Fergus Alexander loves working at Bonk & Co â€“ testing stoves in the highlands of Scotland. It doesn’t get any better than this!
â€œThe glories of a mountain campfire are far greater than may be guessed. One can make a day of any size and regulate the rising and setting of his own sun and the brightness of its shiningâ€¦ Sparks stream off like comets or in round, star-like worlds from a sun.â€ â€“ John Muir
To us at Bonk & Co, fire is what it is all about. Each wood-burning stove has its own individual design, and so creates a unique fire. The more you are using the stove the more you will learn to control the fire. We take care of the stove ensuring that you will greatly enjoy the fire for a long time to come.
A wood fire in the outdoors, we enjoy that very much. In the woods, or by the waterside â€“ great. We often realise that making fire is our calling, and that makes us very happy.
Our stoves are in essence fire-carriers with which we want to bring the fire to the customer.
Out in the wilderness is where the understanding of the properties and behaviour, indeed the science, of the element upon which our business is based, fire, and where we feel most inspired.
Packing up for a trip, we set out to work laying out the essentials; a Harrie Leenders FÃ¤ltovn camping stove, an axe or two, a couple of cameras, a tarpaulin and a million stars to sleep under.
Our latest trip started with our convoy of Defenders setting out for Applecross Peninsula, over the Belach na Ba, the pass of the cattle, and then down to the Applecross Inn for lunch. Breathtaking scenery was waiting for us at the start of the pass, winding all the way up to the top where the views stretched out all the way back to Loch Kishorn and to Raasay in the other direction.
Our first camp was on the bank of Loch Shieldaig. With our firewood collected we pitched the tarps and put the kettle on â€“ a process that is far longer and in return far more satisfying than at home. The FÃ¤ltovn kept the water on the boil and us warm through the evening and into the night on just a few split logs. The cooking top was solid enough to take a large cast iron dutch oven that fed six of us easily. In the morning the views were spectacular, looking out to the loch with the sun illuminating the various peaks of the Torridon munros.
Moving on we headed for Glen Affric, the home to some of the last remaining Scots Pine from the once vast Caledonian Forest. We left the convoy at the car park, and then headed in on foot to make camp for the next few days. In the dark and rain we managed to make camp and get a fire going, conditions that would have seen even the most experienced woodsman think twice. The traditional ways are still the best; a trusty magnesium stick and some kindling collected on the way.
The next morning we woke to a peaceful haven away from the track, near the banks of the shore. With breakfast done with, we spent the rest of the day accumulating a dryer stock of wood and exploring the area around us. Even in late May there were still snowy caps to the hill overlooking us. Thereâ€™s nothing like a morning shower in fresh snowmelt to feel connected with the environment around you.
The rest of the day was spent doing all the things you do whilst spending time in the wilderness; making fire, collecting wood, carving a spoon for dinner. Is there a better way to forget about the stresses of the city?
After a great night around the campfire we moved camp to the other side of Loch Affric where we were rewarded with a beautiful sunlit afternoon and evening. Pitching the camp on the banking and gazing up the Glen with a whisky in hand, it was a really special moment, connecting with nature, allowing the mind to divest itself of the 9-to-5 routine.
At the end of the day, the pleasure of a fire burning on a few rocks by the lake shore or in your stove at home has no equivalent; as Vincent Thurkettle says, â€œthe wood fibres hold summerâ€™s unhurried days to be released in winterâ€™s dark evenings. The fire warms, consoles and touches the very hearts of usâ€.