First year at Gregynog 2010

It was during the Glansevern Food Festival of 2009 where Karen Armstrong, the new Warden of Gregynog Hall, asked us if we would put some bees within the grounds of the estate. The bees would be an attraction that Gregynog could offer to the public. We replied that what we needed was a centrally located apiary for Montgomeryshire where beekeepers could be trained. A good partnership followed. But getting the apiary up and running has taken longer than we expected.

The paperwork took ages. Health and Safety had to be factored in as well as access for the disabled. This meant that we have the lease of a larger plot than we originally envisaged.

Work began in May during the Bluebell season. Gregynog provided the labour and MBKA did the design and provided the materials through contributions from individual members and a generous grant from Tregynon Windfarm Trust.

We planned to have 8 hives by the end of the 2010 season. We achieved 7 hives but one remained unoccupied. We hope that in early 2011 John Beavan in his capacity as a friendly beekeeper, rather than an SBI, will manage to donate the much promised colony for the Long Frame hive. John has kindly agreed to be one of the Apiary Managers: certainly he will be the one who makes all the decisions about how to maintain the health of our bees. We will need other managers and do need someone who lives close to the apiary who can react quickly to calls from the staff at Gregynog about bee activity. John Beavan lives far from the Apiary and cannot be expected to do all the feeding and medication himself.

Our first training day was held in August 2010, specifically to look at the detection and treatment of Nosema. See this article in the October 2010 BeeHoler for a full report.

We had also planned to have a viewing hut ready by the end of the year. This hasn’t happened but the delay has proved fruitful. Welsh Oak Frame Buildings of Caersws have agreed to design and manufacture an Oak Framed viewing

The centre will be better than anything we could have put up ourselves and will be an asset to the image of MBKA, Gregynog and, of course, to Welsh Oak Frame. Dennis Edmunds, the father of one of the Directors of Welsh Oak Frame was a well known beekeeper in Caersws. He was one of those rare beekeepers who had bad arthritis and had to scale down his beekeeping before he died a few years ago. During the week of 25th October the plans will be ready and an oak tree on the Gregynog Estate will be chosen for the main structural timbers for the viewing centre.

The viewing area will be large enough for a class of school children to view the bees in perfect safety. The roof will be of small slates and we are hoping to get a slate or roofing company to sponsor these. Have you any ideas about who might be willing to provide the slates? The building will be finished by April 2010 so we will need those contact names ASAP.

Those who have already visited the Apiary will have noticed a double fence to keep the public safely away from the bees. The gap between the fences is 4’ and will be planted with David Austin Roses. Of course the roses are there for extra security but they will also make the area very attractive even for those with no interest in bees.

Gregynog is holding a number of public events during the Spring Bank Holiday. This would be an appropriate time for the official opening of the whole apiary. We hope, by then, to have in place a series of audio-visual links between the hives and the Reception area of Gregynog. Again we ask for ideas, volunteers and possible sponsors. During that spring event we will be demonstrating beekeeping in the Bee Cage that we used at the Glansevern Food Festival (see this report in the BeeHolder, October 2010) the money for this was kindly donated by the Co-operative Society.

WE STILL NEED CONTRIBUTIONS money, materials and most of all, hives and bee colonies. Some have already been promised. We’ll need them in spring because we plan to have the first part of the season dedicated to colony increase. We plan to have about 20 hives by the end of 2011.

Tony Shaw