It is rare for me to receive an invitation to a Palace. As a beekeeper, I usually visit my queens uninvited. But I was flattered when John Chapple suggested that I might like to stand in for him at a Parliamentary away day at Lambeth Palace. John is simply the best beekeeper I know. So to be invited to open his hives and inspect them with a group of absolute novices was a feather in my cap.
But my excitement about the occasion was reined in when, three days before the event, the weather forecast showed a 5-hour downpour from noon onwards – exactly the time set aside for the hive inspections.
It didn’t budge. Our island climate normally moves the forecast around. Not this one. And it was right – on the day, it rained. And then it rained some more. The hives stayed closed.
Fortunately, I had stocked my glass observation hive with five full frames of bees from Neckinger hive, with the visible top frame containing Queen Grunhilde. It never fails to fascinate people to see the bees so up close and personal.
My collaborator for the day was Sarah Waring, author of a six-year study into the social anthropology of beekeeping published earlier this year entitled “Farming For the Landless”. Sarah’s prose is lively and engaging, with complex beekeeping issues neatly explored on her colourful travels around Europe. A great Christmas gift for a beekeeper!
Education with an admixture of entertainment was our brief. We took the stage together, unrehearsed, and clicked immediately: Sarah reading excerpts from her book, parachuting our imaginations into beekeeping in Paris, Slovenia and the Arctic Circle and I hoisted the flag of my forage campaign to help urban bees (see our Urban Planting Guide) high above the crenellated walls or the Palace.
So thank you Lambeth Palace, John Chapple and Sarah Waring – and not forgetting Queen Grunhilde, who I must say seemed remarkably at home in her temporarily palatial surroundings.