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Cheryl & Martyn Cracknell Share Their BEEginnings

posted 29 Sep 2010, 08:00 by Linda Halford   [ updated 7 Oct 2010, 03:47 by EBKA Webmaster ]
Martyn has always been interested in creepy-crawlies and entomology formed a large part of his degree course in Applied Biology. It was not until he was teaching biology in London that he got seriously interested in bees, and in 1976 he took a course in Beekeeping at Southgate Technical College.  In the spring of ’77 they got their first hive, which was put halfway down the garden of their  mid-terraced house.  It was next to the fence and facing into the garden so as not to annoy the neighbours.  Almost overnight their lives were transformed . The bees pursued anyone who opened the back door, and stung anyone who ventured up the garden. Just putting the bins out had to be done stealthily under cover of darkness, and hanging out the washing required a full suit, veil, gauntlets and wellies. Meanwhile the bees deposited excreta all over the freshly washed baby clothes. Beekeeping for them, was in the balance. Enfield Beekeepers helped them to re-queen the hive with a gentler stock and thereafter they have never tolerated bad tempered bees.  In 1979, though very inexperienced, Martyn agreed to be Evesham branch secretary as they were in danger of the branch folding up, and both have been members ever since. At that time Pershore , like many other agricultural colleges, had a county beekeeping instructor and the branch benefited greatly from Jim Crundwell and his technician Richard  Hart, as well as being a source of bee journals, research papers and bee books. The retirement of Jim and closure of the college apiary coincided with a serious slump in beekeeping. Many older members gave up, especially when varroa arrived and at one of the thinly attended meetings they turned to each other with the realisation that they were the youngest ones there. They put on  displays at various events around the county where they sold honey and also tried to interest people in beekeeping but there were no courses available to help people into the craft. In 1999 they offered a ten week Introductory course for Beginners, which was held in Worcester and have done so each year since. They are up to their fifteenth course now and nearly 250 trainees. In their own words -’It is very gratifying to see so many beekeepers throughout the county who started beekeeping following one of our courses. We continue to enjoy different aspects of beekeeping, from queen rearing to encaustic wax art and we have very much enjoyed participating in Apimondia in recent years’.