The last place most people would think of as a bee-keeper’s paradise is the centre of a great city, least of all the West End of London, but hives can be found all over the capital, including on top of a world famous department store.
There is a real crisis happening in nature at the moment, no, not (only) the aftershock of Deepwater Horizon, but the vanishing of the bees; these busy creatures are literally disappearing all over the planet, but there is a small fraternity who are doing their part in conserving and even in repopulating them, urban bee-keepers.
BBC Television’s latest Country Tracksprogramme featured the work of these enthusiasts in an edition devoted to the green side of one of the world’s great cities. Technically, London is not a city but a conurbation; Greater London is a county in itself and covers an enormous area, so one would expect to find parks and other green spaces dotted around it. Even so, it comes as a surprise to find bee hives installed on the top of Fortnum & Mason, one of the capital’s and the world’s most prestigious department stores, in the heart of London’s West End.
The Fortnum bees are workers in every sense, and produce a unique blend of honey called simply Fortnum’s Bees.
Fortnum’s teas currently at £18.00 per serving are probably not for everyone, but Fortnum’s bees can be viewed for free via the store’s dedicated rooftop webcams. And for those who want to see them in situ, tickets for the rootop on selected summer afternoons start at £25.00. Quite a sting!
For those interested in bees without teas, The London Beekeepers Association is based at Kennington, south of the Thames. The organisation sells honey, holds meetings, and even runs courses for prospective bee-keepers complete with a mentoring programme.