In common with other monasteries of the medieval period, it is likely that bees were kept at Buckfast in those days, though we have no records to prove it. Monasteries often kept bees as a valuable source of sugar and also wax for making candles. What we do know is that, from soon after the re-foundation of the monastery in , bees have been kept at the Abbey. Two monks who were involved, and contributed to the beekeeping journals of the time, were Fr. Maurus Masse and Br. Columban Wanner.
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Brother Adam Kehrle, legendary keeper of the Abbey's bees, inspecting the hives. In common with other medieval monasteries, it's likely that bees were kept at Buckfast Abbey as a valuable source of sugar and wax as well as for some medicinal purposes.
But it was only after the monastery was re-founded in , that beekeeping there can be said to have truly come into its own.
One of the leading figures in the revival was Brother Adam Kehrle, a German monk, who went on to work with the bees at Buckfast for over 78 years, becoming an international authority in the field. Soon after Brother Adam joined the beekeepers in , 36 out of the Abbey's 46 colonies were wiped out by disease. Brother Adam made it his life's work to re-build the hives, going on to breed the hardier Buckfast Bee, which attracted worldwide fame.
He was awarded the OBE for services to beekeeping. These days, the Buckfast Abbey Bee Department is run by Clare Densley, assisted by Martin Hann - and its role has changed from honey production to education. The bees are still very active, but now their output is harvested for the consumption of the Benedictine community and no longer sold. He loved this role and later took over the running of the bee department in He subsequently travelled the world to bring back queens with the aim of producing a bee which was both gentle and very productive.
Brother Daniel, who has been at Buckfast Abbey for 40 years, was the last person to work with Brother Adam and remembers his time in the beekeeping department with great affection: "Brother Adam is often portrayed as being obsessive, but he wasn't, he was just demonstrating good agricultural husbandry and he had a natural interest in genetics.
I enjoyed my 15 years working in the bee department, particularly taking the bees to Dartmoor in August and retrieving the honey during the week of Widecombe Fair - around the second Tuesday in September.
I miss it. Clare has been keeping bees since and has been at the Abbey for 12 years. She has also worked as a seasonal bee inspector for Devon.
Her interest in the natural world started as a child growing up in Bristol: "I was always trying to escape to the countryside on my Mum's bike. I had a passion for nature and secretly wished that my parents were farmers. Bees satisfy all of my yearnings for being involved with the natural world and they are a wonderful way to engage with the environment.
Clare has seen some big changes during her time at the Abbey: "When I first worked here, we had colonies and the remit was mainly honey production which was sold in the Abbey shops. In , the focus changed to education and most of the hives were sold. We have around 25 colonies now. I love teaching people about bees as well as how to keep them. I get real enjoyment from showing the bees to people who have never experienced the complexities of honeybee society.
Another fascinating aspect of the beekeeping department's work is the running of classes to promote mindfulness and to help overcome chronic pain conditions, such as Fibromyalgia. You must relax and move slowly with careful and deliberate movements," adds Clare. The bees respond to your care and confidence and just carry on with their activities. They have the potential to sting you, but when the sun is shining and they are all busy, it seems that they are allowing you into their very intimate and special world.
It is such a privilege and totally mesmerising. Afterwards, you feel uplifted and special. Fiona was keen to visit for that reason. She was good company. Another important aspect of Clare's role is her charitable work. This includes being a trustee of Farmable, which provides rural activities for veterans to help them cope with conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Clare also has a long association with Help for Heroes and works with Breakthrough Transformation Trust, a local Christian organisation which helps young people turn their lives around when they have been excluded from mainstream education.
Buckfast Abbey runs a range of beekeeping courses throughout the year. Clare Densley adds: "I love everything about working at the Abbey. It's a community.
My job is so varied, and I work with a great guy - Martin Hann. I do get quiet time with the bees, though, and relish the chance to work through a hive by myself at times. Toggle navigation. Search Term Search Advanced search. Home My Profile Profile Gallery. Interiors Gardens Property Market. Competitions Offers and promotions. Advertise Digital Archive Ezine Subscribe.
Brother Adam Kehrle, legendary keeper of the Abbey's bees, inspecting the hives Archant. Email this article to a friend To send a link to this page you must be logged in.
Beekeeping is still alive and well at Buckfast Abbey, albeit with a different emphasis these days. Most Read 16 beautiful beaches in Devon you have to visit. Win a stay at the luxury Salutation Inn. Win a steam train driving experience. Villages in Devon: 10 of the best places to visit. Wild camping in Devon: 5 great places to pitch your tent.
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Beekeeping At Buckfast Abbey
I t is not an easy task to make a report on beekeeping as it is pursued at Buckfast Abbey in South Devon. There are also certain factors which, although significant, we consider to be of secondary importance; these include the type of district, the climate, and whether the bees are kept for a hobby or on a commercial basis. In this short article, we shall deal with these secondary factors first, inasmuch as they are characteristic of the methods used in Buckfast; after this we shall give a description of our special methods of queen rearing, which we regard as the essential principle upon which our success rests. B uckfast is in the south-west of England, only a few feet above sea level and only a few miles from the Atlantic coast.
Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey
Guaranteed shipment within 1 business days. Notify me when this product is available Sign up to receive info about sales and new products. Emphasis on general observation. Includes a section on mead making.