Wood Smoke Stories

Driven from a Hampshire market town

I had a lovely old house in a Hampshire market town. I was working and although there was a pub opposite me, they only had one open fire. When I retired the pub changed hands and they opened up a second hearth. From the beginning of September until the last week in May they burned wood and produced dark smoke which I could see from the chimneys. I could tell that it was 11.15am and they had lit the fire without looking out of the window.

My house was old and the acrid smell of smoke filled the house and garden. The fires were damped down about midnight and it took until 2am for the fug to disperse. I was reduced to wearing a mask in my own home. My smoke alarms would go off in the hall and I had to go on steroids and had ear problems. I used to cry as Environmental Health just said they asked them to burn dry wood, but as they were a business, it was reasonable that they should have log fires. My chimney sweep told me he had condemned their chimney, but having a condemned chimney is not the same as having a condemnded gas boiler. They were not compelled to do anything about it.

I left my place of employment, my social contacts of 25 years and all my voluntary work, to move house to another county. The hospital said my lower airways were operating at 56%. I am a singer, so that challenges me now. It cost me tens of thousands to move — stamp duty in buying a new property etc.

I now live in a complex of houses which all have gas fires. I do not take any medication, nor do I use an inhaler now. But I had my retirement ruined for about 6 years. The town here also stinks of chimneys, so I avoid spending time there and of course the local businesses do not benefit from my custom. The Manoir aux Quatre Saisons has it right in The Cotswolds — a living gas fire — cosy and fume-free! Wish all pubs and restaurants woud copy their example. Let’s stop this brain-dead burning!