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Buzzing Churches

September 26, 2011

{From a publicity article written by Jen Burgess, the beekeeper in charge of this wonderful scheme.  Thanks also to Phil Woods, the priest at Hapisburgh for providing the drive needed to get this going.  I just helped with a little of the admin!}

A scheme to bring bees into the churchards of North Norfolk was set up in response to local demand for a support and training  network which did not involve travelling long distances and which involved hands on learning and experience of the practicalities of becoming a beekeeper.

The aim is to provide encouragement, support and education into best practice in safety,  swarm control and disease management and to provide local meeting places in each parish where teaching can be delivered and where local beekeepers can meet to pool resources.  Set-up with the co-operation and support of the Diocese of Norwich we have been putting beehives containing nucs of Ged Marshall’s lovely,  calm Buckfast bees into churchyards and setting up small parish groups to look after them. These are individually constituted small groups of local people with a beekeeper in charge to take responsibility for the parish hive.
These individual groups are overseen by the main association so that where demand dwindles in one parish, the resources can be transferred to another nearby parish and remaining members can continue to attend sessions at the new location.  We have a group apiary and two large secure sites (of more than 3 acres each)  so that in the future we can meet in larger groups when required. This also allows us to centralise the hives
over winter so that some disease treatment and monitoring can be carried out. It also allows us to remove Brood or hives when necessary.
We also have access to a large workshop where new beekeepers can take advantage of the tools and construct their hives and equipment with support provided that they contribute some time to constructing some communal equipment in return.
Membership Currently we are waiting to decide our membership cost as we would like to be able to provide British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) membership whilst keeping our fee in line with that of other societies.  We have 5 parish groups of 5 to 10 members and a further 35 parishes waiting for their faculties. 40 people have asked for membership and are waiting for us to confirm the price to be in line with the West Norfolk and Kings Lynn Beekeepers’ Association.  Obviously this may vary once the fees are requested but we have not yet advertised in any way other than word of mouth.
Our plans Over the next two years we hope to be able to put in place the network to support the further 35 parishes who have asked for apiaries. We have secured a great deal of support from the local council in North Norfolk   and the secure Apiary sites  are under County Council management. We are in the process of applying for funding from Broadland Council as they have requested that we set some apiaries up in their area and they are keen to be part of the project this financial year.
We are currently raising money locally for an observation hive which we intend to take in to schools and to events. We have had a number of requests from local primary and secondary schools and hope to be able to provide this service in the near future.

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