It’s not just the warmth factor, embracing a wood burner encompasses so many aspects of life. A is the chief fire maker at the mill, so a few years ago I bought him a copy of The Wood Fire Handbook by Vincent Thurkettle.
Mr Thurkettle has spent a lifetime working in woodlands, and covers every aspect of cutting, buying, seasoning and burning logs. His name alone inspires confidence, and it’s due to him that we now save any pieces of wood we come across.
Fir cones, lolly sticks, tooth picks, twigs, corks, it all gets brought home. And our neighbour now saves us the wooden trays that Charlie Bigham’s ready meals come in, which make great fire lighters. Not that we really need them, now we know Mr T’s methods.
Winter satsumas, for example, are carefully peeled into a whole, star-shaped piece, dried out by the burner and used for ‘pre-kindling’.
We’re lucky in living by a river that delivers us branches whenever there’s heavy rain, once a trunk so big it had to be manoeuvred by three chaps with a rope, and partly cut up before being lifted out of the water.
A has a gruesome collection of wood-cutting implements, from a fold-up saw to carry on walks to a beast of an axe that could star on Game of Thrones.
River wood is useful for spring and autumn fires when not too much heat is needed, but seasoned logs are needed in winter. Computers are abandoned when they are delivered, and there’s huge satisfaction in the physicality of shifting them and stacking a neat pile.
There’s an old saying that wood warms you thrice – once when you cut it, once when you stack it and then again when you burn it. We also find it has good entertainment value. Better than most television, I’d say.
Naturally they understand this in Scandinavia, where Slow TV was born in 2009. A Norwegian live film of a train journey kept viewers glued to their screens for seven hours. A later show featured logs burning, no surprise to those of us who can happily spend an evening gazing at the flames.
If all this sounds too smug, I know there have been concerns about air pollution from wood burners, and Sadiq Khan recently proposed a ban in London. But it seems this will only apply ‘during bad air quality episodes’.
So since we live in a hamlet in the Somerset countryside and only use our wood burner when we need to, I don’t feel guilty about indulging in our occasional autumn fires, just enough to keep the temperature up and the room looking cosy.