Buzz about beekeeping

Willersley Castle Hotel General Manager Kevin George inspects one of the frames of the two beehives now in place at the popular retreat in Cromford.
Willersley Castle Hotel General Manager Kevin George inspects one of the frames of the two beehives now in place at the popular retreat in Cromford.
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Life is sweet at a Dales hotel – and there’s a real buzz building about the new manager’s hobby.

Two hives have appeared in the grounds of Willersley Castle which are set to teach guests and school children about the art of beekeeping.

Willersley Castle Hotel General Manager Kevin George prepares his smoker before he inspects one of the two beehives now in place at the popular retreat in Cromford.

Willersley Castle Hotel General Manager Kevin George prepares his smoker before he inspects one of the two beehives now in place at the popular retreat in Cromford.

The project is thanks to new manager Kevin George, who has moved his hives from his previous home in the Wye Valley to the 200-year-old Grade II listed building, overlooking the River Derwent.

Mr George said beekeeping can teach us a lot about these extremely hard-working insects which pollinate about 80 per cent of Britain’s plants, and not only that, you can enjoy the fruits of their labour – honey – to sweeten the deal.

But you won’t find Willersley honey on supermarket shelves – as the golden liquid will be used on guest’s breakfasts and jars will be for sale exclusively in the hotel.

Mr George, who got in to his hobby two-years ago, said: “I’m opening up the possibility for our guests and local children to see the bees working and to find out more about what they do.

“It has been really well received as everyone is aware of the plight of the humble honey bees.

“Guest like it because it is quite an old style hotel and it adds to the country life feel and it will also be used for educational purposes for local school children.”

The decline in honeybees has hit the headlines as hive numbers have fallen due to diseases and loss of habitat.

Chemical pesticides and climate change has also been blamed.

England’s bees are vanishing faster than anywhere else in Europe, with more than half of hives dying out over the past 20 years.

However the number of people taking up beekeeping has increased as green campaigners, like Mr George, respond to the plight of the bumblebee.

He said: “Projects like these are important because there are several diseases and pests that are attacking the bee population. Basically if we don’t maintain hives there will be serious pollination problems and a lack of crops which would affect everybody.”

Mr George is planning to set up a webcam on the hives to record the bees’ progress and has spare suits for people to wear if they want to get up close and personal with the bees.

He said so far the hives had done well and the bees were producing a delicious runny clear honey which can be bought in 1lb jars for £4.50.