Saturday, September 6, 2008


Are you going to take your bees to the moors next week? Have you got any
one to go with you?' are the questions asked by several of my
acquaintances when the first of August comes round; but I have to reply
I am going to take two friends that arranged to go with me months ago,
and there on the bee-waggon are as many as can be conveniently seated.
Every night for a week I have been busy filling the hives up for the
journey. Straw hives are secured on to the bottom boards by strong wire,
and three screws are put through the cane hoop at the bottom and screwed
into the wood. The crates for the frame-hives have all been examined,
several sections are well advanced with comb since the honey harvest here
last mouth, and a few are full: these I take out and put empty ones in
their place. The hives are all screwed on to the bottom boards, each hive
is numbered, and particulars of each entered into a book.
The day of removal arrives, and the weather as propitious as ever.
Nothing to do today but see that one of the colliery horses is secured
and kept in the stable with plenty to eat. Seven p.m. and we commence to
close the bees in with wire gauze, and take off ventilating covers, and
commence loading the bee-waggon, a waggon made for the purpose with two
decks. Frame-hives are put below and straw hives above, all other
requisite appliances put into the box, which is also the seat of the
waggon. Then after partaking of a good supper we get our horse yoked and
start our journey twenty miles west. The night is very misty.
After getting a short distance out of the village we find a friend
waiting for us with his hive at a lane end. We soon secure the hive into
the waggon, and, knowing his ardent desire to go with us, I plan a seat
for him; and then we get under way again. We soon come to a heavy bank,
and we all get off. The horse rushes up, for he has no patience. We have
several times to dismount, for it is a climb upward for twelve miles.
Nothing eventful happens during the darkness. We occasionally meet
companies of miners going to work, and in passing through colliery E.S—
my friends are surprised to see in so many of the miner`s cottages the
people are all astir, and it is now one o'clock in the morning; but such
is the miner's calling: he is wanted at all times of the night. At two
o'clock it is very dark and the mist is very dense. The road being black
I have to hold the lantern as far down as I can, and can just discern the
roadside, and the road here is very uneven. We all sit close together
with all our wraps on wishing for daybreak.
On arrival at H - H - there are signs of daybreak, and we put the lantern
out, and by the time we arrive at B— we can hail with joy` the smiling
morn.' We have now reached the highest point of our journey, 868 feet
above the sea level. The place we come from is ten miles inland, and only
108 feet above the sea level. Our progress has been slow—it is now 3.30
am— but it has been all up-hill.

We are now nearing the Derwent Valley.
We pass down a steep hill shaded by trees, and then we strike the valley.
The magnificent view that presents itself on this beautiful morning can
never be eradicated from my memory. When we got a little further on, clear of the embankment on the right, I was transfixed for awhile in mute amazement. While I beheld the
sublime scenery of that deep, wide valley, to the southward the mist had lifted and had the appearance of a long
white cloud as white as snow ; west and north-west was one vast, glorious
panorama beyond my pen to describe.
We now come to the brow of B-H-, a hill nearly a mile long; we adjust the
shoe on to one of the hind-wheels and walk down. A short distance in
front is a flat cart making slow progress,for the men cannot ' break' the wheels; we overtake them and find they are bee-men from U - F-. There are nearly twenty hives on the cart,small in size,not more than twelve inches
diameter and nine inches high inside.This size of hive has been
used in their neighbourhood for generations;they looked in the cart
really splendid. These men make their own skeps of rye-straw, and every
lap of cane seemed to be at a measured distance. Arriving at the bottom
of the valley, we halt close to the bridge crossing the river. In the
first place we put the poke of corn to the horse's head, for there are
still six miles to go, and some hard hills to climb. We all now seem
ready for some refreshment, and as each of us opens our bundles we find
these is no lack of choice. We have not halted long until another two
waggons of bees draw up, and then begins a general inspection,
The scenery from the bridge and the music of the waters make my friends
loath to obey the order to move on; but the horse has finished feeding and
we are behind time, so there is no alternative but to move on. Before
leaving, a note is put under a hotel door, informing them that we shall
need a good dinner on returning. It is now a continual climb for three
miles, but the scenery is charming. On our right the hills are clad to
their crest with stately fir-trees, and in the open spaces we see the
rabbits very numerous, taking their morning gambols. We soon come to a
forest, where we descend a deep ravine, which almost shuts out the light
of day. We find it easier getting down than getting out, for the hill is
very steep. We allow our horse time to recover from the effects of the
hill, and then we soon arrive at a farmhouse and a church which has
two-thirds of its wall covered with ivy, and there is not another house
to be seen neither right or left; but we find on inquiry that there is a
scattered village over the brow of the hill on the right. Another
half-hour brings us to the summit of our climb, and we have the river in
view again, with the blue hills of heather right before us.
The view before us now is quite a change, more of a wild character, and
although not so sublime, yet it gives to us a feeling of freedom ; and,
together with the light refreshing breeze from the hills, we are in the
best of spirits. Another three-quarters of an hour bring us to our
destination, a farmhouse by the roadside. We enter a grass field, and
drive across to where we have our stands. We first take our horse out and
stable him, and then all hands are busy unloading and adjusting the hives
on the stands as fast as we can. The sun is making us feel warm, and the
bees are telling us it is high time they had their liberty. In
half-an-hour we have them ready for removing the gauze's. I put on the
bee-dress, and my friends step back a few paces ; but they are not very
cross when they are let out, except one that is not on a wire-bottom
board. This one I let out last, and as soon as the gauze is off they come
out like a shot from a gun, and make all fly. A dog standing watching us
is sent howling up the field, and some sheep over the wall are also
The bees are soon out in a cluster, and all is quiet. We are now glad to
get to the farmhouse and find the good lady has our breakfast waiting for
us, consisting of tea, bread, boiled eggs, and a large jug of milk. After
breakfast I take the opportunity of having a short nap, but my friends
are determined not to waste time with sleep. The sky is clear, and the
sun is shining in his strength. The sportsmen are also cracking away at
the grouse, for it is the 12th of August.
After my nap is over I get up to finish what we left undone in our haste
to the hives, and I see my friends returning. They quite astonish me when
they tell me the distance they have been. We soon have all put right with
the hives, and then make down to the burn, and the day being so warm we
strip and enjoy a refreshing bathe. We stroll back again, and have a look
at the stands of bees that are planted at various distances along the
wall in line with ours, and also up the south side of the field. The most
of them are straw hives and a few wood boxes.
I am sure, Mr. Editor, the sight would interest you. On one of the stands
the skeps are fixed on wood boxes four or five inches deep, and the
entrance changed to the bottom of the box. They nearly all have a large
sod on the top as a protection from the rain, which does not look at all
respectable. There are well-nigh a hundred in this field. Some of the
owners have gone in for cheapness with a vengeance; the bottom boards
especially are very unsound. These cheap Jacks got a caution a few years
ago. One of them in loading his cart to take his bees home broke one of
the bottom boards, and the bees got out, stung the horse, and sent him
galloping away up the bank and on nearing a house with the door open it
made a sharp turn to get in, and upset the cart, and all the hives went
rolling down hill. It finished all the hives, and many of the natives
got a taste of honey.
After decorating our waggon with blooming heather we start for home.
Arriving at the hotel at the bridge we leave our horse to the ostler ;
all our belongings are put into the box and locked in out of sight. We
find the landlady has got the note ordering the dinner, which is nearly
ready. There is just time for a walk around the garden, and then we sit
down to a substantial dinner, which does us all a deal of good. After
dinner I am inclined to rest at ease, but my friends want to see S—Spa
Pleasure Grounds, and, being in no hurry to get home, we set off. A short
walk brings us to Grounds; a flat opening at the bottom of the valley,
surrounded with trees in all directions, We stroll about through the
wood, and along by the river side, until we are satisfied.After merely
feeling the taste of the spa water- for we don't think we are in need of
such medicine- we return and commence our journey home, feeling rather
disappointed in having to leave this pleasant valley.
On reaching L — we fall in with some friends who have been on the same
errand as ourselves. They are going to make a halt and feed their horse,
and, for the sake of their company, and to hear how their bees have done
at home,we halt as well, and rest for three quarters of an hour, and
then move on homewards. The scenery for the rest of our journey does not
interest us much. There are so many collieries and coke ovens that we see
every day, but on arriving at K— ,we resolve to rest again and have some
tea. We have felt the day to be such a happy release from the monotony
of business life that we are in no hurry to be home. However,this has to
be our last stop, and then we jog on home again. On nearing home I am
startled by a movement behind me, and, turning round, am just in time to
steady one of my friends from falling off the waggon. He has despised the
demands of sleep, but now he is compelled to put himself into into a
secure position, and give way to sleep for ten minutes. We arrive at home
at seven p.m. A friend is on the look-out for us, and takes charge of the
conveyance. I leave all to him, and make no delay in getting off to bed,
and have eleven hours of unconsciousness.
—W.J. THE BRITISH BEE JOURNAL December 8th 1887


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