What Others Say - Kind Words
There are many ways of living with bees, or "beekeeping". To help you decide whether to start this adventure with us, we have posted a selection of what people have said about our courses. The short "feedback" entries are followed by a longer piece of writing which will give you a fair picture of what to expect. Please also read the more detailed explanations of our approach by pursuing appropriate links in the menu. If you decide to apply for a place on one of our courses, please feel free to raise any questions you might have before making a commitment. We take pride in personal service and have decided to forgo the convenience of automated booking systems to ensure a good personal relationship from the start of your connection with the Natural Beekeeping Trust. We look forward to meeting you and introducing you to the wonders of the Bee.
" I have always intended to keep bees, but baulk at stealing honey and replacing it with sugar solutions. I am extremely interested in the ethos of your system and would like to learn more,"
"Thank you for the wonderful course you gave at Ashurstwood House the weekend before last. We received really excellent practical instruction, and unforgettable, sacred inspiration from witnessing your relationship with your bees. I will never forget the image I have of you standing next to the upturned skep, completely unprotected, talking gently about your beloved bees. Your painted hives are very exciting too. The whole experience was magical. And thank you for feeding us so well!"
!"I'd like to thank you personally for coming to teach the course. I felt your sessions provided an unselfish, animist approach to bee keeping, highlighting the importance of bee conservation and the perspective of honey as medicine not food. This bee centred approach which was exactly the message I hoped could reach people about natural bee keeping. So I'd like to thank you and the natural bee keeping trust for your courageous and unconventional messages which I hope will be taken to heart by all who attended."
"Heidi’s reverence and devotion to the care of the bee is truly contagious. She finishes by saying, “We need a culture that is grounded in love and respect for the unique bee whose exemplary nature and importance to life on earth has much to teach us.”
"After my wonderful day in Sussex I am tingling all over and on a mission to spread the NBT’s message. I strongly encourage those of you wanting to take up bee keeping or those who are already conventional beekeepers wishing to take a more holistic look at beekeeping or like myself curious to know more about honeybees to look into attending a course or event, with the Natural Beekeeping Trust."
"Thank you SO very much for such a wonderful day yesterday! We were in awe of your amazing bees and their beautiful,colourful hives. The food was absolutely delicious, our compliments to the excellent chef(s). The talks were brilliant and each and every one mirrored the passion of the speakers for the subject. We left your glorious location totally inspired and 'buzzing' with enthusiasm for the honeybee. I have decided to buy a Warre hive now to partner my WBC. Thank you and your precious team for an unforgettable experience which we will be building on to share our life with the bees and spread the word about natural beekeeping."
"Gareth, Thank you so much….an inspiring weekend. I drove home in a warm haze. I'm still smiling.!! I think you have actually got me hooked. "
"I really like the ethos of a natural hive environment with limited human intervention and taking just enough honey for your own use without overly stressing the colony. It seems to make common sense."
"Dear Gareth Thank you for an utterly life transforming course. I felt so deeply inspired and moved by the generosity with which you shared with us - opening the door into the beauty and intelligence of the Bee Being. Thank you. "
"You chose a fantastic venue which we were really interested to experience. The chance to speak to experienced and new 'natural beekeepers' was invaluable. It all makes such perfect sense and is so obvious really... I will be composing a polite letter to the BBKA about my positive experience of the event."
" I just want to say how much (as a teacher ) I appreciated the clarity, eloquence and content of Johannes and Heidi's presentations. It was refreshing to experience such accessible teaching. The days were full of inspiring ( and very useful ) information, knowledge and wisdom ( thinking )"
"Am still on a high after our "bee-fest" and have been looking into Warre hives.Thank you for a wonderful, unforgettable weekend"
"I just wanted to thank you so very much for a great weekend. I have now purchased a top-bar hive as I can't wait another year to make a hive myself! I will be on the look out for a swarm this summer to catch. Thanks again for all your and your teams hard work and wonderful knowledge, I have been really inspired by you all."
And here is a longer contribution from a former student published on his own blog. Well worth reading if you fancy a detailed impression of our two day beekeeping course:
The Natural Beekeeping Trust (NBT) was founded in 2009 and has as its patron the UK Poet Laureate Carol Anne Duffy. It’s set in the grounds of a fine Victorian house, with gardens that dramatically overlook the Ashdown Forest. A clue that this house is a little out of the ordinary were sheep in its conservatory and the ornately-painted beehives placed in groups around the grounds.
Despite the incredible warmth of the past days, the morning was cold. A stove was burning inside the large, wooden teaching hut, where the other participants and the trustees of the NBT were gathered, drinking tea and coffee. There were about fifteen students, in their thirties and upwards. We introduced ourselves and it quickly became apparent that by and large this was a bunch of regular citizens, who were curious about an alternative way to keep bees. If there was any common factor it was that it marked the end of a journey and the start of something completely different. There was Steve and Frances, who had sold their home a few years ago and set off around Europe and planned to wind up in Portugal and keep bees. And Vanessa, an American, who lived in Tuscany with her husband and found herself responsible for hives in a forest of chestnut trees. Vanessa had come all the way from Italy for the course.
I’d love to have a book with entries written by every beekeeper for the last hundred years, in which they describe what truly motivated them to start working with bees. When I’ve been in a learner group and we’ve been asked to give our reason for being there, most people either say that they want to do their bit to help bees, or they want to get lots of honey, or that a friend or relative has left them bees. Nobody says the truth; most likely they don’t know themselves. Why do we want to become warden to thousands of souls? We’ll get stung, lose money and put our backs out lugging hives around. For my part, the desire to keep bees has probably come from putting down roots in the dale after so many restless years, and now hopefully starting a family.
There are male trustees of the NBT, but I got the impression that it’s a woman-dominated show. Our tutors were all women, and would each teach specific classes. Heidi would deal with the practical side of beekeeping, Penny would cover the technical stuff such as disease and hive choices, while Chantal’s talk would be on planting for bees. There were fairly strict timings and extensive hand-outs. There was a huge amount to get through in the two days, Heidi explained. She asked if we wouldn’t mind coming half an hour earlier the next day.
This set the tone for the course. As it unfolded over the two days, I was continually struck by the passion and dedication of the tutors. They wanted us to learn as much as we could about natural beekeeping, in a clear, logical way. We weren’t lectured about the overriding virtues of natural beekeeping; in fact the tutors were open and pragmatic about the imperfections of their system and some of the hives preferred by natural beekeepers. Despite their best efforts, colonies were lost. Ideally they didn’t want to use chemicals to treat for varroa(which, Heidi said, occurred at a very low rate in NBT hives), but on occasions they would.
We talked about taking honey from the bees – an area where natural beekeepers generally differ from their conventional cousins. The message here was to only take what the bees can spare. And while there is some commercial biodynamic honey on the market, this was frowned on by the tutors. Honey should be used sparingly, as a medicine not a food, Penny told me.
If I learned anything on the course it was that there was no magic trick for ensuring healthy colonies. Bees today in the UK are beset by disease and parasites. As beekeepers, the best thing we can do is to help the bees help themselves.
Conventional beekeeping is concerned with controlling bees – segregating the queen in the hive; limiting drone (male bee) numbers, preventing swarming and so on. For me, the great joy of natural beekeeping is its desire to let go of this obsessive control. Allowing bees to swarm (and therefore reproduce) encapsulates natural beekeeping in a nutshell; the delight of the swarm followed by the rigmarole of capturing and re-homing the bees. Heidi, not surprisingly was a bit of an expert at collecting swarms (you can see her at workhere).
An abiding memory of the course was the hive hanging from beams in our classroom. The ‘Weissenseifener Haengekorb’ (‘hanging basket’) hive, was invented by the German sculptor Guenther Mancke. Its egg-shape was intended to perfectly replicate the way bees build comb in the wild (see here) and its design allows it to be hung high off the ground; again replicating the natural preferences of honey bees to be high off the ground, away from predators and close to the sun. Heidi had already christened it the ‘sun hive’ and saw it as the future of natural beekeeping. We all crowded around the hive, marvelling at its beauty and simplicity. One the one hand it may have been a technological breakthrough, but equally the ‘sun hive’ was just a modification of the traditional skep; Mancke had glanced back to take an elegant step forwards.
As the course ended on the Sunday afternoon, we had more coffee and cake, were given more handouts and swapped contacts. I got in my car and began the long journey north, hoping the daylight would hold until I was on the motorway. It’s not often I come away from a course, a play or a film with such a sense of excitement and time well spent. It had been a great weekend. A new chapter was beginning, finally.
Sunhive making courses:
just wanted to say a BIg thank you for all your hardwork and dedication to getting us all through the weekend, bee ing there for us, providing delicious food and fabulous location!
Really chuffed with my sun hive, took me a few days to fully appreciate it all as got back home pretty exhausted, but really thrilled with it and cant wait to get it hung up and ready for the bees to move in.
Took the sunhive to our bee keeping meeting last night to show to others, a lot of interest and quizzical looks, but all thought it was a very beautiful idea. A couple of ladies knew Gwen and were delighted to hear that she and Jay had managed to come home with complete hives!
Will be building a green ash structure soon to house probably two sunhives, so will be looking into making another somehow.
Altogether an very inspiring weekend, great to get a taste for having so many bees around....saw some in my garden the other day...so I guess someone nearby has some hives