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Making a buzz about New Forest honey makers on World Bee Day

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HAVING just marked World Bee Day, the New Forest paid tribute to its own honey producers and appealed to locals to support them.

New Forest Marque, a food and produce scheme which awards local producers with a distinctive logo demonstrating their Forest provenance, said the area is “blessed” when it comes to beekeepers, with nine of its members producing honey or bee products, like candles and luxury skincare.

“Their hives sit in secluded spots across the ancient woodlands and open heathlands of the national park,” said a Marque spokesperson. “The bees forage on the wildflowers, heathers and rare plants of the Forest’s special landscape.

Simon Noble of the Noble Bee
Simon Noble of the Noble Bee

“Each pot of pure, golden honey can be traced back to a specific hive or apiary and has a unique flavour, with a complex taste reflective of the flora of the area and time of year in which it was produced.

“This natural honey is an altogether different product than most of the honey found on supermarket shelves, which tends to be imported, processed, and often contains very little honey produced by bees.”

Simon Noble, who runs the Noble Bee from his base at Furzedown Farm in Hythe, looks after more than 70 hives across the New Forest and produces raw, 100% natural honey.

“The bees forage on all sorts of different flowers depending on the location and time of spring or summer,” said Simon, a third generation apiarist.

“At our base on Furzedown Farm the honey is mainly blackberry, sweet chestnut, and meadow flowers, while our bees kept at Brockenhurst Park forage on small-leaved lime tree flowers and meadow flowers.

Jade Prentice of Bees and Botanicals
Jade Prentice of Bees and Botanicals

“During August, we move most of our hives to designated spots in the national park, when they forage solely on the ling heather when it comes into bloom. This is known as a monofloral honey, containing nectar from only one flower species.”

Jade and Justin Prentice, a nurse and software consultant, founded Bees and Botanicals thanks to their love of beekeeping.

They are a small-scale production with two different apiaries in the New Forest, each of which gives a different tasting honey. They sell their honey, as well as use it to create planet-friendly health and beauty products.

“Our hives are around Lover in the north of the Forest, where our bees forage on hedgerows, gardens, and the woods we are surrounded by,” said Jade.

“Our aim is simple – to be good keepers and make lovely things with bee produce. It’s our greatest delight to share our passion for beekeeping and cosmetic integrity with like-minded people.

“Bees are the reason we can enjoy green spaces like gardens, parks, and countryside. Getting outdoors and enjoying these spaces improves our mood, reduces stress, and builds confidence.

“We hope that our little company can help encourage people to go outdoors and drive the important message that when we reconnect with nature, we reconnect with ourselves.”

Watsons of Norleywood
Watsons of Norleywood

Claire Lee, manager of New Forest Marque manager, said choosing to buy raw honey from local beekeepers rather than imported products can play a big part in helping bees.

“Our honey producers nurture and care for their tiny workers to help them create a beautiful, natural product with local provenance,” she said. “Marque products are not only grown, reared and produced right here in the New Forest but are also made using locally sourced ingredients or materials, so you can be sure the product bearing our logo has true local provenance.”

According to the group, the UK imports 50,000 tonnes of honey a year, one third of which comes from China.

Other New Forest Marque honey producers and makers of honey products are Ashlett Creek Produce, Busy Bee Products, Folds Farm, Lakeside Bee Services, New Forest Bee Products, Regent House Honey, Strides Honey, Waterside Apiaries, and Watsons of Norleywood.

Raw honey is a superfood that has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties, while local honey that is untreated contains a blend of local pollen, which is believed to strengthen the immune system and reduce pollen allergy symptoms.

Bees are the world’s most important pollinators, fertilising a third of the food we eat and 80% of flowering plant. But since 2006 populations have been steadily declining from colony collapse disorder, reduced habitat, lack of economic sustainability and climate change.

The future of the honey bee is crucial because their existence impacts and influences human food production.

For more information about the Marque, visit newforestmarque.co.uk

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