Sunday, 28 August 2016

Bee gardens and blackberries

What a gorgeous week it's been weather-wise. I was lucky enough to get out on Wednesday for a trip to the New Forest for work. All of the colours of the heather and the gorse together with the stunning azure sky made a feast for the eyes!

It also got me thinking, as we watched the bees buzzing through the heather, of the feast being created around us through their endeavours. Heather honey is a recognised 'product' in supermarkets, but is obviously not a new thing. It reminded me of a trip to another part of the Forest a couple of years ago, where someone had introduced me to the wonders of 'bee gardens'.

These were small banked enclosures - to protect against the free-ranging livestock - within which hives were set up. They're a relatively common sight across the Forest, if you know where to look. They are hundreds of years old - quite amazing to have survived and a testament to our sweet tooth!

Now is the time for the start of the blackberry harvest, and last Sunday we popped out to Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve near Ringwood to see how our favourite bramble patch was doing. We collected lots, with the peak season still not upon us. Lots to clean and put in the freezer! On the way back, I had a quick look at Dockens water, the small New Forest stream that had been restored a decade earlier from it's previously-straightened self. Now, tea-coloured waters flow over the clean gravels, creating pools and riffles, and many niches for a variety of wildlife.

To contrast, on Bank Holiday Monday we are heading to the River Test for a potter and exploration of the nearby Harewood Forest - an area I've never explored and which nearly became a SSSI several years ago.

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