A Real Life Platform

Posted on Fri, 3rd February 2012 by Bill Brown

A Real Live Platform
How many of you know that the little brown triangle – the platform – which is frequently found on maps from the Forest of Dean or the Quantocks actually stands for ‘charcoal burners platform or circle’.

In former times, when the charcoal burners were working in forests on hillsides, they needed to build their clumps of logs near-by to save time and effort. So they dug circular areas out of the hillsides. There they slowly heated the wood over several days to drive off the smoke, gasses and vapour to leave behind charcoal. Charcoal, when you manage to light it, burns with no smoke at very high temperatures.

So what we see is an historical record of those days. (Actually the full story is much more exciting and I’ll write a longer article if the editor thinks you might be interested).

I love having platforms on my course but I’ve never seen a real, live charcoal clump – until this summer. We were walking near the German/French border when we came across a visitor’s footpath. Alongside this path were demonstrated the various stages of building a charcoal burning clump with full sized models. A clump can be up to three meters high and 3 meters wide in a conical shape.

To my delight, at the end of this path was a real, live clump, fully alight and giving out huge billows of smoke. It was the highlight of my holiday.

Bill Brown





Orienteering Club