Turning Fringford into a wildlife haven

The busy bee's at Fringford by David Hahn

01/04/2022

How it all 'bee'gan

Early 2021 my partner and myself started our journey into beekeeping...

We live in On the outskirts of Sheffield around 7 mile from the city centre close to the edge of the Peak District.  Here we tend our 30m2 allotment, growing fruit and vegetables for the family.

We took a beekeeping course with the Sheffield Beekeeper association in March 2021 with the plan to commence beekeeping in 2022. This was fast tracked due to another plot on the allotment being used by a local bee breeder who became a friend and “Bee Mentor”.

Mentors are key to all new beekeeping hobbyists

We were supplied with a Bee colony in Early May. This is when the learning curve dramatically sped up. Buying and building a hive, digging a pond – Bees need a source of water which is still and also require a Biodiversity of pollen and other wildlife.

A personal touch was added to the lid of the hive in a camouflage design

The Bees were house and happy! Happy bees

Bees tend to be able to look after themselves, however they do swarm at certain time of the year.  We were lucky to obtain another colony from a rogue swarm which found a temporary home in a tree close the allotment so another hive was purchased and personalised!

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And... they did swarm

Regular weekly inspections took place through-out the spring and summer to check on the health of the colonies

Even recruiting the grandkids

Honey is generally harvested late summer. It is unusual for first year hive to be strong and healthy enough to product enough honey for harvesting as we need to consider food resources moving into winter to ensure the survivability of the colony. 

We were extremely lucky to harvest enough honey for a few jars. The flavour was amazing, there were complex layers of various pollen varieties.

How did this Translate to Fringford?

I love to share my enthusiasm for things I enjoy. It was clear that this beekeeping malarky was infectious, and it didn’t take much convincing to do something similar here at Fringford. 

The location and environment are ideal-  It suits what Fringford stands for in terms of ideation, development, biodiversity and sustainability of plant life and wildlife. There is copious amount of unused space crying out for colour, bugs, bees HONEY and MEAD!

So….. In mid summer there was a collective agreement that we go for it! The plans were afoot

Edouard and Karen have become our Fringford bee champions. 

Joining the Oxfordshire beekeeping association and enrolling on the beginner beekeeping course, Karen is familiar with beekeeping having kept them on her small holding and also having contacts with Rowse Honey. Which no doubt be a valuable source of mentoring and information for Fringford.

August 2021

Grass cutting and ground preparation commenced.

Edouard was a busy chap for digging a pond to bring biodiversity into the field.  Ensuring a valuable source of standing water for the bees and ultimately being a focal point for the project.

The pond was lined and part filled with water and the left for nature to take its course.

The Fringford field tends to be cut once a year and is predominantly grass with very few wildflowers.  This initial preparation is to ensure the land is cultivated enough to encourage wildflower growth but not look like a formal garden.  To give this a helping hand I ploughed strips on land and introduced wildflower seeds which will then hopefully begin to change the biodiversity over the next few years

Crocus, and iris bulbs were planted at the same time colour in early 2022

September 2021

The rain came and filled the pond! Aquatic plants were introduced to the pond to create a natural ecosystem and balance.

Plant and they will come!  Water beetles have found a new home!

October 2021

The area needs to be as natural as possible but being mindful that we’d like to show customers the Fringford experience.  A stable platform is needed for the hives which could even be pallets however using flagstones has a slightly better kerb appeal.

November and December 2021

Work slowed down it was cold wet and miserable role on spring!  The plants in the pond have died back other than the water Hawthorne which is flowering.  Hoping the other plant will come back strong next year!  It’s a game of chance sometimes

January 2022

It’s cold but the project keeps moving on!

The beekeeping equipment has been bought.  2 hives, although we will be only getting one colony.  The second hive is available just as a back-up, based on my personal experience of collecting a swarm mid 2021.

Fully building and painting the hive will begin soon. Thank you to my super models showing off the beekeeping tunics!

February 2022

The Field here at Fringford is exposed with little shelter.  Bee don’t like to be in complete shade but equally full sun all day isn’t great either.  There are plans to plant bushes to give natural shade, however these take time to grow.  The beginnings of a fence to shelter the bees from the harsh midday summer sun is in progress

March 2022

Things are beginning to wake!  Not a huge amount of life happening in the pond yet, but early crocuses are coming through! Yippee

In the meantime…back in Sheffield….

The sun is out and the bees are active