Last year, our Guild invited a local Brownie Leader to come to talk to us about her interest in bee keeping. We had a wonderfully interesting afternoon, as Maureen told us how a work colleague of her husband’s had asked if he could place one of his beehives in their garden. Envisaging a rather picturesque addition to their view, they agreed, only to discover as he disappeared, that he was not actually coming back, and that this busy, happily humming hive was their responsibility ! Accordingly, they threw themselves into the acquisition of bee learning, and Maureen kept us spell bound as she talked to us of the life of bees, showing us pictures and some of the equipment used, and inviting us to try different types of honey, and even honey cake.
Maureen and her husband became very involved in a local bee association and were delighted when Darlington Borough Council offered to rent them an unused bowling green in a small area of park in the town. This has a secure, high metal fence around it, and a storage hut for equipment. And so to the surprise and interest of local residents, the once immaculate bowling lawn became a haven for several hives of bees.
Our Guild decided to go along for a visit in May, so we gathered in the park – fortunately on a beautiful hot afternoon which ensured that the bees were active. The weather the previous week had been so cold that they were staying very firmly at home ! Maureen and another Bee Club member, Len, showed us around the apiary. The hives were gathered behind a high mesh fence within the enclosure, ensuring the bees would take an upward flight path, and avoid any people around. We took it in turn to clamber into the bee suits, with protective meshed helmets, and thick gauntlets. Len showed us how he opens and checks the hives, whilst Maureen took us around the garden they are creating on the old bowling green. Trees and shrubs have been planted, and beds of herbs and bee friendly flowers are well established. There is a large area of wild flower planting and a pond which is encouraging other wildlife in addition to being a source of water for the bees. Last year, following the death of one of our much loved members, we gave all the potted plants from her yard to the apiary, and we were delighted to see they were flourishing.
Altogether, we had a very interesting and informative afternoon, followed of course, by tea and cake in my nearby house -and only I got stung !
This article was written by Anne Jeavons, Darlington Afternoon Guild and the photographs were taken by Diane Evans