by David Saunders
2013 - An update beariing the sad news as Chris passed away recently. The article below is a reminder of the huge energy and enterprise in all things "woody". Chis has left an impressive legacy of inspiration, and Lucy is continuing at Imgrams Copse.
Nestled in the shady lanes north of the Downs of West Sussex is Ingram's Copse, a hive of woodland activity and timber enterprise.
Chris and Lucy Wall-Palmer bought this woodland in 1995 and has developed his coppice and firewood business on the 8 acre site, which now includes charcoal-making, and specialist sawmilling for locally-sourced sustainable building components.
Chris's factory floor is like no other I have seen – a mixture of functional endeavour and artistic inspiration, even the split lengths of alder seasoning around the kiln are stacked in a sinuous corral. The single species alder charcoal sold as “Didling Good” is exceptional quality for Barbecues and Chris is now exploring markets for the fines he produces.
After undertaking his value-adding activities under permitted development, Chris has followed earlier planning precedents in West Sussex, and has recently achieved consent for a house in the woods for him and his family, linked to their requirement to live on site to manage the charcoal-making process.
Building is now under way, and Chris has used sweet chestnut poles for the roundwood cruck frame, and Douglas fir for the joists and rafters. Built in collaboration with Ben Law, this woodman's house is bigger than the Prickly Nut Wood predecessor, with two floors, and although not yet finished, the aesthetic is crisp, and almost engineered. The pristine roof is made from accurately-sawn cedar shingles which Chris and his team produced by the thousand on his adapted Lumbermate mobile sawmill.
All the timber used has come from the locality, some from Ingram's Copse, with the larger sections supplied by Cowdray Estate, whose forestry team scoured their woods for the perfect sized poles.
Chris is practising a truly sustainable lifestyle, and is an example of the sort of rural “key worker” who keeps the Wealden landscape functioning. With the advent of the new South Downs National Park, perhaps the value of business such as “Didling Good” will be properly recognised and supported.
Didling Good Charcoal, Ingram’s Copse.
Contact: Chris & Lucy
Tel: 01730 814815