A visit to the country… with bonus bees

Last weekend brought a perfect start to November. An appropriately misty October 31st was followed by a sunny Sunday, showing off the dew glistening on the enormous spider webs hanging from the scaffolding outside our house.

To take advantage of a rare Sunday with no jobs to do, Drew and I took a trip to the country in our camper van. Our destination was the National Trust’s Hughenden Manor, in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. As Drew has lifetime National Trust membership we both get in for free. Having traversed through a labyrinth of multi-laned roundabouts, which we always seemed to end up in the wrong lane for, we arrived at a beautiful manor house with an even more beautiful garden full of gently falling leaves.

Hughenden Manor

Here’s what the house looks like. It used to belong to our (so-far) only Jewish born Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. I’m sure he would have approved of its use as a cartography centre during World War II, churning out painstakingly accurate hand-drawn maps which our pilots crossing Germany used to find their targets.

War time food, Hughenden Manor

A war-time display in the manor’s basement shows the type of food the artists who lived there ate. My father was a war-time baby and is very fond of condensed milk; sliced bananas with half a can of condensed milk poured over the top was a common snack while I was growing up.

Bee hives, Hughenden Manor

I had genuinely not come looking for bees, but I found them. I leaned over the fence and took in the scent of the hives. As it was a sunny day, with bees zipping frantically in and out, I could catch the sweet smell of nectar. Apiaries definitely have their own aromas which perhaps are more noticeable to a beekeeper familiar with them, as Drew couldn’t detect it.

Honey bee on mallow flower

I tracked the bees down inside the sheltered vegetable garden. I think this may be a mallow flower, or at least related to one. Please correct me if I’m wrong. The 1st November and the bees were still enjoying themselves on these and a wall full of mature ivy.

Honey bee on mallow flower

Not just honey bees either. I was astonished to see this bumble bee.

Bumble bee on mallow flower

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, considering it’s been a warm autumn and there have been reports of buff-tailed bumble bees breeding throughout the winter in Southern England. Is anyone else still seeing bumbles here?


This gentleman looks ready for winter.

Autumn leaves

The trees were ablaze in their autumn shades, glowing amber, russet, red, gold and green. We walked lazily along the paths, kicking up dry piles of leaves and observing fat squirrels hopping up trunks.

Autumn leaves 2

Drew and autumn leaves

Today London has turned soggy and we’re huddled inside watching rain steaming up the windows. My cat Bob is wisely staying warm and cosy under the duvet. I expect the bees are at home too, taking stock of their stores. Will their weighty vaults of honey combs be enough for the coming months of winter? Now is an anxious time for beekeepers. All we can do is watch and wait; and I have my own waiting of another kind to do too.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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23 Responses to A visit to the country… with bonus bees

  1. Nikki vane says:

    Aah, Emily, are congratulations in order perchance…?
    Apologies if I have jumped to a wrong conclusion


  2. Looks like cosmos to me! Interesting comment about the aroma of a bee yard. I think that it is very strong!


  3. Lindylou says:

    Mmmmm I thought so, when you said a few posts ago that you would be visiting the apiary less. Congratulations from across the Lowlands to both of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a brilliant autumn trip in such good weather. I was thinking the same as The Garden Diaries that it looked like Cosmos. Cosmos is a favourite with all the bees and a colourful late summer flower. Enigmatic (or perhaps not) mention of waiting. I think all your regular readers will now be waiting too! Amelia


  5. disperser says:

    Enjoyable and well-written account and great photos keeping it company. Thanks for having shared it.


  6. Erik says:

    We are all waiting with you over the winter. Love the pictures.


  7. Julie says:

    Lovely photos. I’m totally envious of your gorgeous fall weather and blooming flora. Here in New England, there’s been nary a blossom to be seen for several weeks. (Though I still manage to see the odd bee bringing in some pollen. Don’t know where they find it.)

    Agree with other commenters about the flower. Looks like cosmos to me. Mallow has a 5-petaled flower, but believe, and broad leaves.

    And yes! I agree about apiaries having a particular fragrance! I can definitely smell mine, though many visitors say they can’t. Curious that we beeks notice it though others don’t.


    • Emily Scott says:

      Thanks Julie! Wonder what your clever bees are finding. There are fewer and fewer flowers around here, but mahonia and a couple of other things flower during winter. December is probably the barest month and then during January-February our first snowdrops arrive and we’re back in business.


  8. Paul says:

    That is an annoyingly tidy apiary.


  9. I saw a bumblebee queen (buff tailed??) on October 23 but down here they do fly in winter if the conditions are right.
    When I lived in Reading we visited Hughenden several times. I liked the idea that Queen Victoria used to come to stay with the Disraelis at their big house.

    Congratulations ……………….


  10. I saw one of your honeybee photos in a seminar last week! You were cited in the caption. 🙂


  11. Julie says:

    There’s an apiary just down the road from where I work. When I ride my motorcycle past I always catch the scent of the hives. Others probably smell the bees, but don’t recognize it. Since I have two garden hives, I’m quite familiar with the smell, and what a wonderful smell it is!


  12. I was told while in Germany that the UK was getting an abundance of rain. We needed some of that to get our boat moving on the Danube. I see bees are still hard at work. I have to check my own garden today for bees. There are still plenty of flowers for them.


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