Fireside poetry keeps open fires roaring at Pentillie Castle

The recent cold snap has had the Pentillie team thanking our lucky stars for our toasty log burner and ornate open fires in the Castles’ reception rooms.

Set in 1500 acres of wonderful, rolling countryside the Castle is surrounded by innumerable trees. As we were busy stoking the fires, we started thinking about types of wood we have on the estate and how they burn. A subject of particular interest, not only for the romantic fireside evenings, but because, upholding our sustainability ethos, Pentillie is kept warm and supplied with hot water by a biomass boiler.

The best trees to burn have a dense cellular wood structure that, when dry, have greater weight than lighter woods; they produce more heat over a longer time with longer-lasting coals. But rather than being blinded by science, we preferred to turn to a beautifully crafted poem, by Lady Celia Congreve, to guide us.

The Firewood Poem

Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut’s only good they say,
If for logs ’tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be;
But ash new or ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold

Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E’en the very flames are cold
But ash green or ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter’s cold
But ash wet or ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by.

Believed to be written around 1922 for inclusion in a published book “Garden of Verse”, the poem was published in The Times newspaper in March 1930. Although the poem may seem twee or based on folk tales, Lady Congreve’s lines do accurately reflect the science of wood heat properties; so, take note!

However, should Lady Congreve’s verses prove a little lengthy to recall off by heart, you can count on those trusted to always be prepared, the Scouts, to have a more concise ditty to bring to mind:

These hardwoods burn well and slowly,
Ash, beech, hawthorn oak and holly.
Softwoods flare up quick and fine,
Birch, fir, hazel, larch and pine.
Elm and willow you’ll regret,
Chestnut green and sycamore wet.

Why not experience the wonderful glow and warmth of a Pentillie firelit evening for yourself with a B&B stay? While here you can identify the trees as you explore the 55 acres of woodland garden and even check out the biomass boiler, if that tickles your fancy!

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