Brackenburn – a Growing Success Story

Wednesday 7th June 2017
From harvesting to the compressed biofuel of Brackenburn.

From harvesting to the compressed biofuel of Brackenburn.

If you know Black Down and Burrington Ham you’ll know that the bracken has been harvested from this site in August. But what happens to the bracken?

Jim Hardcastle, AONB Unit Manager, delves into another way the Mendip Hills are managed as part of his ongoing ‘work experience’. This time it’s Brackenburn, a sustainable product that helps improve the scenic quality of the area, improves the habitat and provides local employment. Sound’s too good to be true.

Through a simple yet ingenious process the harvested bracken is shredded, dried, shredded a bit more and dried a lot more. It’s then compacted under huge pressure, emerging like a core sample taken from the ground, shunting down a line to be cut into ‘brackettes’, bagged up and distributed to 120 outlets around the country to burn on home fires. 25 tonnes a week can be produced at their processing plant on the edge of the Mendip Hills. There’s such a demand that bracken is now harvested from many different sites across the South West.

Jim said, “It’s really impressive to see the dedication of the team behind Brackenburn and how far they’ve come. The AONB Unit’s involvement goes way back to the spark of an idea that bracken could be burned, plus we helped with early sources of funding and support, that was when it was Bracken Down, the soil conditioner. To see the processing, machinery and high quality product of Brackenburn now, and to hear they’ve got four full-time employees is amazing.

Bracken that’s not managed will have a real visual impact on the landscape. We like to see the changing colours of the heathland and limestone grassland around Black Down but this will go as the bracken swamps other plants. The irony is that we don’t want to completely eradicate the bracken, just create a mosaic where it’s thick in some places and thin in others.”

Brackenburn is an exemplary initiative that shows a modern way to manage a landscape that benefits the rural economy and enhances the view.