Residents of George Downing Estate in Hackney have had a sweet summer thanks to a project that saw honey produced through two bee hives.
With the help of Southern Housing Group, residents set up the bee hives in partnership with London-based bee hive rental company, Barnes and Webb, as part of the Activate London project, a programme financed by the Big Lottery Fund.
Local resident and community champion, Andrew Aitchison, played a key role in coming up with the idea to set up the bee hives and played an active role in seeing the project produce honey for local residents.
“We were talking to staff from Southern Housing Group about the kind of community project we’d like to organise and I suggested that we get some bee hives in the shared garden on the estate.
“A lot of us here already grow our own fruit, vegetable and herbs and we’ve even got a small chicken coop, so we were after something totally different.
“It has been fantastic so far – the bee hives themselves have produced a lot of honey and we’ve seen how having bees around has helped our garden overall; this summer there were a lot more wild birds and our own fruit and vegetable gardens were a lot more productive than they usually are.”
The project itself not only resulted in jars of local honey for the residents, but also helped residents meet each other as they worked around the bee hives and offered residents who ate the honey health benefits around allergies.
Abul Sorwar, who helped set up the project through Southern Housing Group, was thrilled with the success of this project.
“When we were first looking at introducing the bee hives to George Downing Estate, we knew it was a good idea, but I think the success we’ve had in bringing people together – and the health and environmental benefits we’ve seen – have been a little bit beyond what we imagined.
“It has been fantastic to see people embrace this idea and people have really enjoyed having the bees around.
“The bee hives also gave residents the chance to learn more about honey bees and how they live, which was an important part of the project given the much publicised decline of the bee population in Britain.”
With the project’s success, Abul said that he was looking to keep the project going in Hackney and to introduce it on other Southern Housing Group estates throughout London.
With around 120 227g jars of honey produced from the hives, residents were given some for free, while the remainder were sold.
“We’ve seen how popular both the honey and the bees have been, and we’re now aiming to train a number of residents to become bee keepers because they enjoyed it so much.
“We’re also working on expanding this project, so hopefully in future more of our residents throughout London will experience the health and educational benefits – and the pleasure – of having honey bees in their garden.”