Canon Adrian Rhodes has joined the Volition team as our Volunteer Bee Coordinator. Known as the “Canon Apiarist” at Manchester Cathedral Adrian has been a beekeeper since 2011, keeping bees at home, on the roof of Manchester Cathedral and is mentor to our volunteers who look after the Beehives at Manchester Cathedral and the Printworks. […]Read More
Sir David Richards has become a patron of Volition Community following a visit last year to see the work of this charity. Welcoming Sir David, the Dean of Manchester thanked Sir David for his commitment to this programme which runs from Manchester and Liverpool Cathedrals. Sir David, encouraged at the outcomes of this programme of […]Read More
A short video showcasing Manchester Cathedral Bees by Adam York Gregory Manchester Cathedral Bees from Adam York Gregory on Vimeo. Bee Hive Cameras We currently have two bee hive cameras upon the flat roof of Manchester Cathedral, click on the play button below to view the bees and their hives. Heavenly […]Read More
It can be a place of real magic, the broad, flat roof of Manchester Cathedral.
On those days when the sun is shining and it’s warm and calm, the smoke (liberally sweetened by incense, of course!) drifting slowly away from the smoker. The stillness seems only to accentuate the gentle hum of the city going about its business below – and the answering hum of the bees, from the Cathedral beehives.
It’s now, what, five years?, since we installed beehives there, as part of ‘the greening of the city’ – small attempt to help urban life flourish again. And perhaps three years that we’ve included it in the Volition programme – with a similar aim for volunteers!
Beekeeping offers a lot to our volunteers – but it can be demanding as well. In our four hives we can have up to a quarter of a million bees in the summer. To cope with having a few hundred buzzing around you during an inspection, demands determination, courage and an ability to be calm – in people who have never experienced this before. But we never lack for volunteers; often, people choose it just because it’s a bit scary! And how good an indication of character is that!
We make sure everyone is well protected – and at first, allow them to stand a bit back from the bees in case it’s too much. But, within a few minutes, I find them edging ever closer to see what’s happening – till they’re standing right by me, peering into the comb to try to see the tiny eggs just laid by the queen. They want to know if that’s honey, to know why we use smoke – and, always, “Is that the queen?” And before you know it, they’re handing the smoker, taking roofs off the hives – and then even holding frames of bees, whilst I do something complex.
Of course, it’s not always idyllic inspection of calm bees. Sometimes if it’s cool or there’s thunder around they get grumpy (the bees – not the volunteers!) and it takes courage to stand close whilst we inspect. We’ve never had a volunteer stung yet (it will happen at some point!) but many have had the fun of seeing me shouting “Ouch!” (or similar).
And the range of things we offer, throughout the year goes beyond just inspections. In autumn we have to harvest the honey crop – and somehow get it off the roof down a narrow winding staircase. Then we extract the honey and spin it out of the comb – filtering, bottling and labelling it. And over winter, there’s plenty of minor carpentry skills, building new hives or putting frames together. All done with Volition participation.
Our volunteers always come back, week after week. It’s fascinating – and it’s character building. And something to show when going for job interviews. The main frustration, for them, is that when they get a new job, they have to move on. And for me? Well, it’s bitter-sweet to make new acquaintances, only to lose them so soon. But to see them flourish, working with the bees? Well, ‘the girls’ and I see it as a job well done – for all of us.
Canon Adrian Rhodes, Beekeeper