Day in the life of a Kentish beekeeper
PUBLISHED: 10:21 10 July 2018
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
How beekeeper Matthew Noakes’ hobby turned into a passion - and helped his hayfever too
Tell us about you
I’ve been keeping bees for 11 years. It came about because I suffered from hay fever and I found that, although eating local honey isn’t a cure, it is certainly a help. It started as a hobby with a single hive but by the second year I had five hives. During the third year I made an arrangement with a local fruit farmer to place hives in his orchards – bees play an important part in pollination in fruit farming – and by my fourth year I had 50 hives.
That went up to more than 100 at one point. At the moment I have about 80 hives and I intend adding more gradually. Each hive averages 40,000 bees – that is a lot of bees! Bees are wonderful; when they are happy and contented they work hard. Surely that should apply to any workforce? Bees are also natural therapists and watching them communicate and cooperate puts life into perspective.
I am passionate about bees, they play an enormously important role in relation to food, farming, gardening and the environment in general.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that if honey bees were to disappear from earth, humans would be dead within four years.
The core business?
Bee keeping and producing honey from happy bees, directly benefitting the environment.
Tell us about the farm
We have about 16 acres. The property was purchased by my grandfather in 1945 and he set up as a smallholder. We were the first in the area to build apple stores and my grandfather rented space out to local fruit farmers.
Later on he extended into building apple stores for neighbouring farmers and later still he diversified into cold storage. We sold the business in 2008 but retained the land and we still have a small Bramley orchard.
People ask if Wishfield Honey is heather or organic or Manuka. I call it ‘hedgerow honey’ because the bees choose which flowers to visit and their welfare is paramount.
Describe a typical working day
Beekeeping is very seasonally related. During the spring, before the bees get busy, a lot of my time is occupied repairing and cleaning equipment and related jobs.
Early summer my days are involved in swarm control. Autumn is the main harvest time and getting the bees ready for winter. My working days are generally long – seven to nine hours in the spring, 10 to 12 in the summer increasing to as much as 14 to 16 hours during the harvesting period.
Early in the New Year is the quietest time and then I can get something of a break.
How do you market?
At the weekends I attend a couple of farmers’ markets and coming up to Christmas involves shows and fairs. I also get word-of-mouth enquiries by phone.
We are very fortunate here in Kent, the Garden of England, it’s such a very fertile and productive part of the UK.
There are a lot of small food producers in the area and they make some outstanding products. It is vitally important to support ‘local’ because it benefits the economy, it’s good for community relations, reduces carbon footprint and is environmentally positive.
Any famous clients?
One client bought honey because she was expecting a visit from Prince Charles!
I am sure other famous people have enjoyed the honey but I don’t know who; I would love to hear from them.
Marks out of 10?
It is a 10. I absolutely love what I do.
Children following in your footsteps?
No – I am not married. The bees take up all my time.
Get in touch
Wishfield Honey, Star Veden, Horsmonden TN12 8AY