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Mary Anning

Mary Anning was one of the first recognised fossil collectors. Mary was born into an extremely poor family in 1799 to Richard and Molly Anning in Lyme Regis which is part of the Jurassic coast and is especially rich in fossils: ammonites (then called ‘Ammon’s horn’) and belemnites (‘devil’s fingers’).

Lymre regis Ammonite

Mary’s father was a cabinetmaker and amateur fossil collector. When Mary was five or six, her father taught Mary how to spot, collect and clean the fossils on the beach. Like many women and girls at the time, Mary had little formal education. She was able to read, however, and taught herself geology and anatomy.

Marry Anning portrait

Out of her nine or ten siblings, only Mary and her older brother, Joseph, survived to adulthood and her father passed away when she was 12. Their mother encouraged Mary to support the family by selling her finds.
Just before he died Mary and her father found a fossilised skull. Mary painstakingly dug the outline of the rest of skeleton. Several months later a 5.2m skeleton had been revealed.
Georges Cuvier known as the father of palaeontology, had recently introduced the theory of extinction. Cuvier and the experts at the time, thought it was the remains of a crocodile that had simply migrated from faraway lands. A special meeting was scheduled at the Geological Society of London without Mary Anning whom was not invited. Cuvier himself disputed the find. After lengthy debate, Cuvier admitted to his mistake


It was eventually named Ichthyosaurus, or ‘fish lizard’. However, modern science shows it was neither fish nor lizard but a marine reptile that lived 201-194 million years ago.

During Mary’s teenage years, the war with Napoleon was still carrying on, limiting travel to Europe. At this time “sea bathing” was also becoming popular with the upper classes, so travellers flocked to seaside towns. Around this time fossil hunting was also becoming fashionable as it was perfect for fashionable Georgians seeking to add to their cabinets of curiosities.

In 1823 Mary Anning discovered the first complete skeleton of a Plesiosaurus (‘near to reptile’) By the standards of the time, the fossil was so strange there were rumours that the fossil was a fake.

In 1828 Mary uncovered a collection of bones with a never seen before features: a long tail and wings. Once again, news of her discovery travelled fast. Scientists from London to Paris theorised on this ‘unknown species of that most rare and curious of all reptiles’. What had been unearthed was the first pterosaur a Dimorphodon to be discovered outside Germany. We now know them as a Pterodactyl.

Despite her success and reputation for finding and identifying fossils, the scientific community was hesitant to recognise her work. Probably because of the attitudes of the time to the “uneducated” classes and the female gender. Even the Geological Society of London refused to admit Mary Anning. They did not admit any women at all until 1904.
Mary died from breast cancer in 1847 when only 47 years old and struggling financially despite her public fame and achievements.

In a strange quirk of social lore, she is more famed for being the source subject of the famous tongue twister.

She sells seashells on the seashore.
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure.
For if she sells seashells on the seashore
Then I’m sure she sells sea-shore shells.

Although, it is often said that Mary Anning was the inspiration for the tongue twister.’ It was originally a song, with words by Terry Sullivan and music by Harry Gifford, written in 1908. Although there is no definitive record of this.

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Eccological fire starters

Commercially made fire starters are mainly made of some nasty chemicals which are as bad for the environment as they smell.

These environmentally friendly firelighters use mainly waste products and because they are waterproof are ideal for barbecues, camping, fishing or to light wood burners inside the home. To make them even more useful add a few drops of essential oil to the wax while after it melts. These will then act as natural room fresheners.


  • Cotton wool. Some people use the “lint” from tumble dryers but we find this a bit smoky.
  • Petroleum jelly (e.g. Vaseline) cheap brands are ok
  • wax chips or (old candles work just as well)
  • wood shavings and/or sawdust
  • baking tray (optional)
  • A container to mould the fire starts in tart or cupcake tray in silicone is ideal. If using a metal mould use paper cases.
  • Resealable plastic bag
  • Stick to stir the mix – cocktail stick or coffee stirrer (used is fine)

Safety warning: you never want to melt wax directly on a heat source such as a stove element or direct flame. Like most things involving heat, never leave it alone!


Surprisingly, the hardest part is coating the cotton wool with the petroleum jelly. Coat the cotton wool with the petroleum jelly and work in. What you want to end up with is clumps of cotton wool a little under half the width and height of the mould. Make one clump for each fire starter you are making. Store them in a resealable plastic bag until you are ready.

Place some sawdust / shaving in the bottom of each mould just below halfway.

Heat you wax in a double burner. The safest way to melt wax is in a double boiler pan. Wax will typically melt above 37 centigrade (100 Fahrenheit) depending on what it is made of. A double boiler temperature will stop rising around 100 c well below the flash point of wax.

Once it is molten, pour the wax over the sawdust until is absorbed covered. You may need to give it a little stir with the stick.

Return the wax to the double burner

Whilst the wax hasn’t set, remove cotton wool from the bag and place one clump in each mould.

Cover with more sawdust mix leaving a gap at the top of the mould.

Cover with more wax so there is a layer of wax at the top.

To use

Scrape off the top of the fire starter to reveal the cotton wool. Pull a few strands out and light.

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DIY Pine cone fire starters

Basket of fire starters

Sometime lighting a wood fire can be a real trail especially when you are cold and want it right away. Pinecones are great for getting a fire started. They catch the flame quickly and burn hot. Using one will get that fire going first time almost every time.
You can either purchase them from us or make them yourself. Pinecone fire starters are very easy to make and if you add some essential oils to the mix, they become natural room fresheners while they wait to be used. Also, unlike modern fire starters they contain no nasty chemicals and can be perched by the fireplace and around the house as decorations year-round and smell spectacular.
The first step is to gather pinecones. The best time in the UK is over the summer – July to August or after an autumn storm.
Allow the pinecones to dry until the are fully open and give them a few taps to make sure there are no insects inside. Alternatively, you can dry the pine condes in an oven at 120 degree for an hour which also eliminate any pests.

  • Pinecones
  • Candle Wick or use string, dip it in wax first and let dry
  • New (or recycled old) candles or wax chips
  • A double boiler (I use an old tin can for top boiler)
  • Grease proof paper
  • Scissors
  • Essential oils (optional)
  • Mini tart case or muffin tins (method 2)

If you are using old or new candles, break each candle into pieces. If you can retrieve the wick, you can reuse it on the pinecones. If not, it can be carefully fished out with a fork when the wax melts

Wrap the cord around the pinecone from the bottom to the top. Tie a knot on the top and leave at least an inch and a half on the top of each pinecone to light the pinecone. Once the pinecone is dipped the string will also have wax on it.

Place the wax in the double boiler to melt the wax. Melt the wax over medium heat. At this stage, if desired you can add some fragrance of your choice.

Method 1

Red pine cone fire starter

Using something to grip the cord. pick the pinecone up and dunk into the molten wax. Once the pinecone is completely coated, place on greaseproof paper to dry for at least an hour.
To increase the colour, you can dip them again

Method 2

case pine cone fire starter

Stand the pinecones in a small mould and pour the wax over the pinecone. With this method you will have a little disc of wax at the bottom of each cone.

Cone firestarter
Cone firestarter
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All purpose fire starters

Fire starter collection
Basket of fire starters
Basket of fire starters

When people mention fire starters, the image that comes to mind is of nasty strong-smelling blocks of white material or highly dangerous barbecue fluid which is quite harmful to people with continued use.
Our firelighters on the other hand, are fragranced with essential oils that can be used to freshen up a room before use. Just keep a pile near the fire and enjoy the slow release aroma.
We have a range of scents and shapes which means they are not only practical but good looking and can enhance your room.

How to use them

On the top of the Firestarter just scrape a little off the top until you see some cotton wool. Pull a few strands of cotton wool out a few centimetres. Once you are ready, light the cotton wool and let it burn for a few seconds. Then build your fire around the firelighter as normal using paper, small kindling and then larger pieces as the fire catches light.
On average a fire lighter will last for around 20 minutes which is plenty of time to get your fire going. In tests the flame has been hot enough to boil a mug of water for tea.

Where to use them

One of the amazing things about our fire starters is that they are waterproof and can even be carried in a pocket or rucksack easily. This makes them great for camping or fishing trips. They are also superb for starting Barbecues without the harmful fluid that can taste on the food.

How environmentally friendly are they?

Cone firestarter

Our fire starters are made from left over residues from our production process or items we have harvested from nature (e.g. fir cones). When we make products, we only use components which are environmentally sound as possible e.g. wood from stewarded forests, soy wax instead of paraffin wax. Inevitably the are some leftovers in the form of residues or spillages, off cuts and trimmings that reach a level that it makes it difficult and safe to use any more. At this point they are turned into fire starters, wood for heating. The only product incorporated as new is a tiny amount of Petroleum Jelly in the block fire starters. Whilst Petroleum Jelly is a by-product itself, we are looking for a greener or composted to grow plants. Rarely does anything of ours go to landfill.

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Calendula Oil

Make your own soothing Calendula oil

One of the simplest and most natural healing products to make is Calendula oil.

Calendula has soothing properties which perfect to support wound healing and to nourish the skin. It’s often used for

For minor cuts. Scrapes, burns, sunburns, bug bites and other minor skin irritations. A more portable version is to make a thick calendula salve* from your oil that can be kept in your handbag, rucksack etc. 

Face and lip care Calendula oil is used as ingredient in many face creams and balms.   Infused calendula oil is the “secret ingredient” behind many beloved face serums and lip balms*

Nappy Rash Calendula oil applied to nappy rash, heals it very quickly. Even more so when combined with bentonite clay

Chapped/dry skin Calendula helps skin to retain healthy moisture levels and the oil helpfs nourish the skin

Salad dressing Calendula is not just good for the outside it is valued as easing digestive problems and has a subtle

Once you have made calendula oil, you can use this as a base for many other products

Ingredients for Calendula Oil

  • Dried Calendula
  • Olive oil
  • Glass jar with lid
  • Paper bag

That is all the ingredients.

Method                                                Time 4 to 6 weeks

This is preserves the best of the Calendulas properties to infuse in your oil.

  1. Put the Calendula petals in a clean, sterile and dry jar.
  2. Add your Olive oil the jar. The petals will float initially, so keep pouring until there is 25mm (1 inch) of clear liquid at the bottom. As the petals absorb the oil, they will soak this up. You may need to top up the oil level so that all the calendula is covered.
  3. Put the lid on and give it a shake.
  4. Put your jar in a paper bag and leave it on a warm, sunny window.
  5. Once a day give the jar a shake
  6. Once 4-6 weeks has passed, strain the liquid into a clean jar to remove the petals.
  7. Keep in a cool, dark cupboard until needed. It will last the same duration as your Olive oil 1 to 2 years if stored this way.

Safety Considerations

As with all things you are trying on your skin for the first time. Always test a small piece of skin first. If you are pregnant or have a serious condition, then always seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Calendula is classified as Safety Class 1A herb (Botanical Safety Handbook), the safest rating. However, persons who may be sensitive to the new imported and invasive plant ragweed may have a mild reaction