Gardening star Charlie Dimmock encourages Chichester beekeepers

Charlie Dimmock checks latest batch of honey
Charlie Dimmock checks latest batch of honey

As one of the south coast’s most renowned gardeners, there’s not too much that escapes Charlie Dimmock’s attention when it comes to a wealth of green-fingered developments.

But she is now exploring a significant growing trend in bee keeping, which is proving popular with people of all ages across the Observer area.

It seems with ever greater pressure on our cost of living including our food bills, keeping bees is just one of many areas where bypassing our supermarkets is attracting interest.

While the initial relatively high start-up costs of buying bees and accompanying hives means domestic production of honey is unlikely to make a huge profit, those in the know are confident it should at least repay the time invested in this fascinating occupation.

“Keeping bees is something I’ve always hankered after and I was approached to do a DVD on it with beekeeper James Dearsley. I’m in there as ‘the idiot’ who asks all the questions,” laughed the presenter of her latest screen venture.

She added: “I’m really interested in beekeeping from an environmental perspective – especially since seeing the news that if all our bees died, then within four or five years there would be no other plants left – which is due to all the pollination they do. It’s like they are the building blocks of nature,” said Charlie of her interest in the humble honey bee.

While she admits her taster sessions at bee keeping have not quite reached the required skill levels to successfully keep bees just yet at her home in picturesque Hampshire, it’s something she definitely aspiring to.

Learning to keep bees doesn’t appear to have been any more tricky than ensuring her former Ground Force colleagues Alan and Tommy were kept in check for the much-loved series which she remembers with great fondness.

“I’ve been out there looking at the different bee species and I’ve found four or five – Alan Titchmarsh tells me he has around nine types in his garden so I’ll be trying to spot those too,” she said of her former on-screen gardening partner, who clearly doesn’t want to be seen to be being outdone by anyone.

“It’s just amazing watching bees do their ‘wiggle dance’ which directs them to where the pollen and nectar is,” added the celebrity gardener, who said there was a large degree of theory to learn.

But it’s obvious the 45-year-old’s college horticultural studies have instilled in her a strong understanding of a range of environmental issues.

She’s no stranger to West Sussex, having filmed her River Walks series in the area, and urges anyone interested in learning more about bee-keeping to get in touch with the county’s beekeeping association.

As its Chichester division chairman, Jim Norfolk revealed, there were plenty involved in the area.

He said: “Our association is in a healthy condition and we’ve got around 130 beekeeping members. It’s definitely increased in the last two or three years.

“There are a lot of retired people who take it up, but I’ve also seen a lot of young people are doing it too. I don’t think people are able to make a serious business out of it, though there are people out there making honey commercially.

“But most people just keep up to ten hives for their own use or to give away to friends.”

n Beekeeping for Beginners featuring Charlie Dimmock is out now on DVD.