Changes in English farming practices and their implications for beekeeping

publication date: Nov 25, 2011
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Bee World Vol.65 (1) 1984 pp. 6-12
Article Title

Changes in English farming practices and their implications for beekeeping


Donald Sims


I have had bees of my own since 1926, and until very recently I spent my life in agriculture. I have run about 40 colonies of bees for more than 30 years, on farms as far apart as Kent, Devon and Northumberland. In Cambridgeshire and Essex I still do. I have thus constantly been made aware of the impact on beekeeping of the changes that have taken place in farming during these years. In the 1930s I was learning to farm, first in Kent and later in Suffolk. Romney sheep grazed the orchards and pastures of the Weald of Kent, wild white clover was grown for seed, and bees flourished. The sheep in the orchards were replaced by the gang mower, and now the cherries and most of the apples have gone, and the clover seed crops too. I had bees in Suffolk in the 1930s when there were fields with a IS-year growth of hawthorn and bramble, and no cultivation since they were abandoned as unprofitable years before. Thistles dominated the arable land. The bottom had gone out of farming, and bees thrived on the neglect. We had very good crops of lovely honey from white clover, thistle, charlock and bramble. But we could not sell it except at a give away price. After the Second World War and another spell in Kent I joined the Ministry of Agriculture, and have since lived and kept bees in Derbyshire, Devon and Northumberland, and more recently in East Anglia once more.

Keywordsbeekeeping, farming
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