There’s always something especially satisfying about eating something grown in your own garden – and the same goes for making your own honey. What could be better than enjoying a spoonful of your own delicious concoction in a herbal tea, creating your own salad dressing or simply spreading some on a crumpet? You could even offer a jar as a Christmas present or sell some at the village fête.
“Beekeeping is a lovely, relaxing hobby – and very rewarding, too,” says Vince Gallo, trainer, mentor and treasurer of Reigate Beekeepers, who has been keeping his own bees for over a decade. “With just one hive, you’ll have more than enough honey for your family needs – while still leaving plenty for the bees to feed on during the winter – and, with two hives, you’ll have enough to sell or give away as presents.
“However, beekeeping does require a certain level of skill, as there is quite an art to perfecting the craft – but we can help you with everything you need to know. New members are always very welcome.”
Formed in 1917, the members of Reigate Beekeepers today number more than 200 – making them one of the largest clubs in Surrey. As well as offering courses in the classroom, they also run practical sessions at their teaching apiary just to the south of Dorking, plus social events, winter lectures and taster evenings.
In addition, they are also very active in the local community – whether that’s giving talks at local schools and the WI, attending shows and events or running special days for groups such as the Surrey Tree Wardens. Last but by no means least, it is the Reigate Beekeepers who are called upon whenever there is a swarm in the area.
“Our over-arching aim is to promote an interest in honeybees and the ecology surrounding them – whether that’s through education, training or giving talks,” explains Vince. “In addition, we also aim to promote wider awareness of bees in general and the challenges they face today.
“While most people know about honeybees, there are in fact some 250 different species of bee, and they all need our help at the moment. One simple thing that everyone can do is to make sure you have plenty of flowering plants in your garden or window boxes, throughout the whole season, and also by opting for older, native species.”
For those who are interested in keeping their own bees, there will be a great opportunity to find out more at this September’s Countryside Food Festival. Not only will Vince will be on-hand to answer any questions you may have, he will also be bringing a hive along so that visitors can get a closer look.
“This will be a chance to find out everything you always wanted to know but were too afraid to ask,” says Vince. “For example, did you know that supermarket honey is micro-filtered to such an extent that all you are left with is a sugar solution? The reason for this is to stop any crystallisation, but it also means that there is not so much as a hint of pollen left. That’s why people with hay fever always seek out the local varieties.”
In addition, the festival will also be a good opportunity to find out more about the courses they run. “For instance, there will still be time for people to join our winter classroom course, running from January to March, ready to start the practical sessions next summer,” adds Vince.
So, who knows, maybe it will be you selling jars of honey at next year’s Countryside Food Festival! We look forward to seeing you.