On page 24 we give a view of the “Home of the Honey Bees” at “ World’s End,” near Newbury, Berks, the owner thereof being Mr Wm. Woodley, well known to readers of this journal as the contributor of “Notes by the Way “ to its pages. The photo from which our illustration is reproduced was taken some six years ago, but the hives occupy the same positions now as, then, except that the straw skeps shown in the picture have gone the way of all things of a like nature. Close observation will show a small hive with a round hole in its centre for an entrance, standing on the top of the twin-hive in the foreground. This was the home of a nest of humble bees, the property of Mr. Woodley’s son, who, when a lad, used to keep several such hives tenanted during the summer months with colonies of the Bombus genus. The figures shown are those of Mr and Mrs W., engaged in what will, no doubt, be a daily item of their bee work during the busy season, viz., that of removing full racks of sections and replacing them with empty ones.
The house in the farther corner, on the left, was erected as a combination summer and manipulating house, at a time when the old shake-off or brush-away process of removing finished sections was in vogue. We learn that many a retreat from troublesome or angry and vicious bees has taken place behind the then thickly-curtained doorway when removing honey; causing the work in the neighbouring farmyard to be carefully studied in order to prevent “war” between the workers of the hives and those in the rickyard adjoining. This trouble is now happily ended, and, thanks to the super-clearer, we are told that “peace” now reigns between both sets of workers, and honey is removed at any time “even when the neighbours are garthering their corn the other side of the windbreak.” The portion of a building on the right is a Wesleyan chapel, but Mr. W. and family regularly attend Beedon Church, in the parish of Hampstead Norris, three miles from his own village.
In addition to the home-apiary, with its over a hundred hives, shown in the illustration, Mr. Woodley has an out-apiary of fifty to sixty hives at Stanmore, a little over two miles from his house at Beedon. This entails considerable labour during the Summer months, and the only help he gets in all the actual work at both apiaries is that of Mrs. Woodley, who may be taken an ideal bee-man’s wife. To use her husband’s own worth, “she has proved a true helpmeet in everything pertaining to the work in the apiary, either in hiving and packing swarms, folding and preparing sections for putting on the hives, cleaning and glazing sections after removal from the hives, for show or market, and thus handling in some way nearly all the output for the past fifteen years from both apiaries. The only help we have being that of an old man to watch for and hive swarms into straw skeps of the out-apiary during the swarming season.”
Mr. Woodley further tells us:—
‘The work of preparing the produce of our apiaries for market is by no means a small job, the bulk being in sections, while nearly every parcel is double glassed with lace-paper edging in our well known style, and each year brings a wider demand for this form of ‘putting up,’ without advertising of any kind. In fact, the goods advertise themselves, and inquiries reach us from distant towns for a sample dozen, which invariably leads to repeat orders.’
That our friend makes bee-keeping pay seem clear from the above, and although his prices may not be so good as in past years, he still holds his own, and for finest selected glazed sections still gets the good old price of 10s. per dozen wholesale, and corresponding values for second and third grade.
The “home” which contains the leading spirits of this “Home of the Honey Bees” must also be a busy one, winter or summer, for while the bees outside are enjoying their winter’s rest, the master and mistress of the “home” are busy the year through, bee-work forming an important item at all seasons. The mistress, we are told, varies her household duties with glazing sections as the orders for these come in during the autumn and winter, and in spring and summer with the multi-farious jobs incident to a busy life. The master also adds on to the labours of his trade the continual care of the bees; breeding queens, overhauling, cleaning, repairing, and painting hives, and all the hundred items incidental to the well doing of a couple of apiaries two miles apart. A large correspondence also occupies a good deal of time in certain seasons, and when one thinks of the many journeys (to and fro) to the out-apiary (all on foot), not forgetting the packing of—we might say—tons of honey, so that it shall escape damage from the tender mercies of the railway porter, who will say that the bee-man—like his bees—is not “busy”? But this is not all, for we learn of Mr. Woodley that the public calls on his time are by no means few. Out friend is secretary and agent to a large branch of a benefit club, and vice-chairman of the Parish Council He is also district councillor and guardian, and acting overseer for the parish of Hampstead Norris, besides, being a member of the Council of the Berks Beekeepers’ Association, and of the Committee of the Newbury District Beekeepers’ Association. Mr Woodley was born in 1846 and Mrs. Woodley in 1852, so that our busy friends are in the prime of life. Before closing, we may mention the interesting fact that on Old Christmas-day, the 6th inst., they celebrated their Silver Wedding.