I came to the woods over a decade ago. I came to the woods because there was a fire in my head.
On the outside, Ben Short looks like he has it all – a successful career in advertising, a flat in a trendy area of London, an expensive motorbike … But inside, he’s a wreck. Years of suffering with an anxiety disorder and depression have broken him, and his ‘creative’ career has become sterile and suffocating. A drastic change is needed.
Like his neighbour’s rescue hawk, he acts on instinct and escapes the city. For a time, he takes on odd jobs – gardening, hedge-laying and labouring in the Cambridgeshire Fens and in the Devon countryside, trying to find somewhere he belongs. That is until he feels the call of the furnace: a glowing charcoal kiln in the West Dorset woods, where he can re-forge his thoughts, put the years of suffering behind him and start afresh by immersing himself in the ancient ways of woods and fire. He lives in huts and old wagons in the woods, hauling water from wells and foraging for his supper. But this is no idyll – the road is hard, the work back-breaking, the woods dark and brimming with powerful energies.
Exquisitely written and laced with folklore and the history of burning, the right way to lay a hedge and the age-old wisdom of the woods, Burn is a hopeful story of transformation, a celebration of manual work and craft, and a love letter to the English landscape.