Us city types have always had a deep seated yearning for the peace that country pastimes bring and they way they give some balance to our busy urban lives.
Witness the outpouring of love for cycling, craft ales and farmers markets all over this fair city. And as if you needed any more proof, beekeeping is on the rise in London too!
So if you fancy yourself as a bit of an urban apiarist, we heard that you can now take a two-and-a-half hour crash course in beekeeping in the elegant surroundings of the St Ermin’s hotel in St James’. It sounded like the perfect mix of town-meets-country so Belle went along to get a handle on the buzz.
Course tutor and beekeeper Camilla Goddard runs Capital Bee and keeps bees at her home in South London as well as looking after hives for clients like The Old Bailey, Quakers House and several schools. She also tends to the bees up on the roof of the St Ermin’s hotel where they use their own honey in recipes and drinks.
Camilla says: “When I first starting keeping bees ten years ago, there weren’t many other people in London doing it. Now there are 1000 keepers in the capital.”
We kick off learning about the different types of honey bees – the Queen who is of course at centre of the hive controlling everything, the workers – female bees who act as nursemaid for the queen’s offspring, who guard the hive and who dispose of any dead bees – and finally, the drones who are male bees and have no sting.
Then we taste a range of different honeys, noticing the particular taste of the London varieties that have a more minty flavour because of the lime tree pollen that is predominant in the urban bee’s collection. And after some more tips about how to set up a colony and hive, we head up to the hotel’s special bee garden.
Hotel guests can see the bees coming in and out of their hives from behind the safety of the glass inside but of course we were ‘going in’, covered head to foot in our protective bee keepers outfits, complete with latex gloves.
Looking the part and remembering to remain calm and not move too much, we watched Camilla take out the different sections of the hive, covered in bees until finally we found the Queen.
The bees had been sleepy and quiet over the winter so they were calm and luckily no one got stung although one did follow us back to the classroom and Camilla had to gently shoo it out of the window and into St James’.
Having derobed, we headed to the bar for a delicious honey cocktail – a Bowler Hat made of gin, honey and lemon. Strong and zesty with a softness and depth from mellow honey, it was delicious.
We finished the session full of enthusiasm and love for the honey bee and all its work.
- The next Beekeeping course at St Ermin’s is on the 21 st May, with more to follow in September during the hotel’s annual ‘honey month’. Two options will be available to book – the 2.5 hour workshop plus speciality honey cocktail in the Caxton Bar at £30pp or the course with delicious afternoon tea in the hotel’s Tea Lounge at £45pp, see www.sterminshotel.co.uk/offers/beekeeping-workshops for more information