GARDENINGLOSE a link in any chain and it doesn’t work.
One such link in gardening is that between plants, which need pollinators, and the insects which pollinate.
Runner beans — my all-time favourite green veg — can be a high-profile example of what happens without pollinating bees.
Without pollination, yields dramatically decrease because flowers on runners are not long lived.
That is one benefit of beekeeping, where the production of honey is the keeper’s primary aim.
Down at Quarr Abbey at the moment, the order of monks has been steadily shrinking as time passes, to the point where they have had to rationalise the amount of work they can do on the 200-acre estate.
By serendipitous chance, just as they were considering having to forsake beekeeping, contact was made with the IW Beekeeping Association — just as the association was looking to establish a teaching apiary.
Last Saturday, the project was launched. It was established with the aid of substantial start-up funding from the Lottery’s Awards for All scheme, following successful trials during last year.
Already it is growing because the IW Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership picked up on the Rearing Island Bees project and agreed to provide the necessary equipment.
This year, 16 people are being trained in the art and the beekeepers are actively seeking young people to come forward for bursaries.
They cannot be wage earners and there are limited funds to support them but they will get training in an art which struggles against all manner of adversity to produce honey.
The teaching apiary fits in with the ethos of opening up the abbey much more to the community. In return, the community supports the abbey as part of a new link of what is hoped will turn into a big chain.
The abbey’s financial director is Jeremy Fletcher, whose main job is being in charge of an American company’s finances in this country. There he deals in big numbers whereas at Quarr the sums are much smaller but nonetheless important for such a small community.
Hence the pragmatic approach of asking for the help of the bee keepers, whose hives will, in return, produce honey for the thriving abbey tearoom and for charities and community groups to come in and grow vegetables and fruit to feed visitors and the community of monks too
Already there are two charities which will sell what they produce to the abbey at an attractive price for both parties.
In return, the abbey will see nine acres of its land turned into productive smallholdings and the tearoom will have a supply of wholesome produce, which will have clocked up food yards, not miles.
It is symbiosis of a sort which has earned apiary manager Liz Van Wyk the nickname of Queen Bean among neighbouring gardeners because they — and those at allotments in Vectis Road at East Cowes, which also has its own hives — have noticed the increase in yields of legumes through the introduction of bees.
She, and Dorothy Haynes, who was instrumental in setting up the East Cowes allotment scheme in the hands of an association instead of the IW Council, are joined in the Quarr venture by bee keeping association chairman Dave Cassell.
Dave originally intended to have just two hives.
He now has 41, having become heavily addicted to the pastime and also helps spread the word that bees are about much more than just making honey.
One interesting fact, which struck me, is a lifetime’s work by 12 bees will produce one teaspoonful of honey.