About a month ago I answered a call for ‘interested people’ to become involved with a project to create an apiary in a local National Trust property. I think I was on e of the first to enquire but I understand the group of those interested has grown to 12 and to-day was one of the days allocated to meet some of the others. I had previously met Keith, who made the call for volunteers, in the walled garden where he currently volunteers. He is also a beekeeper though fairly new to the craft.
He had put in a bid for some money and his aim was for two hives and two beekeepers to become trained as part of the process. I was not surprised he’d had a good response and realised it probably made sense for two other people to receive the training and be recipients of the outfits but knew that this project held so much interest for me, I’d like to track its progress even if I was not one to be involved in that core role. By the time we had the meetings, I think Keith had come to the view there was so much scope when some of the peripheral issues were concerned, that having a group of people with different roles was the best way forward anyhow.
The meeting allowed scope of the project to be discussed, interested parties to meet each other and was generally a melting pot of ideas. We then had a walk to the proposed apiary site and back to the walled garden.
My own great grandmother was in service – I am not sure whether she was the main cook but believe she did help in the kitchen and cooking was part of her role. I am pretty sure she kept bees later in life because as a young child I remember my mother musing ‘who will tell the bees’ when my great Grandmother died. My great grandmother’s father had indeed been a gardener; at one stage I believe in a large house but later proudly making his own way nearby to becoming a ‘gardener on own account’ as he was described in a 19th century census. Opening up and using the walled garden more was an aspect I had not fully appreciated had happened at Hughenden Manor. It is so right; the tradition of using home grown items to feed the family of a large house and the way they used to have techniques to grow those products not usually associated with our UK climate was intrinsic to the life of the such a house. The ‘under stairs’ community of staff and gardeners in some ways had a separate life and in other ways were fully part of a grand house – though certainly not on an equal footing! The walled garden echoed so much – the fact that supporting the gentry involved hidden areas and small armies of staff who were ‘seen and not heard’ but whose lives also formed part of the fabric of life of any substantial household. The abundance of fruit at the time of our visit was just amazing. There are also beds for flowers to adorn the house, beds where manure and grass cuttings served to create sufficient heat to produce ‘exotic’ fruit and veg and also where the aspect and features of the walled garden were harnessed. A brick wall works much the same way as a storage radiator, the sun on the wall allowing it to absorb heat during the day, shelter plants and radiate out heat as the sun goes down
With a door directly from the garden to the kitchen, the food miles are actually food feet and a cook needing a herb can send an assistant to get what she needs so that freshness can be calculated in minutes rather than hours.
The bees, as well as using the walled garden for their forage, would have some beautiful Buckinghamshire views to the south with farm land as well as local gardens from which to choose.
The nearby trees will also form part of their forage and they will have a span of daffodils to rival the one we associate with Wordsworth’s inspiring stretch.
The gardens of Hughenden Manor are to the
north of this site, notable is the colourful parterre close to the house. The walled garden is also northwards.
The apiary site will need to be fenced in rather like the small area that can be seen in the distance in the third of these pictures and later in a zoomed picture.
Local residents enjoy this area and either children play or dog walkers ramble throughout the year.
The land is also used for grazing but that still leaves scope for the bees to forage on plants left by the animals. Here is a link to the existing fenced off area.
The only reservation so far is that it might be a little exposed – but not from the north where it is quite the opposite.