The New Forest is blessed with beekeepers whose hives sit in secluded spots across the ancient woodlands and wide, open heathlands of the National Park: beekeepers whose bees forage on the wildflowers, heathers, and rare plants of the Forest’s special landscape.
Each pot of pure, golden honey can be traced back to a specific hive or apiary and has a unique flavour, with a complex taste reflective of the flora of the area and time of year in which it was produced. This natural honey is an altogether different product than most of the honey found on supermarket shelves, which tends to be imported, processed, and often contains very little honey produced by bees.
When you pop open a jar of locally-produced honey, you are not only treating yourself to a little bit of luxury but also supporting small-scale businesses intrinsically linked to the local landscape.
World Bee Day on Friday 20 May aims to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and the role bees play in supporting plants, agriculture, and biodiversity. You can play your part in helping bees by choosing to buy raw honey from local beekeepers rather than imported honey; the UK imports 50,000 tonnes of honey a year, one third of which comes from China. Choosing to buy New Forest honey also reduces the environmental impact of transporting products long distances, plus it supports the New Forest community.
It is easy to find local honey thanks to the New Forest Marque, a not-for-profit scheme which champions local food, drink and craft producers and sellers. Only products with clearly defined New Forest provenance are awarded the Marque. The Marque has nine beekeeper members, who produce a variety of natural honeys as well as a range of high-quality bee products such as beeswax candles and luxury skincare.
Simon Noble of The Noble Bee (pictured above) looks after more than 70 hives across the New Forest and produces raw, 100% natural honey, straight out of the hive and into the jar. Simon said: ‘The bees forage on all sorts of different flowers depending on the location and time of spring or summer. At our base on Furzedown Farm, the honey is mainly blackberry, sweet chestnut, and meadow flowers, while our bees kept at Brockenhurst Park forage on small-leaved lime tree flowers and meadow flowers.
‘During August, we move most of our hives to designated spots in the National Park, when they forage solely on the ling heather when it comes into bloom. This is known as a monofloral honey, containing nectar from only one flower species.’
Heather honey is known for its exceptional taste and the Noble Bee’s honey jar lids feature handwritten notes detailing exactly which apiary a honey is from.
Jade and Justin Prentice, a nurse and software consultant, founded Bees and Botanicals thanks to their love of beekeeping. They are a small-scale production with two different apiaries in the New Forest, each of which gives a different tasting honey. They sell their honey, as well as use it to create planet-friendly health and beauty products.
Jade said: ‘Our hives are around Lover, where our bees forage on hedgerows, gardens, and the woods we are surrounded by. Our aim is simple – to be good keepers and make lovely things with bee produce. It’s our greatest delight to share our passion for beekeeping and cosmetic integrity with like-minded people.
‘Bees are the reason we can enjoy green spaces like gardens, parks, and countryside. Getting outdoors and enjoying these spaces improves our mood, reduces stress, and builds confidence. We hope that our little company can help encourage people to go outdoors and drive the important message that when we reconnect with nature, we reconnect with ourselves.’
Other New Forest Marque honey producers and makers of honey products include: Ashlett Creek Produce; Busy Bee Products; Folds Farm; Lakeside Bee Services; New Forest Bee Products; Regent House Honey; Strides Honey; Waterside Apiaries; and Watsons of Norleywood.
Claire Lee, New Forest Marque Manager said: ‘Our honey producers nurture and care for their tiny workers to help them create a beautiful, natural product with local provenance. Marque products are not only grown, reared, and produced right here in the New Forest but are also made using locally sourced ingredients or materials, so you can be sure the product bearing our logo has true local provenance.’
The New Forest Marque, supported by the New Forest National Park Authority, also works to protect, encourage, and promote traditional farming practices which help fashion the iconic landscape found in the New Forest.
Look for honey products with the distinctive New Forest Marque logo to help support your local community or browse the Marque website for a list of local honey producers and retailers.