My former neighbour and long term friend, was staying in Swanage, so our annual meet up for a walk, swim and chat was due. We have one of those friendships that just carries on in between the sometimes lengthy breaks. Wendy is sporty and has had a long career in teaching sports and coaching. We couldn’t really be more different, in so many ways, and yet our friendship is strong and very much valued by us both.
The past few years we’ve been making sure that we have a couple of days together, without our husbands, just to walk the coast paths, swim in the sea, and eat salads and fish in the places our other half’s wouldn’t be drawn to.
G & Ts
When we arrived, tired after a long drive, with non stop talking, her seaside neighbours were sat out in their garden having an early evening G&T and invited us to join them. Neither of us being Gin drinkers, I enjoyed a tonic and a bottle of wine was generously opened for Wendy. This extraordinarily jolly couple are recent ‘partners’ having both been widowed in the past few years. Her place is in Corfe and his in Swanage, and they meet up everyday to enjoy life together. Both had fascinating histories to tell, but after a while, and a few handfuls of pringles, my bee interest came into conversation. John was so excited as he knew a bee farmer who had a new processing and bottling plant nearby, and he was sure that we’d get on.
The next morning, John was ready for us in one of his sporty cars, couldn’t use the soft top with both of us, and this extremely able and spritely 82 year old drove us through the back lanes and tracks of Purbeck in Dorset , avoiding all the tourist packed roads.
Meeting us there, his partner was pleased to see us as she also knew the beekeepers.
Rob and Mervyn are very experienced and successful beekeepers with an established honey business, supplying some of the top stores and farm shops in the country, including, coincidentally, The Newt in Somerset where I manage the bees.
Several years ago, they embarked on a huge expansion, building a state of the art honey processing plant, although their methods keep the honey as raw and natural as possible.
I realised that one of my favourite honeys was from one of their apiaries, a 2017 harvest of Dorset Bell Heather honey, so precious that I am reluctant to include it in public tastings, saving what’s left of the small jar for my own pleasure!
Murmurs of this extraordinary harvest spread amongst the honey sommeliers in the UK and further afield, each of us eager to taste another delicious harvest from these Dorset bees.
This year promises to be a possible repeat, with the precious liquid still ripening off in the hives across the Purbeck moorland.
Thankfully they had a selection of other honeys for me to add to my collection, a runny honey, set (creamed) and a heather, choice of master beekeeper Rob.
John who had brought us here was delighted that clearly I was immensely interested and grateful for his introduction, but as conversations went on to production lines, warming and chilling cabinets, capping machines, danish queens and then the inevitable pesticides and bee diseases, I could tell I needed to be torn away.
Patient Wendy was looking forward to our special time walking the coast path and so we bade our farewells, jars of honey compensating the visitors.
Wendy and I then walked across many meadows filled with wildflowers above the Dorset cliff tops. Knapweed, scabious, brambles and wild carrot all ‘a buzz’ with bees. The sea was a bit rough for me at Seacomb, but back in Swanage I enjoyed a welcome wallow in the friendlier sandy bottomed bay.
Back to work today after taking my ‘weekend’ on a Tuesday, one of the many benefits of self employment, and ever grateful of time well spent with good ‘old’ friends!