Fire Work - NFU Countryside.



In deepest Dorset, the ancient craft of charcoal burning is undergoing a revival. (Johann Tasker) A great plume of smoke billows across the field, hugging the hawthorn hedge before rising into the Dorset sky. It was here, in the heart of Wessex, that Thomas Hardy set The Woodlanders, a classic tale of love and rural rivalry played out in a landscape of ancient trees and apple orchards.


Jim BettIe, a modern woodlander, rolls a cigarette and turns towards his battered blue van. It has been a long day. Three tonnes of wood have been chopped, and two giant charcoal kilns have been filled, set alight and sealed. The smoke disappears into the dusk as Jim clambers into the driving seat. Time to deliver some bags of charcoal, have a pint at the local pub and then go to bed. Tomorrow he'll be back at dawn. A pheasant scuttles across the path as the van trundles down into the vale and onto the main road.