Welcome to the apiaries. Over my nine years of beekeeping I have slowly expanded to a number of nice small apiaries dotted around West London and often on the lookout for any new potential sites. As its an urban environment the sites tend to be small, so only accommodate a few hives. This can cause a few problems with trying to manage work and the bees as I can be seen dashing from site to site inspecting the hives during the busy times of the year. One advantage of being spread out is you get a greater spread of flavors to your honey and even though my sites are not, many miles apart its quite remarkable the variety the bees can produce and emphasizes the vast variety of forage bees have in Greater London. It could be possible to squeeze in a couple more hives on most of my sites, but I think overpopulated sites only add stress to the bees and it is always good to give yourself breathing space to allow for artificial swarming and there is always the swarm or two that comes your way.
This site is managed by Cultivate London a fantastic organization turning disused land into productive land providing locally grown food. They also work with the young long term unemployed, providing training and next year I may help with some beekeeping lessons to some of the trainees if they show an interest in the bees.
I only started this site this year and was put forward for it last year by my good beekeeping friend and fellow Brentford beekeeper Sara Ward of Hen Corner. The site has been a great success and the two hives have produced a great crop of honey with one of the hives been my best hive this year. With Cultivate London’s permission I will be expanding this apiary to four hives next year.
The bees have produced a lovely mid colour spring honey with a slight caramel flavor, it’s not crystal clear due to the high pollen content but all the better and nutritious for it. The summer honey is much lighter and reflects the abundance of forage the bees had available to them with a lovely multi floral flavor.
Feltham, Heron Way
This site is managed by Hounslow Community Farming Association, HCFA, and are a similar organization to Cultivate London with the intention to providing locally grown food in a sustainable way. I have been on this site for five years now and have watched this large abandoned allotment site transform into a highly productive space and a haven for wildlife. HCFA have had a few problems lately with Alex their head grower moving on but with the help of volunteers it continues and hope it will build in strength for next year.
The honey from this site is influenced by the abundant lime trees and brambles and when the conditions are right big nectar flows. The bees foraging range also includes some open pastures and grass areas such as Heathrow Airport, Hounslow Heath and Hounslow urban farm so clover and wild flowers add to the lovely light floral honey this site produces.
Another new location for me, although I have helped out with a beekeeping buddy with his hive for the past couple of years, so when a space became available in this bee shed I grabbed it. I did a recent blog post about the bee shed recently here.
Perrivale Woods is a nature reserve and a wonderful place. The bee shed is positioned on the edge of ancient woodland and the bees benefit from the forage of the woodland verge, open pastures, railway and canal. I am yet to extract from this hive but if past crops are anything to go by from my friends hive the honey should be very light, sweat floral flavor.
My longest running site, as I started my beekeeping on this site first with a hive on my allotment. Don’t have the allotment any more, but with the generosity of the people running the allotment site and giving free use of this awkward plot in the corner of the site I have developed this purpose built apiary. The apiary is fenced off with a fedge, a living fence made by planting willow in the ground and when it takes root you prune it like a hedge. It has been a struggle getting the fedge to take as the site is a bit too dry in the summer for the mostly crack willow I collected from along the canal and as crack willow likes its feet close to the water, it has struggled in the dry summer clay soil, but it has started to grow and apart from a few a few gaps that need plugging with some fresh willow is providing an attractive boundary to the apiary.
I now share this site with two other beekeepers both plot holders and all the bees do well with good forage available to them from the local parks, Picadily line and numerous gardens. This site is where I keep my top bar hive along with one of my national hives and for the previous two years has been my most productive hive. The honey from this site is similar to Brentford as the forage is similar often producing a darker spring honey and a lighter summer floral honey.
In its 2nd year and all the hard work screening, gate, hive stands have worked realy well. The screening is required on this site because its a central allotment surrounded by other allotments and the netting will get the bees to fly up and over the heads of anyone close by, also it will be nice for people and children to come and watch the bees from the other side of the netting. This small plot was not suitable for vegetables as it has a large apple tree and a cherry tree both very nice but along with the thick hedge at the rear made growing veg very difficult but perfect for bees. We are also using the site to grow wild flowers and hope to add more varieties in the future.
I am sharing this site with another beekeeping friend Emily who is one of my inspirations for starting this blog after reading her excellent blog Adventuresinbeeland for a couple of years. The honey produced is a lovely floral honey and definitely one for the National Honey Show.
That’s it for now as I am always on the look out for nice new sites, be it a garden, allotment or even a business premises if the site is right for the bees and safe its a good site.