Prince Charles’s beehives at Clarence House. Appropriately gorgeous!
What a wonderful setting for hives…
When I started writing this blog back in January, I quickly became blogging friends with two lovely young British beekeepers, Emma Sarah Tennant of Miss Apis Millifera and Emily Heath of Adventuresinbeeland’s Blog.
They are both experienced beekeepers and bloggers, and they really took me under their (bee) wings! I’ve greatly enjoyed reading their informative posts and chatting with them on various beekeeping topics.
When they found out that I was going to be visiting London, they generously invited me to visit their apiary in Ealing. I was quite excited about my visit, having followed their successes and setbacks in what has been a very challenging year for English bees and their keepers.
In the meantime, I had also emailed John Chapple, Chair of the London Beekeepers’ Association and the Queen’s beekeeper, about the possibility of a chat and maybe even a visit to the Royal Hives. I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t hear back from him. He undoubtedly thought I was a crazy person or a terrorist or both.
On Saturday morning, I woke up with a rip-roaring case of jet lag. I knew I was going to be running behind, so I declined both Emma’s and Emily’s kind offers to personally escort me to the apiary. That was a big mistake on my part!
After many interesting adventures involving bus fares, Off Track Betting Parlors, and my inability to coherently ask for directions, I finally arrived at the Ealing apiary.
It was like a scene from Alice In Wonderland. And presiding over tea was Royal Beekeeper John Chapple and his Royal Assistant Andy Pedley!!
Both John and Andy have many years of beekeeping experience, and tend Royal Hives at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House. They also keep other hives all over London, including the charming Ealing apiary.
They apologized for not being able to give me a tour of the Royal Hives, but explained that they are not allowed to bring visitors. Even Royal visitors are restricted to the likes of the Dalai Lama, who toured the hives recently.
John and Andy themselves must undergo extensive security background checks every several years. Security at the Royal Residences is very high, especially when the Royals (aka “The Principals”) are in residence. According to Andy, “there are lots of shooters around then.”
Everyone tasted my honey, and pronounced it palatable. One little lady bee was a particular fan.
Not surprisingly, John disagreed with Steve Benbow about the sufficiency of forage in the City of London to support the growing number of urban beekeepers. However, everyone agrees that it is important to plant more bee-friendly trees, shrubs and flowers within the City, and reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides.
After tea, I helped Emma inspect her bees and feed the apiary hives. I could see the toll the inclement weather has taken on the colonies who live there. I was glad to hear that they were expecting better weather in July.
Andy was kind enough to take a picture of Emma and me after our inspection!
Emma and I had an uneventful trip back to London, chatting all the way!! It was a great day in the country, and I can hardly wait to return!!
Every English garden has its bees, and the British know how to treat their hives like royalty. All over the UK, individuals and companies are installing bee hives in gardens and on roof tops.
Her Majesty, the Queen has four hives in the gardens of Buckingham Palace and two hives on the roof of Clarence House.
Kew Gardens has an educational bee habitat as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the need for a more bee-friendly planet.
In London alone, there are over 2,500 hives. Many are at private homes, but one can find hives at The Tate Modern Gallery, The Bank of England, and Fortnum & Mason, the venerable purveyor of luxury goods in Picadilly.
Fortnum’s hives are an especially good example of just how beautiful urban beekeeping can be!
Upcoming posts: How to create your own beautiful bee hive, and How to select your perfect bee.