Robin Dartington replies to Derek Driver:
Derek certainly has misunderstood the project. I would have been happy to explain if he had contacted me, better visited the site.
“The Dartington Apiary” would usually mean my private apiary in Letchworth with 20 Dartington hives. The site in Hitchin is being developed by four beekeepers who live locally and is called ‘Hitchin Bee Centre’ – quite different.
The local Council offered a free plot for beekeeping to enhance its allotments. It would be right for Hitchin beekeepers would look for a site at Hertford only if Hitchin’s allotments were relocated. Hertford beekeepers however could start now.
The site is so ideal for public access that, rather than keep it private, it gives opportunity for a ‘public face’ for beekeeping – where the public can get a first impression of that may lead to active participation. North Herts does not want to be involved so it will be a new organisation.
People are not interested in practical details at a first visit– that comes later, as part of a beekeeping course. So there is no need for a ‘museum’ to show all types of hive. Many recreational beekeepers now favour Dartington hives as they are easiest to manage with minimum disturbance to bees and to avoid losing swarms. Barnet has just switched over its teaching apiary.
Educating the public for free is ‘charitable’ and supportable by other charities and charitable trusts. HBKA’s Constitution specifically states its Objects: ‘to promote and further the craft of beekeeping and the education of the public therein. ….the Association may co-operate with bodies with kindred interests and make affiliations with such bodies as appropriate from time to time’. I have therefore asked HBKA how it would like to relate to the Centre – in particular, whether Hitchin Bee Centre would be acceptable as a new branch of the HBKA - and whether HBKA would be willing to support grant applications (a new organization requires a parent body with three year accounts). A nominal grant of say £50 towards the costs of making grant applications would cost HBKA 20p per member – and associations often help start-ups by loaning hives. But no decisions were taken.
Derek fears older members might leave if funds were applied for charitable purposes but he should note that new beekeepers now avoid associations that provide few services. Of the four Hitchin beekeepers developing HBC, one has joined Barnet, one Beds, one St Albans.
Derek asked if I had explained that a swarm might cross the allotments that did NOT come from a nearby hive. No - educating the public in the behaviour of bees will depend on completing the Centre. My present concern is to raise money to develop the site in accordance with the Tenancy Agreement and the Permission to Keep Bees.
Robin Dartington, 27th May