by Sarah Nicholl-Carne, volunteer beekeeper
After a lot of drama, involving a swarm, a dying queen, and one murdered queen, we now have two healthy colonies of bees housed in two hives in the Walled Garden. They are busily producing honey, and for the last couple of weeks, the bee keepers have been harvesting the first crop of 2014 Fulham Palace Honey.
It is a lengthy process; first you have to physically remove the frames containing the honey from the hives, and the bees are not keen to let it go. Then for the whole of one extremely sticky day, we uncapped, spun, and strained (3 times) two large containers of quite delicious honey. The following week we bottled around 45lbs, and managed again to get unaccountably sticky. Some tastes similar to last year’s crop (if you were lucky enough to get some), very fresh with a hint of lime; the rest has a mellower flavour, rich and chestnutty. Both will go on sale in the Fulham Palace Museum Shop at £8.50 per jar starting Monday, 4 August 2014. Hurry, while stocks last! We are planning to harvest more in a few weeks time, but are slightly in the hands (legs?) of the bees and the weather. There is still plenty for them to forage on in the Walled Garden and in the wildflower meadow, so we are optimistic.
Our Fulham Palace wildflower meadow is also a valuable food source and is in full bloom at the moment. The meadow was sown in May by Fulham Palace staff, students and volunteers. The seed was especially selected to support pollinators such as bees, hoverflies and butterflies. At the moment we think we can see our honey bees all over it! The meadow can be viewed from Bishop’s Park near the skate ramps.
Fulham Palace Trust would like to thank Western Riverside Environmental Fund (WREF) for funding the set up of the bee hives at Fulham Palace. The funding has allowed us the opportunity to buy all the equipment, queen bees and provide specialist training with the London Bee Keeping Association for our volunteers. The funding also included mentoring by an experienced and qualified bee keeper for a year. Now that our volunteers are qualified they will be training the next intake of volunteer bee keepers at Fulham Palace. Sales from the honey will go towards the upkeep and expansion of the Fulham Palace Apiary.