Bee project creating a buzz in North Norfolk churchyards

There is set to be a buzz in a clutch of North Norfolk churchyards as some unlikely new residents take up home.

Giving a new twist to the Biblical phrase 'land of milk and honey', hives are being established for a beekeeping project.

The new Bees of God's Acre project to introduce bees to the churchyard and to train local people to become beekeepers has been co-ordinated by the Rev Phil Wood, rector of the Coastal Group of Parishes in North-East Norfolk, and Jenny Burgess, a beekeeper from Edingthorpe.

The idea was formed by the pair last spring. Following fundraising, they are now ready with the first five hives, at Bacton, Witton, Ridlington, Walcott and Happisburgh, and are to start the training of beekeepers.

Mr Wood said: 'This kind of project where the church and community come together to not only help the bees, but to help people become beekeepers, is a wonderful way to open up our churchyards.

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'I feel the church can take a lead in helping to look after the planet, and at the same time bring the local community together. 'We hope to educate our local school children, by taking a special hive into school, and so the next generation will be more careful with God's world.'

Ms Burgess said having a single beehive in some rural churchyards would help combat a growing problem as over the last few years she had seen more people start beekeeping with no support, and without being able to get onto a local course.

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But she believed the new project could provide part of the solution.

She said: 'The idea that we could put a single beehive in some rural churchyards and support community groups to learn safe practice seems to be one which would provide a local solution to quite a difficult situation. The hive would then become a community resource, in theory paying for its own running by producing honey and wax.'

Ms Burgess also plans to go into local schools to show the children what beekeeping is all about, and has had a wooden box made so she can show the bees on a frame in a classroom.

The money for the project has come from a �1,900 grant from the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Development Fund and matched funding from local businesses.

Ms Burgess said that once the hives were established, someone would be chosen as the main beekeeper at each location.

Each hive would be sited on a concrete stand on top of two paving slabs to make it easier to tend them at times when the grass was long.

They will not be putting a full hive of bees on site but a small young colony.

She said: 'We would will put a colony on four or five frames of bees and six empty frames, into each location. The result of this will be a calmer colony because bees tend to be quieter when they have plenty to do and plenty of space.'

Ms Burgess said another 40 churches had expressed an interest in taking up beekeeping.

Mr Wood added: 'The hope is to roll it out across the diocese, I can see it going across the country.'

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