GlastonBees is a venture that I founded and took a few years in the making. The story goes that I have previously worked in Community Development roles for around five years, helping local communities enhance their own environments. This involved working with residents to elicit their views, find out what they want and then help them achieve it.
After spending wonderful times with some wonderful people through my work, they often learnt that I was a Beekeeper. This usually led to a bombardment of questions heading my way from inquisitive minds, like minded people and those who also wanted to help the Honey Bees.
I must add that during this time the Honey Bees were getting a lot of press coverage due to falling numbers of colonies and diseases. People were curious and wanted to know more about Honey Bees, I was able to use my contacts to facilitate a workshop at the Community Centre where I worked, so I arranged for the Chairman from a local Beekeeping association to come and give a wonderfully inspiring talk to a record number of attendees. I have never seen such silence and concentration from a group of people, they were almost hanging off every word that was being said.
When I was working in other areas of the South Wales Valleys, the same response was happening, people wanting to know more about Honey Bees, Beekeeping and how they could personally help. However I was unable to facilitate a similar workshop due to other work commitments which caused much frustration but it planted the seed and from there one part of GlastonBees was developing deep within my mind.
I thought “is this something which I can do myself?”. As a protector of the environment and a beekeeper… what could I do?
In the meantime I had been attending a part-time evening Carpentry and Joinery Course at a local college for several years. I have always enjoyed working with wood even from my school days, so I did spend some of my spare time (when I had some that is) making little items.
So it was spring time and our Honey Bees had been very well looked after over winter and they were a very healthy, rapidly growing colony. So much in fact that they were beginning to swarm early. We went from 1 colony to 4 within weeks and finances at that time were very tight. We had to borrow hives from other people just to house the Honey Bees. Around this time my brain was buzzing, wondering if I could make some hives. I mean, the joints looked easy enough after my years of woodwork, it doesn’t look that hard to build a hive, or so I thought.
Sub-consciously, some pieces of a giant puzzle were beginning to formulate in my mind.
Teach people about Honey Bees? Well, I am experienced in working with a broad spectrum of people, giving workshops, keep the little darlings myself.
Make hives for myself, hey hang on a minute! Can I make them for others too?
With a desire to follow my dreams and make a job for myself that I feel truly passionate about, GlastonBees was born.
GlastonBees is based in a small wooden workshop set up in a semi-rural area of Cwmbran in South East Wales – this is where part of the magic happens.
As a social entrepreneur, a bee-keeper and environmental advocate I wished to create a sustainable business / social enterprise (social business? does that work) that is “truly beneficial to our environment” and that is what has been achieved by recycling and using local materials as much as possible. All of our Western Red Cedar comes from well managed estates and Local FSC Forests, the wood is then very kindly planked into manageable sizes for me. We believe passionately in protecting the environment and in supporting our local economy.
All Western Red Cedar travels no more than 50 miles from where it is planted in the ground to the workshop.
This supports the businesses of our local timber suppliers and hugely reduces the carbon footprint. Then, this is where I get my hands on this very lovely smelling natural product. It is housed inside the wood shelter to allow time for it to season (dry). From then on it moves into our small workshop, where great care and attention is paid to carry out the final transformation from plank into quality hand crafted Warre Bee Hives.
I also collect 2,000 litres of rainwater from the workshop and storage building, using the water for my workshop and organic veggie garden’s needs. Luckily I live in Wales, so the rain-water butts stay pretty much topped up all year round.