On Tuesday, I made my way to Cleator Moor across the top end of the Lake District. The clouds zoomed across the peaks, which were freshly covered with snow, with glimpses of clear blue sky, hinting of a beautiful day ahead. It is a part of the lakes fairly untouched with tourists. I never look up too much of where I am going, as I like the surprise of arriving somewhere without having formed an opinion of it from photos online or Google Maps. As I neared Val’s house, I came across the gorgeous Ennerdale Water, overlooked by orange bracken covered mountains.
I get a little nervous before I meet participants, but I needn’t have worried, as I was met by friendly smiles from Val, who lives on an old farm, with stunning views of the mountains and lovely neat plots of land where there are sheep, vegetables growing and of course, bee hives. There was an order and neatness to the farm. After a long chat about honey bees, Val explained her background which at first, was an interest in zoology, then she became a GP. I think this may help with lambing! It also explained the snippets of science which popped into conversation every now and then. I learnt a lot about honey bees and the threat they face from other bee species. It was interesting to hear that many farmers used to keep their own honey bees on the farm and now so few do. I recorded Val for the exhibition as she was full of interesting information which is too much to put in here, but I will be disseminating the information at the show and online, over time.
Val drove me to Westlakes Science & Technology Park, in Whitehaven to see the fantastic Apiary, which is a National Lottery funded project aimed at educating children and adults about bees. It is a tranquil place, a haven for staff working in the science park and something Val is so proud to have built. Bees in urban spaces have fascinated me, I think people like that feeling of busy nature and that little area of an oasis.
When we returned, Val put me in a rather fetching bee suit so we could have a peak at her own honey bees. We looked a bit like baddies from a James Bond film, working with a nuclear reactor, which made me smile as we were just down the road from Sellafield! I wasn’t as nervous as I probably should be, as I was concentrating so much on recording Val and photographing the event. It was only when the bees started buzzing out and landing on me, that I realised how careful you had to be. The smoke is used to calm the bees and again, I felt I was in a science experiment! It was wonderful and the honey they produce is simply delicious – I have been addicted to it all week.
It was a super day, Val was so wonderfully generous with her time, explaining to a complete amateur like me, the importance of honey bees. I left feeling quite humbled because I am meeting some very intelligent and generous people on this trip, and Val is definitely one of those.
If you would like to find out moor about Cumbria Beekeepers Association please click here.
Also remember if you see a bee that needs a bit of help, don’t give them honey (it can spread disease), give them a little melted sugar!
Children’s Bee Suit
The knowledgable and lovely Val
Their beautiful farm
Ennerdale Water nearby