World-class honey benefits from bees’ farming forage
It's been hailed as the best honey of its kind in the world – and its maker credits this 'star quality' to the farm crops and wildflower-rich headlands foraged by her bees.
Norfolk beekeeper Venetia Rist claimed her victory at the National Honey Show in Surrey, in the 'two jars set honey' contest – one of the classes which was 'open to the world'.
The 65-year-old cares for up to one million bees in her 23 colonies, some on a farm near Litcham and some at her home in Gressenhall, near Dereham.
She said she was overwhelmed by her success at the competition, where friend and fellow Norfolk beekeeper Clare Jarrett also won a national prize for her light honey.
'I was surprised, amazed, shocked and delighted,' said Mrs Rist. 'For Norfolk beekeepers to get two firsts is just incredible, but to then get the 'world' for soft-set is unbelievable.'
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Mrs Rist attributed her honey's quality to the combination of forage available to her bees – particularly the blackcurrants at the Gorgate fruit farm near Gressenhall, and the oilseed rape and wildflowers at Kempstone Manor Farm in Litcham, where owner Nigel Bertram recently won the Ian MacNicol Memorial Trophy for his conservation efforts.
'I am sure Nigel's cowslips are what made the difference – they gave the honey its star quality,' she said. 'All his headlands are full of cowslips, and he is so great with his hedgerows.
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'If more farmers could plant up their headlands and let their hedgerows go a bit to encourage flowering, it would be wonderful. That is where the bees like to be.'
Mrs Rist began tending hives in 1964, but her dedication to making honey has grown since retiring from her teaching job at the Pupil Referral Unit at the Douglas Bader Centre, in Coltishall.
She is a committee member for the Norfolk Beekeepers' Association and the West Norfolk and King's Lynn Beekeepers' Association, where she also carries out training courses and study days.
Her Bushy House Bees brand is not sold in shops, as she prefers to sell her honey directly.
'It is nearly all word of mouth,' she said. 'Everybody who has it just loves it, but I have only got 50lb of that particular honey left so I am having to become very selective.
'I shall never eat the two jars that won. They will stay with me forever.'
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