How you can Bee a Champion with Barbury Hill
As spring slips slowly into summer and the temperatures finally start to warm up, our gardens are starting to take on life and colour. One of the first to enjoy the new growth is the bee, a regular visitor but one so many of us take for granted, Barbury Hill included. We’d be the first to admit that, while there’s something very soothing about watching a bee buzz from flower to flower, we’d not stopped to truly appreciate their importance for our food systems. But in our meetings with Barbury Hill partners, the issues of biodiversity and ecological balance come up time and again, leaving us wanting to do more. We’ve learnt so much from those partners that we’d like to pass on their tips and advice to you.
We all know there’s a climate crisis unfolding around us but it can feel overwhelming at times, as if the problem is so much bigger than we as individuals can solve. By focusing on the wildlife at the bottom, small actions can have a huge impact further up the chain - bees are vital for our food production, pollinating crops and creating life - and we can play a part by creating bee-friendly habitats and supporting businesses who care about their environment.
Plant Bee-friendly Flowers and Plants
In the last 60 years, Britain has lost 97% of its wildflower-rich meadows. Intensive farming plays a part but we can all do our bit by adding wildflowers and nectar-rich plants to our gardens, leaving dandelions untouched, and mowing our lawns later in spring. Luckily for us, some of the most bee-friendly plants - alliums, foxgloves, wisteria, honeysuckle, dahlias and lavender - are also the most pleasing on the eye. We can take inspiration from Percival & Co and Gattertop Drinks who both work to restore lost hedgerows and promote diverse, natural habitats, and Baked By Beth, whose vegan and refined-sugar free brownies and bars are a joyous celebration of the beauty of foraged flowers.
This is something we can achieve on a small scale in our gardens, but also on a larger scale in the choices we make as consumers. Many of our small producers have made a conscious decision to move away from a reliance on pesticides and artificial fertilisers, opting instead for organic means. The Bath Soft Cheese Co, for instance, is an entirely organic company and has removed the need for fungicides, pesticides and artificial fertilisers, replacing them with manure and organic compost. You can choose to support certified B Corp businesses like Stroud Brewery, who invest in responsible organic farming to promote regenerative methods that are good for all of us, including the bees. And all while making superior beers.
Become a Beekeeper
With 35 UK bee species at threat of extinction, anything we can do to rebuild their numbers is of value. We were inspired by the sheer enthusiasm of Matt and Kit from Wye Valley Meadery, whose love of bees has turned into an award-winning business creating traditional mead with a modern twist. Using the honey from their Wye Valley bees in the mead gives it a distinctive flavour, as well as providing an excuse to maintain 150 hives and 9,000,000 bees. While not many of us have space for that many hives in our gardens, just one can provide a home for tens of thousands of bees in the summer. Wye Valley Meadery run courses on bee-keeping and you can also learn more at The British Beekeepers Association.
Like bees we tend to buzz from one thing to the next, rarely making time to stop and take in our surroundings. But we could all benefit from taking a moment to look around us. To see how the snowdrops and bluebells provide early sources of food for bees, how the hedgerows begin to spring into life, with hawthorn bushes putting on a blousy display of blossom, and apple trees softly taking on a cloak of white. Once we see nature, we start to see how we can work with it rather than against it, how we can leave a positive mark and do our bit to champion the bees and the businesses working so hard to help them. Barbury Hill is proud to feature independent producers who have made promoting ecological balance and biodiversity a key pillar of their business. And, of course, when the food and drink they produce is this good, we can all bee happy.
Rebecca, a talented writer, is a friend of Barbury Hill’s. When she’s not eating the best of British food and drink, she is writing about it. And when she’s not writing about it, she’s thinking about it.