There’s a buzz on Exmoor this month (October, 2017) thanks to national celebrations recognising the importance of the honey bee to the landscape and to the way of life of those who live there.
As part of National Honey Week from October 23 until 29 many businesses are backing British beekeepers and spreading awareness of the significance of bees, and the value of their by-products.
We support nearby honey producers. We get our honey from Timberscombe, which is not far from us. The bees that make the honey we use for our dishes collect their pollen from Exmoor with its abundant gorse and heather flowers.
There are more than 1,000 different flowering plants and grasses growing on Exmoor and they all pretty much rely on bees, moth and butterflies, insects of some sort, to help pollinate them.
As John is a keen gardener, who grows a great deal of the veg, fruit and herbs we use in the kitchen in the hotel garden, we too are indebted to the insect in the black and yellow striped outfit!
So, with this in mind, we thought it was vital we got involved with The British Beekeepers Association’s (BBKA) National Honey Week. Beekeeper numbers have been dwindling. In 1948 there were 76,000 nationwide, now there are around 44,000 in England and Wales.
During the event, the BBKA announces the results of its annual honey survey. A proficient beekeeper ensures his colony of bees has more than enough honey for its needs and they only take what can be spared for human consumption.
The honey survey is a good guide to the state of the natural world. A poor honey crop could suggest environmental changes that can impact of the human world as well.
Our garden plays host to a great selection of kitchen herbs, such as fennel, dill, rosemary, thyme, chives, sage, mint, lemon balm and edible flowers such nasturtium and pansy for garnishing. Not to mention the vegetables grown in our own raised beds.
We have grown leeks, courgettes, cavolo nero kale, Chantenay carrots, rhubarb, figs, salad leaves and much more during the season, without taking up acres of space either. These have all found their way onto our menus as the seasons dictate and has reduced our carbon footprint as supplier vehicles don’t have to deliver so often, and we’re not importing out of season products so much either.
We also grow cherry tomatoes, beans, both French and borlotti, strawberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries. A good harvest is reliant on the bees. Some of our seasonal produce is also supplied by our neighbours in Wootton Courtenay, without bees we’d all have trouble growing our own.
The BBKA has created National Honey Week to celebrate the honey harvest and recognise the significance of the honey bee. It wants people to help honey bees by planting flowers providing nectar and pollen, which honey bees can eat, or to join its Adopt a Beehive fundraising scheme.
In our garden, here at Dunkery Beacon Country House, we have planted lots of perfect pollinators including lavender, buddleia and rosemary to help provide food for Exmoor bees.
National Honey Week runs from October 23 until 29. For further details, please visit www.bbka.org.uk/news_and_events/national_honey_week.