We have both always had an interest in keeping bees and wildlife, but the time has never been right in either of our lives to start. My Great Grand Mother was a keen Apiarist and it would have been lovely to have had her around nowadays to be able to discuss how things have changed over the years.
We enrolled on a Beekeeping Beginners Course with Ashford Beekeeping Association and we were thoroughly hooked! This has now become somewhat of an obsession for Pat and it has engaged me enough to offer to set up and manage the Ashford Beekeepers Association website for them.
At the Ark premises we now manage between ten and twenty colonies of bees, some of which are here, some of which are in out apiaries located close by. Some of these colonies, we acquired as nucleuses from another Beekeeper, others we both went out and collected as swarms! Funnily enough, the swarms are the most docile of the colonies of bees that we have!
When we first started out as beekeepers with our own two primary colonies, we sited the bees next to our greenhouse and in front of our vegetable patch. During the summer months of that first year, this proved to be a grave error of judgement, as Pat soon found out one morning whilst digging amongst the potatoes, that working in shorts in the flight path of the bees coming out of the hive was not one of his better ideas! Nor was trying to escape the bees by running backwards through the panes of glass in the greenhouse! After spending the rest of the summer digging the potatoes in his Beekeeping suit, Pat reluctantly gave in and decided to relocate the bees.
After careful consideration, they have now been sited at the back of our Orchard in a south facing position. Our bees forage on oil seed rape, field bean, chestnut, ivy, pussy willow, lavender, fruit trees, vegetables and lots more.
We have surrounded the hives with a semi circle shaped mound of earth, in order to get the bees to fly directly out of the hives and up and over the wall of earth. Thus, guiding them up and safely out of the way of head height!
Over the past few years, we have built upon our knowledge of keeping bees, which has taken us through the continual experiential learning cycle through to taking examinations in beekeeping. We are still both totally enamoured with how fascinating and rewarding, on a personal level, beekeeping is to us and this year we have decided to pass on the knowledge we have gained to others who are also interested in becoming beekeepers.
In March last year we ran an Introduction to Beekeeping Session, with a view to familiarising participants into the craft of Beekeeping. This session included how to get started, what to consider, the costs and the rewards to be gained from Beekeeping. We have also taught Gardeners from Hever Castle and Godmersham Park in Kent the art of beekeeping, please see testimonial from Neil Miller, Head Gardener at Hever Castle, Edenbridge, Kent below.
We followed this during the months of April and August, with a 4-session Theory Course for Beginners, along with another 6 in 2011! All courses have proved popular and in light of this, we also offer seasonal one to one beekeeping tuition at a cost of £25 per hour. This is a practical session on a training hive in our own apiary, with protective clothing included. During this session, there will be the opportunity to have hands on experience.
This tuition has proved popular as Birthday and Anniversary presents, for those people who have an interest in becoming Beekeepers and for Beekeepers who are in their first year that are in need of a little reassurance.
In 2009, we bought a Beekeeping Supplies Company and became agents of the well known Maisemore range of products. This has meant that we are able to source, supply and stock quality beekeeping equipment, accessories and clothing at very reasonable prices.
This year we are pleased to have supplied bee livestock, equipment, tuition and supplies to well known establishments including Godmersham Park, Ashford, Kent, the Ashford International Hotel Kent and Hever Castle, Edenbridge, Kent.
Testimonial from Hever Castle -
“This is to say that myself, Neil Miller, Head Gardener of Hever Castle and Gardens in Kent, and one of my team participated in a Beginners Bee Course run by Pat and Debbie Hillman of Ark Birds and Bees Kent, early 2010.
We found this course to be extremely interesting, informative and easy to grasp. Following this, with Pat’s guidance and assistance, we took possession of our own bees and now have two healthy hives here at Hever Castle which can be seen by our Visitors.
We were so encouraged by the knowledge and guidance that we gained and the approachability of Debbie and Pat (they were always on hand at the end of a phone if we encountered any problems) that I sent another two members of my team on a further Bee Course run by them in the Summer of 2010. I would thoroughly recommend the service and the courses run by Ark Birds and Bees Kent. “ Neil Miller, Head Gardener, Hever Castle, Kent.
Anyone can learn to become a Beekeeper. The craft of Beekeeping does not discriminate anyone. Bees can be kept in a small garden, located on a roof in the town, in the country, or even on a static boat! As long as there is easy access for the Beekeeper and consideration for any close neighbours!
Beekeeping can be learned by the young, the old and the disabled alike. There are many types of equipment on the market which are designed to make Beekeeping more readily accessible to the elderly and the disabled. Please ask for details in relation to this. The protecting clothing range that we stock comes in many colours and sizes from childrens size to large adult sizes. If you would like to join one of our courses, please see our courses page for details of future courses, or contact us for more information.
If you are interested in enrolling on one of our courses, please see the Courses Page on this website. If you would like to book some tuition, please contact us either by ringing, emailing or filling in a contact form on this website