The Yorkshire riverside bee farm fighting the threat of species extinction

Bee-keepers Claudiu and Mariana and daughter Stefania with jar of honey.'Picture by Gerard Binks.
Bee-keepers Claudiu and Mariana and daughter Stefania with jar of honey.'Picture by Gerard Binks.

Yorkshire's winding waterways have long provided a source of pride and purpose across the region's beauty spots.

Now, they are also being used help to fight an upstream battle against declining wildlife numbers.

Claudiu showing the inside of his beehive. Picture by Gerard Binks.

Claudiu showing the inside of his beehive. Picture by Gerard Binks.

The Rotherham East Community Bee Farm at Eastwood was set up on land provided by Canal and River Trust, the charity that cares for the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation and has also supported hives near Huddersfield.

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The farm has enjoyed a successful first summer, with four new colonies now well-established and enough honey produced for the insects to survive the winter.

The project is being overseen by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC), which helped experienced beekeepers Claudiu and Marianna Barbu create the farm when they settled in the town on arrival from Romania, and each hive now has around 30,000 to 40,000 bees.

According to Friends of the Earth, 35 UK bee species are under threat of extinction, with all kinds facing serious threats.

Claudiu with wife Mariana and daughter Stefania by the River Don. Picture by Gerard Binks.

Claudiu with wife Mariana and daughter Stefania by the River Don. Picture by Gerard Binks.

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Jonathan Hart-Woods, ecologist at the Canal and River Trust, said: “It’s great to see how well the bees have settled into their new home.

"Our waterways are green corridors that provide a range of valuable grassy, flower-rich habitats where pollinators such as bees and butterflies can thrive.

"Bee numbers are in decline across the UK, through loss of flowery habitats and the use of pesticides on farmland.

“Our charity is working hard create safe, bee-havens along our waterways - supporting community beehives, planting community gardens, creating bee hotels and changing how we mow and manage our verges along towpaths.”

Claudiu lets Nick Baggaley of Canal and River Trust and Chris Gaynor, Rotherham Council neighbourhood coordinator taste the honey. Picture: Gerard Binks.

Claudiu lets Nick Baggaley of Canal and River Trust and Chris Gaynor, Rotherham Council neighbourhood coordinator taste the honey. Picture: Gerard Binks.

The site was prepared by staff and volunteers at the Trust in April, including steps being cut into a bank to allow easier access.

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Rotherham East councillors Wendy Cooksey, Tajamal Khan and Deborah Fenwick-Green also supported the project by purchasing four hives from their ward budget.

In May, Mr Barbu placed two of his own, existing hives, on the site and from these moved workers to attend to queens in the new ones.

The workers accepted the new queens and the 30,000 to 40,000 bees in each hives have produced more than 35 kilograms of honey.

The honey will not be harvested until next year as the beekeepers want to give the hives time to develop, and the bees need the it to survive the winter.

But next year some of the honey will be used by the nearby Clifton Learning Partnership for its community café, and the organisation also plan to have its own hive on the site.

Chris Gaynor, neighbourhood co-ordinator for Rotherham East, said: “Thanks to the support of Canal and River Trust, which provided the land to locate the beehives, we have been able to realise this great project which has so many positive implications for both the community and our local wildlife.

“It’s been incredibly well-received, and we’ve had so much support in getting it started. We’re now seeing a lot of interest from people wanting to get involved or set up similar projects things elsewhere in the ward.”

Sean McGinley, Yorkshire and North East director at the Trust, said: “This is a fantastic project that brings benefits to both the local community and the wildlife, and makes good use of

this waterside space. Research tells us that time spent by the water can help us all to feel happier and healthier.

"Canal and River Trust has supported other hives including at Standedge Visitor Centre in Marsden, near Huddersfield, and Tees Barrage.

"By supporting projects like this we can encourage even more people to get to know their local waterway and the benefits being by water can bring.”