The Bees of St Clement’s, Sandwich

Historically, Sandwich was linked with Benedictine monks who were themselves great beekeepers.

 

Indeed, St Benedict is known as the Patron Saint of Beekeepers. One of our first volunteers had kept bees in the past and he suggested that we might seek to establish an apiary in the churchyard as a nod to its history and as a means of encouraging and supporting more pollinators. Thanks to a Kent County Council Grant we were able to purchase a flat pack hive and a small colony of bees from Thorne’s. The hive was built by the volunteers during the winter of 2019 but due to COVID the bees could not be collected from a farm near Windsor until spring 2021. We bought our first colony rather than collecting a swarm as we wanted to be confident that the bees came from a benign rather than aggressive stock given that we wanted to protect visitors to the churchyard.

 

We chose a part of the churchyard that was away from the main footpaths and allowed the bees to have a clear flight path to and from the hive. The bees thrived during the late spring and summer 2021 and we were able to harvest a small amount of honey to give to each of the volunteers to say thank you for all of their hard work in the churchyard. The plan was to introduce a second hive in spring 2022 so during the winter a second hive was built. However, such was the success of the original colony that the first hive swarmed on two occasions in May. These two swarms were captured and returned to the churchyard so our plans for two hives have been overtaken and we now have three hives. These hives are currently tended by two beekeepers, Paul Garforth and Barry Brooks.

 

When the 149th Golf Open was held in Sandwich the project made a successful application to The Open Green Initiative which enabled us to invest in another hive, purchase two new benches for the churchyard and help with publishing our guide booklets. The project has also benefitted from generous donations such as from the family of Peggy Rossiter, a former churchwarden at St Clement’s. Their donation contributed to the development of a small bee garden around the apiary which is fast becoming a haven and a place of interest for visitors.

 

Much of what underpins the project focuses on conservation, education and preservation. In the spring the beekeepers visited two schools in the area to tell the children about the importance of bees as pollinators and give them first-hand experience of the structure of a hive. The intention is for these visits to continue to groups of all ages and for return visits to the apiary itself.

 

by Barry Brooks

 

Find out more about St Clement’s via their website.

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