In The Apiary : Mid June : Jet and Indigo

DJG - Photo by Hung Quach - Jet and Indigo
Debriefing – Photo by Hung Quach – Jet and Indigo

In life, as in beekeeping, when you collaborate with talented people, good things happen.

When Hung (pronounced “Hoong”) Quach approached me to propose an article about the Bermondsey Street Bees‘ rooftop apiary, in the “Locality” section of her Jet and Indigo blog, I was delighted to accept. I had been especially impressed with the crispness and clarity of her photographs (and her food images in particular) and Hung’s bee photography certainly did not disappoint! Continue reading “In The Apiary : Mid June : Jet and Indigo”

Leathermarket Gardens : One Year On

Bee On Borage
Bee On Borage In Leathermarket Gardens

Last weekend, we witnessed a minor metrological miracle. For once, the rain held off when we went in to weed and tend our patch of fruiting trees, bushes, herbs and wildflowers in Leathermarket Gardens. Even the bees showed up to help us out.

Apple Blossom And Setting Fruit
Apple Blossom

Maintenance is important when you’ve planted for forage. Here we were, tidying up after the Leathermarket Gardens’ first anniversary, encouraging our fruit trees, currant bushes and herbs and preventing non-descript ground cover from overwhelming them.

So in went clumps of Forget-me-nots and scatterings of seeds from LMG stalwart, Nikki Vane:

Nikki On Parade
Nikki On Parade

And out went thistles and tufts of grass, as Antoinette weeded busily in the sunshine.

Antoinette At Work

 And Xander, too:

Xander : Hands-On

The bees were not slacking, either. Big pollen sacs were coming off the ceanothus. As is often the case with pollens, the colour of the flower does not match the colour of the pollen. The boisterous blue ceanothus yields a yolk-yellow pollen.

Bee On Ceanothus

It’s good to see the plants getting their feet down and fruiting copiously, now that the blossom has almost gone – a sure sign that the Bermondsey Street pollination brigade has been on the wing !

Currants, Currently

That’s what it’s all about, after all.

Oyez, Oyez !

Bermondsey Street - The Buzziest Street In London.
Bermondsey Street – The Buzziest Street In London.

Tune into BBC Radio 4’s “Saturday Live” from 9am – 10.30am on 4th April 2015 to hear all about the Bermondsey Street Bees.

It’s Abbey Hive’s first inspection of the year – and we’re shouting it from the rooftops!

Bee Craft : Forage Hangout

Foraging Beekeeper, Out & About

Thanks to James Dearsley at Bee Craft for hosting this on-line Google+ “Hang-out” on Forage and Natural Beekeeping tonight.

More on my Berlin trip later. It gave me exceptionally intriguing insights into another city’s beekeeping experience. Much more on Forage later, too. I’ve been out and about on that topic and have a real breakthrough. By beekeepers, for beekeepers. Yes, indeed!

But for now, here’s the Hang-Out….

Planting, Pugs And Politicians

Pug At Work
Eddie The Pug – Bermondsey Barrer Boy

I’m not superstitious. But whenever we convene to work on the edible planting/wildflower space in Leathermarket Gardens, it rains. Trundle a wheelbarrow onto the site and the heavens open. Uncanny.


It happened again yesterday, although it had the common Sunday decency to hold off until 2pm. Not so bad, considering that it kept the pigeons off the opened ground which we had prepared for sowing wildflower seeds – the soaking rain gave the worms a chance to retreat and the seeds a toe-hold in the soil, unmolested by beaks, so there’s every chance that the pollinator-friendly wildflowers will set, take root and provide attractive forage for the Bermondsey Street Bees.

Simon Hughes MP
Simon Hughes MP Joins The LMG Crew

The pigeons weren’t the only visitors, either, we received encouragement from local Philip Wood, Mark Roelofsen and Brice Gentilhomme and also Henrietta Oliver, as they passed through this popular park. And then Simon Hughes, Lib-Dem MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark for the last 29 years, also lent a hand. Community projects are right up his street, he remarked – so once again thanks to all at BOST, to Andy Chatterton at Southwark Parks and to Paul Toal at Quadron for making our LMG project possible.

In the interests of demonstrating Apis’s political neutrality, though, I note that the “hues” of all of the major parties are represented in the picture: blue, yellow and red. And for good measure, I thought it only fair to juxtapose this political photo opportunity with the reason we were there: our pile of mulch.


Come to think of it bees are rather unusually organized, politically: they are absolute monarchists (Queen) who live their lives as unswerving democrats (“voting” decisions by majority) in a marxist collective (equally sharing means of production and the surplus of their labours). But on the subject of torrential rain, they adopt a straightforward position: they don’t much care for it. Understandably. Heads lowered into the downpour, we carried on shovelling the mulch.

Job Done
Job Done

Anyhow, by 3pm, we had finished: wildflower strip weeded, opened up, seeded and setttled. Beds with crisp-cut borders, stripped of grass and creepers and topped with a layer of chipped bark. Apple trees, currant bushes and herbs all mulched-up and looking good.

Drying Out

Time to go home and dry out in front of the fire.

This was a non-political broadcast on behalf of the Forage Party.

Forage Party

Leathermarket Gardens Sign
Inner City Forage

A small, but perfectly-formed, group of gardeners swooped on the wildflower and edible plantings at Leathermarket Gardens on Saturday morning, all tooled up for action, just as the icy grip of early February was lifting.

Having planted his permanent pollinator-friendly forage in the ground last year, it was imperative to clear choking weeds, grass and tap-rooted docks to let our apple-trees, herbs, wildflower strip and red and white currant bushes thrive.

So important, in fact, that we were paid a visit by the local Bermondsey bobbies-on-the-beat. “Hello, hello” and “Hello“.

Not that we were lacking the opportunity to lean on our spades from time to time. Coffee break and visits from the two-and-four-legged community of Leathermarket Gardens were welcome distractions from, as Sarah put it, having “a nice gossip, upside-down” with fork and trowel in hand. Indeed, soon we were having so much fun that it was almost like a treasure-hunt. We even found a glinting blue glass marble.

Lost Marble
Lost Marble

If anyone has lost their marbles in the vicinity of Bermondsey Street and one like to reclaim this one, please form an orderly queue.

Thanks, as ever, to the intrepid and invariably stylish Nikki,

Forage Fashion
Forage Fashion

to Maff , suitably leather-jacketed in Leathermarket Gardens,

Our Man From The Elephant

and to Sarah, uncomplaining bee-bride, spoilt for choice in her array of gardening boots

Sarah's Boots1
Sarah’s Gardening Boots

and Eddie Pug for his unwavering invigilation of our efforts

The Supervisor
The Supervisor

And we paid our respects to our old friend, the acacia tree, taken down for safety reasons by Southwark Council. in October 2014

Acacia Being Felled
Acacia Being Felled In October 2014

A memorial, with more than a hint of Bermondsey defiance, had been erected on the site. Amen.

RIP Acacia

We spruced up Leathermarket Garden’s forage a treat. And took three heaped wheel-barrows of delinquent vegetation to the skip.

Tools Of The Trade
Tools Of The Trade

Bees can’t eat kind words. Our fingernails may be dirty, but we’re off to a flying forage start to 2015.



Autumn Bouquet

Autumn Bouquet1
An Autumn Bouquet

I sowed some locally scavenged wildflower seeds in opened ground at our Leathermarket Gardens Community Planting to provide good early multi-floral forage in 2015, amidst the apple trees and currant bushes planted last Spring.

And on my way home I came across this scandalously gorgeous autumn bouquet, in a single leaf.  New seeds and fallen leaves: completing the cycle. Apt.

Fruit Crime

Witness Appeal: Have You Seen This Currant Bush?

I wish to report a fruit crime. A shrub-napping. This incident took place in Leathermarket Gardens and the victims were three currant bushes. Can you help ?

It was my unpleasant duty to report to our intrepid Bermondsey volunteer crew the painful statistic that 25% of the dozen currant bushes which we had planted in Leathermarket Gardens had been removed. Only our hard-won planting holes, cupped in obstinate rubble, remained as evidence of their former position. The currant bushes had vanished, half-inched by, presumably, light-green fingered person or persons unknown.

Depressingly, I confided to the team, I wasn’t even sure that I could pick these three out in an identification parade, even if the long arm of the law were to nab a suspect red-handed. A good deal of sighing and tut-tutting ensued. But I have to confess to dissembling when I broke the news to our horny-handed, rainsoaked heroes from the planting day. Behind my perturbed expression, I was unmoved.

It’s not that I’ve gone soft on the causes of soft-fruit crime. Nor is it that I hold progressive views on the redistribution of wealth, or fruiting shrubs. Not even that I harbour a nostalgic affection for the the outlaw heritage of Southwark. No. My ambivalence was the knowledge, as a beekeeper, that although the boys in blue would never apprehend the villains responsible for this horticultural heist, the shrubs’ disappearance mattered little to me or my bees.

And why not ? Well, let’s assume that this was a little local larceny. I know that wherever those three moody currant bushes have been re-planted in SE1, they will be within the 3-mile range of my bees – and their nectar and pollen will certainly be detected by the bees, when the blossoms come out next springtime.

So for my fellow community gardeners, the stolen shrubberies have been lost forever – but for the Bermondsey Street Bees, the bushes have been, in the worst case, just temporarily mislaid.