It’s all about the honey

I went to the London Honey Festival on Sunday hoping to eat more honey than Pooh. The seasonal festival celebrated the capital’s honey crop and offered honey tasting, honey massages, bee-themed music and movies, and a chance to meet your local beekeeper.

The London Honey Festival at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, London on Sunday 21 August 2011. The five-hour festival was sponsored by Capital Bees and free for beekeepers and the public, and for bees.

With over 2,500 hives in the city, you are never far from a bee, and at a bee event you are never far from a beekeeper. So I was surprised to see so many non-beekeepers. People are more curious than bears about bees.

Who will bring the best honey in all the land?

The honey tasting was easy to find with people lining up like drones. Little pots of sugary goodness in more varieties of gold than an alchemist’s workshop. Heavy-scented floral flavours, mellow fruity fragrances, and subtle citrus aromas reflected the wide range of London forage. Town bees have more choice than their country cousins thanks to imaginative urban gardening, city parks and allotments.

My favourite honey made me think of my old bees, who made a beautiful, delicate honey that tasted of lime blossoms and was the colour of sunshine.

A honey map of London showing where urban bees like to forage.

Emily and I have been guessing all year where our bees fly off to collect their pollen and what their favourite flowers might be. Many of our ladies have been returning with white stripes on their backs from Himalayan balsam and I spotted a forager return with more blue pollen in her basket last Saturday, which might be from poppy. Our honey crop this August was thick like treacle, amber-gold and mildly floral. Any ideas where our bees like to hang out?

I love that beekeeper's suit!

Every stall at the festival had a crowd of people fascinated by the magic of keeping bees. There was also a lot of information on how to help London’s bee population by growing bee-friendly plants or your own fruit and vegetables. People really wanted to know how they could help even if they couldn’t keep a hive.

From far right: Ron (beekeeper), Doreen (beekeeper by proxy), me (beekeeper) and Andy (the man who set us on this dodgy path)

It wasn’t long before I bumped into Andy, who introduced me to some Federation beekeepers, and a bit later we were spotted by more familiar faces congregating around the Middlesex stall.

The Middlesex Federation Beekeepers stall neatly displays bees who died in suspicious circumstances.

Fortunately, no one noticed that I was wearing a Capital Bee badge. I’m not a splitter, but I got pinned by a man wearing wings while signing up my pledge to help London bees.

He's got wings.

There were no tea stalls, but there was an observation hive…

Who's watching who?

And bumble-bee making…

Bumble-bee making ages 4–99 years. Mmm.

And honey jam…

London honey jam is jammin'

Sadly, I don’t have a honey stomach like bees. After finding out that there is actually a limit to the amount of honey I can eat in a few hours, I went for chowpatty on Southbank beach and a stroll in the sunshine along the river.

It did the trick and when I got home I was happy to discover a piece of chocolate-honey fudge in my pocket to enjoy with a cup of tea.

Bee celebrity.

The London Honey Festival was sponsored by Capital Bee, which is a Capital Growth campaign for community beekeeping in London. Capital Growth aims to support 2,012 new community food-growing spaces for London by the end of 2012.

Capital Bee is asking Londoners to support their local beekeepers and bees by growing bee-friendly plants and buying bee-friendly food. To pledge your support click here.

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3 thoughts on “It’s all about the honey

  1. Keep up the bee propaganda Emma, we need those bees. Did you know if they die out, so do we? Frightening isn’t it? Wasps got no time for, but bees are benevolent, industrious and life giving. Love Lucy x

    • I am all about the bee propaganda Lucy, and, of course, nicking their honey! One out of three spoonfuls of food we put in our mouths comes from a bee. Amazing fuzzy little insects! Are you a gardener? There are wasp traps you can make that don’t attract bees.

  2. Pingback: Reflections on a year in beekeeping | Basil and bees

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