Driving through Exmoor, we were scanning the landscape for the characteristic crooked and spindly branches of apple-trees. Somerset is an area known for its cider and apple-orchards so we came prepared with a foldable saw in the hope of picking up some apple-wood for the BTWC. Next to the ruins of an ancient abbey there was a little lonely apple-tree that caught our attention. It had not grown enough fibrous mass to be of any interest to us so we decided to look for some wood in the forest up the hill.
There was plenty of muddy, bug-covered wood lying around on the ground near a creek and we sawed off some pieces just for fun before proceeding into the thick foliage of the ivy covered forest, still with apple in mind. The type of wood that we had encountered just outside was growing here in abundance. It was a weird kind of parasitic tree that grew along the trunks of other trees or anything else that it could hold of, sometimes just stretching out its arms into thin air in the hope of getting hold of a new victim. The strangling attitude of the ivy and this tree gave us a very bad vibes so we backed out of the forest and went back to the car to try out the pieces we had with a knife. The wood turned out to be really crap and it seemed evil through and through. It was left in a muddy puddle as we made off with haste.
We stopped at an orchard, looked at a giant hog, had some eggs and asked for advice on finding apple-wood without any informative reply. After driving around without coming across any suitable trees, we gave up and followed a sign to a local attraction; the Bakelite Museum in Williton. The museum which is run by Patrick Cook in an old watermill, contains hundreds maybe thousands bakelite objects. Bakelite is the first successful synthetic plastic to be produced on a large scale and the collection reflects the multiple uses of this now obsolete material (there was even an old Mora Knife with a nice bakelite sheath on display).
On leaving the museum, with the West Country light failing, we saw a felled apple branch in a sheep field. Ample in girth and respectable in length, there was surely 25 kilos of good core wood to be had. Through careful negotiations with knowledgeable locals, we learnt that the owner of the field was also the proprietor of the Bakelite Museum. Having gained his permission, we scaled the fence and began to saw the mass into manageable chunks, while friendly sheep watched on with a peaceful demeanor not familiar from previous experience of the nervous herd animals.
The largest log is over two feet in length and half a foot in diameter at its smallest. Others are more manageable. The pieces are currently resting, seasoning in the cool hall outside the BTWC premises, their exposed ends sealed up with emulsion paint to prevent the cracking associated with too rapid drying.