Best of British: 60 things that make Britain great

Imagine you're cut off in a far-off land. What longings would be uppermost in your mind? Here we celebrate those aspects of life that make our islands distinct and beguiling.

33. Log fires


Autumn counts the relighting of fires among its delights. Better get the logs piled high, for there’s nothing quite like the welcome of a warm hearth, radiating cosiness and hospitality. Then, there is the delicious aroma that permeates through the house. Connoisseurs insist apple, pear or cherry prunings add extra olfactory nuance and, these days, swift trade is made in small but weighty chunks of olive, whose density ensures a slow burn with faint wafts redolent of the maquis. And, especially in cities, wood-burning stoves are now a fashionable alternative; many of them burn so cleanly that they are approved for use even in designated smokeless zones. Either very well seasoned logs or the modern alternative, kiln-dried, will ensure rapid heat-up and clean burning, adjusted by pleasant fiddling with primary and secondary air vents. Now, that’s warmer.

‘One can enjoy a wood fire worthily only when he warms his thoughts by it as well as his hands and feet’
(Odell Shepard)

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