.

Up to 55 bags of charcoal can be produced at one time
Charcoal in the kiln at Allen Banks
Up to 55 bags of charcoal can be produced at one time