The Oxleas Wood Apiary is to be found tucked in behind the gabled wall of the terraced garden of the now demolished Jackwood House (off Castle Woods Lane). Comprising at the height of the beekeeping season around 30 or so hives, the Apiary offers courses in practical beekeeping, Queen rearing, and workshops in traditional straw skep lip-work. For those seeking some ‘hands-on’ experience of managing or, for the inquisitive, just an informed glimpse into the wonderful world of the honeybee, there are a number of ‘Taster Days’ at key dates highlighting different tasks and activities throughout the beekeeping season.
Each year, the Apiary extracts the surplus honey that the foraging bees have naturally processed from the nectar that they have worked so hard to collect over the season from the insect pollinated trees of the woodlands, the clovers and flowers of Oxleas Meadow and local parklands and open spaces. Foraging to all points of the compass, Oxleas honeybees are busily at work 4 to 5 kilometres from the Apiary so there is a good chance of finding a honeybee from Oxleas Wood Apiary hard at work in your garden!
The annual late-Summer Honey Harvest results in an almost boundless hubbub of aerial activity by the bees as they discover the Apiarist purloining their prized honey. Even so they remain mild-tempered seemingly totally preoccupied by the clouds of pheromones released as the sealed honeycomb frames removed from the hives are first uncapped and then spun in a radial extractor to retrieve the honey.
Because the bees from each of the hived colonies focus on just a single source of nectar at any one time, those uncapping and extracting the honey harvest have the rare opportunity to taste the various Oxleas Woods honeys just as the bees intended. In previous Honey Harvest years a great favourite has been the highly aromatic and nutty flavoured honey from the Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa), although now the blight has struck the Sweet Chestnuts in Shepherdleas Wood this unique, local honey might well disappear from the Apiary’s honey menu in near future years.
Each year a few of the aspiring beekeepers attending the Apiary’s Introduction to Beekeeping Course rear their own colonies of honeybees in the Apiary, moving and rehousing these at the end of the beekeeping season in their own garden, allotment, etc. Thus Oxleas Wood Apiary propagates a series of satellite apiaries that spreads the genetic characteristics of its Queen rearing activities around the locality – thriving colonies of Oxleas Wood Apiary bees can be found locally in Greenwich, Plumstead, Charlton, Woolwich and further afield in the Vale of Kent and Yorkshire.
There is much concern about the survival of nature’s insect pollinators, including the pollen basket carrying bees such as bumble and honeybees. Many other insects, including the sometimes much decried wasps and hornets feral to Oxleas Woodlands and the surrounding areas, are equally important in maintaining the natural ecological balance. Domestic colonies of honeybees, however, are tightly managed and observed by the beekeepers and this is why they rank foremost as indicators of any deleterious change in the natural environment – in this important respect the Oxleas Wood Apiary, together with its satellite colonies, and other local beekeepers, play a vital role in keeping a check on our natural environment.
Learn more about the Oxleas Wood Apiary, its educational courses and
workshops at www.oxleaswoodapiary.com
Oxleas Wood Apiary honey is available for purchase
at the Oxleas Wood Café on the Oxleas Meadow.
The Oxleas Wood Apiarist is a local resident John Large, previously a university research academic for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and now a Chartered Consulting Engineer with Large & Associates specialising in nuclear and enviironmental issues.
Located in the Royal Brough of Greenwich Parks and Recreational Spaces Depot, the Apiary benefits from support and encouragement of the Borough and its staff.