As promised when I started Apis, subscribers to this blog will receive a preferential opportunity to purchase Bermondsey Street Honey. The bad news is that there isn’t much to be had this year, given the poor start to 2013, from which the bees never completely recovered. The good news is that our honey won another gong at this year’s National Honey Show…and that the bees are in great condition as we head into winter!
So if you wish to buy this multiple award-winning Bermondsey Street Honey , it is available in 130 g jars at £7.50 per jar. (Actually, the weights are over 160 g, but that’s a small detail). Please indicate the quantity which you would like to buy to email@example.com (in the event of oversubscription, orders will be pro-rated at my discretion) before midnight on Friday 22nd November.
On Saturday 23rd November 2013 from 10am-2pm, I will be selling my Southwark Honey for £10 per 300 g jar (this year I have been able to make a “second” honey from local Southwark hives) and making pre-ordered Bermondsey Street Honey available for collection from our pop-up stall at Bermondsey Square market .
London’s churchyards are hallowed ground for bees as much as for people. Expanses of grass, criss-crossed by pathways and anchored by the solidity of an ancient edifice, are important mid-town sanctuaries. What is more, there are approximately 450 churchyards in the Diocese of London! I would like to invite you to take a closer look at one of them in particular: St Mary Magdalen Churchyard in SE1.
In 2011, I applied for a Cleaner, Greener, Safer grant from Southwark Council to fund Bee-Friendly Planting in the churchyard of our local 13th-century Church (St. Mary Magdalen), which was then being renovated.
The grant was awarded in May 2012 and the planting of 363 plants and bulbs (11 each of 33 different varieties chosen from the Royal Horticultural Society’s Pollinator-Friendly Planting list) was performed on 25th October 2012 (special thanks to Southwark’s Rupert King, Jon Best and Jillian Houghton!). The picture above is of the plantings in their first week.
While my bees thrive on the annual summer Lime flow (see “Lime Time Is Prime Time“) and nectar, pollen and propolis from many other trees, which together with municipal plantings and private gardens form the bulk of forage in London, the little seasonal flourishes of the plantings in St. Mary Magdalen Churchyard provide colourful and nutritious “Forage“.
This enlightened initiative has ensured the planned provision of forage for local bees and other pollinators throughout most of 2013, as well as brightening up the margins of the churchyard for everyone to enjoy this summer.
Anyhow, this post is my way of saying “Thank you” to the council-tax-payers of Southwark and, listen very carefully, I shall say this only once: “Thank you, Southwark Council !”
I hope that you enjoyed my spoof “flier” for a new restaurant opening in Bermondsey Street. We are fortunate to be well provided with great restaurants here (have you tried the fabulous Restaurant Story yet?)… but as a beekeeper, I am concerned about what can be done to ensure that there is sufficient food out there for London’s local bees to eat. Hence this focus on “Forage“.
The scale of the potential problem in London can be illustrated by this chilling statistic from the government’s BeeBase. Around my London apiary, Bermondsey Street Bees, there are 581 registered Apiaries within a 10-kilometre radius (although bees are widely held to fly a maximum of 5 kilometres for forage). In the lush Suffolk countryside, the apiary at School House Bees has just 29 registered Apiaries within a 10-kilometre radius. The density of registered apiaries in grey old London is 20 times greater than in rural Suffolk ! And if you assume (a) some 20% of apiaries are unregistered (b) there is an average of 4 beehives per apiary, then the Bermondsey Street Bees could be sharing their lunch with bees from as many as 2,750 competing bee-hives !
Since 2010, when the tide of beekeeping popularity was rising fast, enlightened beekeepers in London, such as former London Beekeepers Association Chairman, John Chapple, have warned of the danger of lack of sufficient forage for London’s bees. My strategy has been to approach the authorities responsible for urban plantings – mostly Borough Councils – and to work with key officers in those organisations to intervene directly and permanently on the provision of forage for pollinators.
Since July 2011, I have been advising Southwark Council on the promotion of sustainable forage and best-practice rooftop beekeeping. I am currently working with Southwark’s Environmental Officers towards the specification of a minimum 50% Pollinator-Friendly Planting in all of Southwark Council’s plant procurement protocols: “what’s one more Council quota between friends?” Even simple, cost-saving recommendations, such as setting longer summer grass-mowing schedules for the huge existing acreage of Southwark’s parks and verges (even lengthening cutting schedules by a single week provides vastly more full-flower daisy, dandelion and clover forage for bees) have proved to be a great leap forward in bee-friendly municipal thinking. Not rocket science!
While some see the current fad for sprinkling London with expensively-packaged, designer, “meadow” seeds by commercially-interested parties as toe-curling tokenism, it can only be a positive that the publicity machines of London Beekeeping Associations have finally trundled into action to raise the forage issue in the general consciousness. The “London wildflower-meadow” idyll which they are selling certainly makes a pretty picture – see the front page of the June BBKA newsletter – and so features, with only the merest hint of irony, as the background to my spoof “flier”.
“Slick Willie” Sutton said that he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is“. Similarly, my forage-focussed energies are spent working with my local Council, since its direct influence on the outcome of long-term provision of forage for bees is far greater, for example, than any London Beekeeping Association. For that reason, in late 2011 I applied to Southwark Council for a “Cleaner, Greener, Safer” grant for Pollinator-Friendly Planting in a local park. A sizeable grant was awarded, which resulted, in October 2012, in the setting-out of new beds and the planting by local volunteers of 11 each of 32 bee-friendly varieties from the Royal Horticultural Society’s List in St. Mary Magdalen Churchyard, SE1 3UW.
The good news is that the first splashes of colour on the planting beds began to appear earlier this month……and the flowering of that patch of bee-forage is what I wanted to celebrate in my new restaurant “flier”……all we need now is a little sunshine and the Bermondsey Street Bees will need no further invitation to the grand opening of “Forage”!