As a CAMRA member I like to visit all the local pubs from time to time to sample the beer and to help keep them open. One that is becoming a favourite is the Talbot Arms at Benville which is deep in the countryside and has probably only half a dozen houses within reasonable walking distance. Consequently it is usually nice and peaceful so I can get on with work in peace whilst supping excellent beer. Recently the landlord, Richard, sought my advice about Bombus hypnorum in a bird box and I rested his mind.
A few days ago there were more customers in, mostly to eat. Richard mentioned bees as he was serving me and instantly the person on my right said he guessed I was the beekeeper with hives on his nearby farm. He was right! I had never met him but had been introduced to his good lady by an apprentice as being keen to have bees on their land.
The person on my left also was a landowner whom I had never previously met and he, too, was keen to get some bees near him. He gave me a note with his name, address and phone number. He lives at Seaborough, a Dorset parish into which I’d never previously ventured. When I left the pub I diverted around that way and guessed correctly which was his house. I went home and googled him and found that he’s a famous racehorse trainer! It’s a very horsey area with lots of fields full of wild flowers. According to the internet (so it must be true!) the total population of the substantial parish is 60. They must be really crammed into the houses!
Next day I rang him and he invited me over for a chat. Over tea and cake in his 14th century farmhouse (with more recent bits too!) next door to a racing stables we concluded that, as he was in rather a frost pocket close to the upper reaches of the river Axe and as horses and bees don’t mix well, not to mention the over abundant badgers, another site close by would be better.
He drove me a quarter of a mile up a very steep hill to Higher Farm and introduced me to the lady, Rebecca, who is moving in there. Builders and thatchers are busy working on the house which looks as if it is as old as Richard’s. He introduced me and together we ambled round her few acres of steep ground. The best site, we decided, would be across the road in her orchard, although, despite the slope, she had visions of it being a football ground for her kids. There were neighbours also, whom she would need to consult before giving approval. I explained to her that the traditional rent for an apiary is a jar of honey per hive per year, which works out at about £77,000 an acre! She would also be able to buy the honey at a favourable rate.
I left it a couple of days and then contacted her by text. The neighbours were happy and so was she! After a further recce and preparing a stand I moved there a swarm that I had hived in a nucleus box. A couple of days later I promoted them to a larger box to give more elbow room. They’re tucked behind a bed of lavender.
Yesterday (the day before now as the midnight peal of Big Ben has sounded on the wireless) being rainy, I also moved there a swarm that had hived itself in some spare kit in my back garden a few weeks ago.
Despite being uncomfortably close to darkest Somerset, it’s a lovely area with wide views over low-intensity agricultural land with plenty of mature trees around.
Rebecca seemed to be quite keen on having bees there and I wonder whether she will become yet another apprentice!