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