Photo gallery: Gunton Arms pub near Thorpe Market buzzing with families for Wild Honey Festival

Expert apiarist Don Cooper of Roughton in beekeeping garb at the Gunton Arms. Picture; KAREN BETHELL Expert apiarist Don Cooper of Roughton in beekeeping garb at the Gunton Arms. Picture; KAREN BETHELL

Sunday, April 27, 2014
9:05 AM

A north Norfolk gastro pub was a “hive” of activity at the weekend, when it hosted a wild honey festival featuring bee-themed attractions ranging from beer-tasting to storytelling.

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The one-day event, at the Gunton Arms, near Thorpe Market, yesterday (Saturday) was the idea of event organiser and pub staff member Kirsty Alston.

“The aim was to have fun but also to raise awareness of the declining bee population, which is a real issue at the moment,” Ms Alston said.

An all-day programme also included willow lantern workshops, songs and stories for youngsters with Lorna Becker of Fledgeling music, clay bee sculpting with Helen Dixon of Allbees beekeeping supplies, and a honey-themed cake stall selling treats cooked up by the aptly-named Bee Hunt, who is a waitress at the Gunton Arms.

On hand to offer advice to prospective beekeepers was expert apiarist Don Cooper of Roughton, who trained aged 18 with the monks at Buckfast Abbey, Devon, before going on to work for the Ministry of Agriculture on bee disease.

At one time, Mr Cooper, 72, had 150 hives, each of which holds a colony of around 50,000 bees and produces 15kg of honey a year.

He still has 40-odd hives, is president of the West Norfolk and Kings Lynn Bee Keeping Society and, next month, will be running an introduction to bee-keeping course at Alby Crafts.

“Numbers declined dramatically in the 1960s and 70s, but interest in beekeeping has rocketed in the last four or five years,” Mr Cooper said.

The festival continued into the evening with jazz, a Charlie Chaplin cabaret show, a fire-hoop sundown performance and a set from top folk act Solano.

Gunton Arms head chef Frazer King, who worked flat out from 8.30am in the pub kitchens, said: “The festival has been a real success, we have been incredibly busy and I think it is great the way the whole thing came together.”

Beekeeping for beginners, a four-week course with Don Cooper, runs at Alby Craft Centre starting on May 11. For more information, phone 07947 880163.

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