Hive Hopes: North Dorset’s Buzz for Inclusion

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Robbie Baird unveils North Dorset Beekeepers’ ambitious plan for an accessible apiary, highlighting their fundraising efforts

Artists impression of the new apiary

The North Dorset Beekeepers site in Shillingstone is remote – accessed by crossing a field and two wobbly stiles – and once you’re there, there’s no electricity, running water, or any other facilities you might expect. We do have a hut to store equipment in, and a corner of a field to keep the beehives (the apiary) … but that’s about it.
Not that we’re complaining – it’s better than nothing – but it does mean we can’t be as inclusive as we’d like. Hosting anyone but the fully able-bodied simply isn’t an option. Yet.
Spreading the word about the importance of the honey bee, and training enthusiasts to become good beekeepers, has always been core to the Association’s activities. To do all of that, we really needed a teaching facility …
Dorset Council provided a glimmer of hope in 2023. Part of a field was on offer and, as we’re a registered charity, it would be for a peppercorn rent. Planning permission for a building was sought – and approved – and we were on!
All we need now is £200,000 …

Working on it
We have more than 150 members and many of them have stepped up to the fundraising challenge. Of course, we sell our honey and other bee-related products at the Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show, the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival and at Dikes supermarket in Stalbridge. Donations have come in too – particularly from those repairing their roof, only to find they have a colony of honey bees living in it! Our members can help with that if the access route is safe, and we’ll save the bees! We’ll attend a swarm, too, if you have one in your garden.
We even filled the Portman Hall in Shillingstone for an absolutely brilliant Bees a-Swarmen evening of Dorset stories and music, performed by the renowned Tim Laycock and Colin Thompson.
Last summer we offered a series of Bees & Beekeeping experience days for the first time. They’re a fun afternoon, learning about the life of a honey bee and getting up close and personal with them as you open up a hive to see what goes on inside. Back at the hall, there are loads of other things to explore (check out how hairy a bee is under the microscope!) and there’s tea, coffee and cake. There’s always tea, coffee and cake when beekeepers are involved!
These were a huge success, and we’re already booking 2024 dates.

Why the bee?
Most folk understand the need to protect the natural world, and that increasing biodiversity is a good thing. But nothing’s sustainable without the insects making sure the next generation of our native flowers, shrubs and fruit trees are pollinated. Those same insects are also a major food source for our native birds.
Protecting insects and their habitat and fighting invasive species are important messages. Our experience is that, once introduced to the honey bee and its amazing life, and having watched the bees at work in the hive, non-beekeepers realise just how precious our insects are.

Can you help?
We’d love to be able to welcome all comers, young and old, able-bodied and the not-so-able-bodied, to a new Honey Bee Centre and to continue spreading the word … and yes, creating a buzz of excitement about these tiny, valuable creatures. That’s what keeps us going as we work to find the £200,000 we need.
If you’d like to help us on the journey, you’ll find out more on our website and if you’d like to become a patron of the new centre or a business sponsor, just leave us a message and we’ll be in touch.

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