Creating a buzz: Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeepers’ Association celebrates century of beekeeping

A Twickenham association is creating a buzz around beekeeping to celebrate 100 years of perfecting the art.

The Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeepers’ Association was established after the First World War in response to many households losing their breadwinners and becoming impoverished.

It has produced a short film for its centenary that document its beekeeping history and teaches how important honey bees are to society, featuring an interview with Twickenham MP Sir Vince Cable.

T&TVBKA member Julie Hill (pictured below) said: “It’s a fascinating hobby, very rewarding and great fun. Every season brings something different and I am constantly reading and prepping for next season.”

She fell into studying the ancient art eight years ago after her son Tom, for whom she had bought a hive for his 16th birthday, went off to university.

Julie, who produces Twickenham Honey from her three hives at Twickenham’s Heath Gardens allotments, added: “We always encourage people to come to our open days here, learn about bees and what they can do to help them.”

She recommends planting crocuses, lavender, borage and vegetable plants, as well as clover and dandelion in lawns.

“Garden centres have got huge bee friendly sections now as well, which is a good place to get ideas,” she added.

“And in the winter, don’t cut back flowering ivy if you have it in your garden, it’s a really important late source of forage for bees where they can top up their stores for the winter ahead.”

T&TVBKA trustee Warwick Francis urges gardeners not to over-manicure

Fellow member and T&TVBKA trustee Warwick Francis (pictured above), who became an accidental beekeeper more than 10 years ago, said: “I don’t want everyone to become beekeepers, I want them to become gardeners.

“It’s much more important to all the wildlife, that people keep gardens a little bit wildly and don’t over-manicure them, because the over-manicuring of gardens is where we lose a lot of the forage for bees.”

Warwick produces several different types of honey, one of which is the distinctive Hatton Road Honey, coming from beehives surrounded by lime trees in Bedfont Middlesex.

He said: “In the urban environments we have much better honey than they do in the country because we have such a huge variety of plants.”

Fellow member Brian Mitcherson a.k.a. Brian the Beekeeper (pictured below) has ten hives at Litten Nature Reserve in Greenford and won the Best Crystallised Honey category in 2014, 2015 and 2017 at the T&TVBKA Honey Show in October.

Brian the beekeeper has won awards for his crystallized honey

He said crystallised honey may not be as popular as runny honey but it keeps better.

Since 1919 the Twickenham apiary has been sharing and teaching beekeeping skills and knowledge, maintaining hives, managing diseases and promoting bee health and encouraging people to shield the world from pollution affecting all wildlife.

The association moved to its current location in 1953 and additional buildings include a library, equipment trading scheme for members, laboratory, a honey extraction room where honey is taken off the comb, filtered and bottled, a discovery centre where school groups visit weekly from April-July, and a hall where members gather for weekly meetings, added in 2008.

Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeepers’ Association Centenary Film 2019 can be viewed here.

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