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Page history last edited by Julia 7 years, 3 months ago



Martin’s Products.


I am trying to find ways to make a sustainable living from the land. A lot of the projects that we are doing at Coed Panteg will contribute to this. One of the aims of what we are doing is to demonstrate that it is possible to combine nature conservation, sustainable land use and livings for people in the countryside. So far, as well as growing a significant amount of food for myself, providing firewood and timber for other personal projects I have been experimenting with two enterprises to see how viable they are as larger scale businesses.




During summer 2006, I made a quantity of charcoal using the spare wood from earlier coppicing. This was a very small scale affair, being done in an old oil drum, instead of a large kiln.


Charcoal is an ideal way to make use of the wood produced from renovation coppicing. It adds value to wood that would otherwise only be useable as firewood. It is a way of converting relatively large amounts of wood into a saleable product. It also reduces it’s weight, so instead of hauling out tons of wood you are moving charcoal which is 20% or less of the weight of the wood.


Producing local charcoal in this way is worthwhile, as most charcoal on sale in UK shops is imported from tropical countries where it is produced from mangrove or Tropical Rainforests, contributing to their destruction as well as using fossil fuels in their import.


Last year I had charcoal for sale in three local shops: Aardvark Wholefoods, Ferryside Village Stores, and Star Forge, the petrol station on the road to Carmarthen. However it was a lot of hard work, and with the price of imported charcoal in supermarkets being so low it was impossible to sell it to the shops at a competitive price. This, combined with not getting it into the shops until late July and the wet August that followed, meant that it was not a great financial success for me.


I think charcoal production needs to be done on a larger scale in order to make it financially viable and I also need to find local outlets whose customers are willing to pay a premium for sustainably produced local charcoal which has less environmental impact. I will be considering ways that I might be able to achieve both of these. I would like to obtain a ring kiln to enable the production of much larger batches. One advantage of doing it on such a small scale is that it is very easy to do, the results are reliable and the whole burn process takes only a few hours, meaning it can be done around other things and you don’t have to stay up all night to oversee it!


More information about charcoal making is available from BTCV online handbooks, a very useful resource.






I was already a beekeeper when we got Coed Panteg. I moved my bees there in 2005 and last year I divided my colonies and invested in more hives, so I now have 6 strong colonies and plan further expansion this year.


Beekeeping is a fascinating occupation and there is much to say about it. I may add more details to this site later, but for now I will not go into the technicalities. The main reason for beekeeping is obviously honey, but it also yields a valuable amount of beeswax, a useful and versatile product that I have used to make candles, boot wax and furniture polish. You can also gather pollen and propolis, a sticky substance gathered from plant buds that bees use to block up gaps in their hive, but I have yet to investigate these possibilities. Another benefit is an increase in the pollination of flowering plants. There are few wild bees, partly the fault of beekeepers who unwittingly introduced pests and diseases from other parts of the world. Due to the way honey bees organise their honey gathering, they tend to concentrate on flowers that are abundant and yield large quantities of nectar. This means they are less likely to be involved in pollination of small isolated plants, but are useful for pollinating trees and large patches of wildflowers or crops.


My beekeeping last year was a great success. I started the year with 2 colonies and by dividing these along with the capture of a couple of wild swarms I now have 6 colonies, all of which are strong, going into the winter with adequate supplies of honey. In addition I had a healthy harvest of honey, with one of the colonies at Coed Panteg exceeding all my records in previous years by producing over 120lbs of honey.


Coed Panteg seems to be a generally good place for bees. The large quantities of willow, gorse and mature hazel produce copious amounts of pollen, which is the source of protein for bees and essential for the build up of colony strength early in the year. I had two strong flows of honey last year. The first was in late spring/early summer and probably consisted mainly of sycamore and dandelion, the second was in the especially hot July and I think was mostly clover, which is abundant in some of the local fields, probably sown in with the grass in the lay, along with a fair amount of bramble as there is a lot of it down the valley flowering at the same time.


This abundance has meant that I have a surplus to sell for the first time, so I bottled and labeled some of it for distribution before Christmas. It has sold well, as local honey is always popular. I hope to expand my operation in the coming years to have bees at Coed Panteg and other locations in the area. With this in mind, I have 3 of my colonies at Ty’r Eithin, an organic farm and registered charity at the other end of the Gwendraeth Valley. They are now well established, and will hopefully start producing next year.


If you are a local retailer and are interested in stocking either of these products, please get in contact with Martin via phone or email



  Tree planting/New woodland


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