There is no shame in admitting you don’t know how to light a fire. With over half of us living in cities where open fires are banned due to the risks involved, it is not a skill high up on the agenda. That’s half the fun of camping in the countryside: being more exposed to causes and effects in nature and feeling a being a little more self-sufficient. Clear nights are colder than cloudy nights for example; water feels warmer in the morning because the air temperature has dropped; fires give us heat to cook on and keep warm.
If not started by the sun, fires have to be started by some sort of friction. Thankfully, smashing flints against each other to create a spark is no longer necessary. Although Norfolk is flint country so, in an emergency, we would be fine.
To make it easy we need three essential types of burnables: newspapers, kindling and wood, all of which we provide at West Lexham. Should paper not be available, dry grasses and thin branches would do the trick. The idea is to make a pyramid with the most flammable materials at the bottom, the dry kindling or thicker branches leaning up against them like tipi poles. Finally you can add the longer lasting logs. This is a fine art as they can easily collapse your carefully created architecture so some prefer to put the logs on when you have already got a fire going with the small branches. Put a match (long ones are best to keep you fingers safe) to the newspaper in different places and watch the whole thing go up in flames. Marshmallows at the ready!
An easy cheat is to have fire lighters but these are pretty toxic. The sap in pinecones act as a natural firefighter so why not try and find some of these instead. Be careful not to put the needles in though as they act like little firecrackers!
Log burners contain the heat so can reach very high temperatures. Adjust the airflow down once you are up and running to let your logs burn more slowly and efficiently.
Pizza and log burner ovens take a while to heat up (approx 200 – 250 degrees centigrade for pizzas). Make a small fire and when it has died down a bit push it to the back of the oven. It will take up to 2 hours to heat a cob oven up to temperature so make sure you bring a something or someone to keep you entertained!
Fires in firebowls or log burners are fine to burn out on their own. Any fires in or on the ground should be put out with water or soil. Fires in houses should be protected with a fire screen. Finally, never leave a fire unattended in dry weather as any stray sparks or cinders can set a disastrous fire in motion in a matter of minutes.