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Where did spring go?!

Well I’m conscious that every month I seem to be talking about the weather but I think that does quite a good job of explaining farmers and specifically Bee Farmers main worries!

The start of April was met with warm weather and damp conditions overnight, perfect for bees and flowers! The Oil Seed Rape was out in bloom a couple of weeks ahead of last year and all looked good with the bees producing lots of honey. Fast forward 2 weeks and the ground is now very dry and the warm temperatures are a long forgotten, the bees are now in a sort of limbo where they have started building up for spring because of the early ‘flow’ but are now just holding steady waiting for the weather to change.

On a more positive note we have been busy with other jobs this month. We moved bees to a brand new site for us at The Barn at Berryfields in Meriden. This Restaurant and farm shop aim to be as self sufficient as possible and it really shows in the quality of the produce! We were already stocking honey there but when we were asked if we wanted to have bees on site we jumped at the chance! 

Away from the hives we had an outing to Stratford Butterfly Farm another one of our great stockists to talk to their guests about honey bees. We set up with our observation hive (Which has had a lovely new paint job since last year, thanks to Christine aka Mum) We had so many interested people through which prompted us to decide that we would take the bees to the Open Air Country Fair on the 30th April.

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Join our mailing list to get a one off 10% voucher and receive the honey of the month offer which is 10% off our honey of the month. Don’t worry we don’t bombard you with emails! You will get one that tells you our monthly blog has been released and one with the monthly offer and you can un-subscribe at any time

Coming up this month we have experiences starting which is very exciting, it Seems like a long time since we last ran experiences but it will soon come flooding back to me! We are also sending out our first queens of the year to those with pre-orders towards the end of May. 

We’ve got a couple of markets and events on too:

Thank you as always for reading our little blog and supporting our small business

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Spring Is Here.. or is it?

Well if I had been writing this a week ago I’d have been talking about the beautiful weather and how great it was that the season was well underway. Fast forward a week however and we are plunged back into cold weather. Or at least it seems cold after that warm spell, I think it’s actually quite normal remembering back two years to the Beast From The East that hit right at the end of March 2020. 

The main problem for beekeepers with the warm and then sudden cold temperature is that the bees have been out collecting nectar and pollen and the size of the hive has increased with more and more eggs being laid everyday but as the cold weather has come in it has stopped the ability of the bees to collect food which has put the bees in a risky area! They can very quickly run out of food at this time of year if we as beekeepers aren’t keeping an eye on them.

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One of the main jobs we’ve been doing over the past week or so is moving our hives. Now unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures but I do have one from last year and the process is much the same.

First we remove any feeders and lids and use small straps to tie the hive together so that it won’t come apart during transit. Then on the morning of the move we lift the hives onto the trailer having first covered the entrance with masking tape so the bees can’t get out!!

Once on the trailer we make sure they are strapped down to the trailer with a second strap and away we go! When we arrive on the new site which at the moment are Oil Seed Rape (OSR) sites we just reverse the process! 

The bees are out and re-orientating within a couple of minutes and soon start making use of the new food source!

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Thank you all for reading our blog, next month I’m hoping to come back with a delicious honey recip-bee to get your mouth’s watering and some more updates on how the season has started… hopefully!
If you’re wanting more content from us then I’m happy to say we’ve joined TIKTOK and you can now see lot’s of short videos about our beekeeping all month! We really are embracing Social media during April and hopefully we will be doing a Facebook/Instagram Live for you all to watch and see exactly what we are up to and to ask any questions. 

Also don’t forget that by signing up to our mailing list below you’ll get blog updates and an email around the middle of each month with an offer which is 10% off one of our honeys so that’s a great way to keep in touch and save a little each month!

Thank you

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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February – Weathering the Storms!

Well, the 28th soon snuck up on me! Once again i’m writing our blog a day before it’s due to go out, you’d have thought after two years writing these I’d have got the hang of it! 

February has been a fairly typical winter month here, we’ve been busy jarring and working in the workshop to get all our boxes and frames ready for the season. The plan for this season is to increase to 200 hives… which means lots more hives need building and the wooden frames that go in those need assembling.

One of the most exciting thing that’s been happening this month is increase in stockists! We have taken on about five new stockists in the past month and hopefully many more throughout March! 

You can find more about our stockists – here

The first of the real spring flowers are out now, Snowdrops, Crocus and Hellebores are out and providing fantastic early food for our bees! I often get asked about planting for bees. I think the best thing many of us can do is to try hard to provide early, and late flowering plants that extend the season of our pollinators of course this doesn’t just help Honey bees, it helps bumble bees and Solitary bees as well as butterflies and other key pollinators.

Pictured is an early flowering variety of an ornamental Cherry tree. For those following our social media you’ll have seen the video of the bees making the most of this tree in the sun last week!

Of course I can’t do an update about this month without mentioning the few weeks of terrible weather where it seemed storm after storm was coming through. The wind worries me more than any other weather during the winter, the hive roofs are fairly light so even with bricks on top they’re known to blow off leaving bees with little shelter from the almost certain rain that follows! I’m very happy to say however that our sheltered wintering sites did their jobs and kept the worst of the weather off the hives and so we didn’t lose any roofs and the bees are still all looking healthy and well! Over the next couple of weeks we will start doing more frequent checks to ensure they have enough food because as the weather warms up the amount the queen lays increases causing the bees to rapidly use up their stores!

This month also saw the launch of our brand new bee Jewellery! Two beautiful pieces hand made especially for us. Watch this space though because we have plenty more coming as well!

I must also mention that Mothering Sunday is the 27th March! We have our beautiful Honey Hampers back in stock with amazing updated labels! 

You get: 1 jar of Honey, a beeswax candle, Honey dipper, Wildflower seeds and an information card about us and our bees!

Thank you all so much for reading our little update and as ever supporting us! Next month I’ll be telling you all about how we have got on moving bees to their spring sites ready for the Oil Seed Rape to come out in April. 

Come along and see us at Market Bosworth Farmers Market on the 27th March from 9am until 1:30pm

Thank you
Matthew Ingram

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Finally February!

Sitting back to write this blog I started like I always do by looking through my phone for photos I’ve taken. January seems to have been an incredibly long month, and I’m not usually one to be wishing time to go by!

Earlier this month we treated our bees with something called Oxalic Acid. This scary sounding compound is actually organic and is what makes Rhubarb leaves poisonous. We use it as a way to kill off Varroa mite a tiny mite that lives on Honey bees. Left to their own devices they can have a real impact on the bees health eventually killing off the hive in many cases. January treatment is ideal because the bees have very little brood so the mite are all exposed when we trickle the syrup mixed with Oxalic acid down over them.

Honey Jarring

Much of the past few weeks seems to have been taken up with Jarring Honey. As well as our own jarring we have also had honey to do for another brand we work with. Around 1,800 jars for them so it’s kept us busy during the past week or so!

What’s really interesting with packing for other brands is getting to taste honey from all around the UK. It gives you a real appreciation for just how amazing honey is!

Lots of jars just in!

New Products!!

This month we have had an influx of new products come in with our brand new soaps from Soaplantables a company that makes natural goat milk soaps with an amazing label that can be planted to grow wildflower seeds! The Lavender is certainly a favourite of mine!

One of our other new products you may have already seen on our social media and that’s these beautiful Valentines day honeys!


Our New Look

I’m sure many of you will have noticed since January our website has started changing somewhat!

I’m really excited that Angie, our new Graphics designer is helping us to really bring the brand to life by showing off what we want to bee! An independent bee farm producing Great British Honey! I think showing our story is a really important thing to do so that you, our customers can see exactly where your honey is from and more importantly how it got to you!

We want to make sure we get it right so if you have any feedback over changes we’ve made I’d love to hear from you so that we know our customers are happy!


Thank you all for reading this month’s blog, hopefully you’ve enjoyed finding out what we have got going on and what we have been busy doing!

This month our only market is Market Bosworth on the 27th February so we hope to see you there!

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Hap-bee New Year!

Happy New Year! Firstly I want to thank you for your support through 2021. I know many of you that read our blog regularly also come and see us at markets, on local delivery runs or support us via one of our stockists and have become very loyal to our honey – which is something I cannot thank you enough for.

As we’ve been coming up to the end of the year I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about all that we have achieved throughout 2021. I’m really happy to say that we have taken on lots of new stockists and packing customers this year which has really helped to move our business up a level. We have filled around 16,000 jars in the past 12 months – it’s really making the 9 jars I filled in my first year beekeeping look extra small!

Beekeeping experiences have also proved very popular, after 2020 when we couldn’t run many courses 2021 seemed a welcome change and we ran well over 50 sessions. It’s looking like 2022 will be just as busy and as many have asked for them we have listened and are now providing full day introduction to beekeeping courses for those wishing to take on beekeeping as a hobby.

Beekeeping Experience Hive protected from Mice this winter using a mouse guard

One of the most exciting things about this year has been the return to markets and shows. As a small business a lot of our revenue is earned at farmers markets and shows and we have been so lucky that so many of you have come out and supported us and fellow stall holders, especially in the run up to Christmas.

We now have a small winter break from markets, we will only be attending Market Bosworth Farmers Market this month which is on the 23rd January.


This Months Recip-bee

Bee Berry Breakfast

And just like that we are into 2022, with this in mind, we have chosen a recipe that will kick start your year and give a twist on the classic consumption of crumpets. We used frozen berries for this breakfast recipe and found that the juice really helped to deliver a great flavour when paired with the honey drizzled on top! As always, please share feedback and photos!

Ingredients

Method:

  1. Toast the Crumpets until golden brown and spread the Almond or peanut butter generously over them
  2. Place your chosen berries on top of the crumpets and drizzle over the honey!
  3. Enjoy straight away while warm for a delicious start to your day!

Thank you all for reading our blog and your continued support in helping our small business grow, I’m excited to write this blog article again in 12 months time to see how much we have managed to grow.

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Let there bee snow!

Happy December everyone, on account of snow today I’ve decided to write the blog and unusually it’s not the day before it’s supposed to be published…but not far off! November is traditionally a quieter time in bee farming and I was very lucky to get away for a weeks holiday early in the month coming back ready and refreshed for getting orders out in the run up to Christmas and starting prep for next season.

As we usually see during the winter months we have had a slight uptick in honey packing orders (that’s jarring for other people) which at least means you get to stay out of the cold in the honey room which stays lovely and warm year round!

The bees are all well and keeping warm and most importantly dry in their hives! Over the next week or two we will be adding fondant to each hive as an extra safety measure to make sure that they always have enough food as winter into early spring is the riskiest time of year for honey bees!

Many of you will have seen the black and white image on our social media, I was very excited to find this photo as I’ve known its existence for a couple of years but without being able to find it. The man beekeeping in the photo is my Great Great Grandpa, Charles! We think this photo would be around 70 years old but maybe even older and what’s even more amazing is that these beehives are only about 20m from where I first started beekeeping quite by chance!


I thought with 25 days left until the big day I would show off our top 5 Christmas gifts for anyone looking for a bee lovers present or stocking filler!


This Months Recip-bee

Honey Lovers Gingerbread!
(Adapted from BBC Good Food)

In the run up to the festive season what could be more perfect than gingerbread! These biscuits are perfect and only require the cupboard staples! I iced these with royal icing, but it took all my willpower not to eat them as they came out the oven! They will leave you with a wonderful batch of biscuits and a festive smell in the kitchen! You can use either ginger Infused or festive spiced honey for a wonderful flavour!

Ingredients

  • 100g salted butter
  • 3 tbsp Holt Hall Apiary Honey
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 225g plain flour
  • 50g icing sugar

Method

  • STEP 1 Heat the butter, honey and sugar together in a small pan until melted, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • STEP 2 Mix together the bicarb, ginger, cinnamon and flour in a large bowl. Pour in the buttery syrup mixture and stir to combine, then use your hands to bring together to form a dough. The dough will be soft at this point, but it’ll firm up in the fridge.
  • STEP 3 Put the dough on a sheet of baking parchment, shape into a rectangle, and lay another sheet of parchment on top of it. Roll the dough out to a thickness of ½cm. Transfer to a baking sheet to keep it flat, leaving the parchment in place, then chill in the fridge for 1 hr.
  • STEP 4 Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5 and line a large baking sheet with more baking parchment. Remove the dough from the fridge and cut out shapes using a cookie cutter. We used some amazing bee themed cutters but any shape will do!
  • STEP 5 Place the shapes, spread apart, on the lined baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 mins. (Depending on the size of the cutters you use, they might need a few minutes more or less cooking in the oven). Leave to cool completely on the baking sheet.
  • STEP 6 Meanwhile, mix the icing sugar with 1-2 tbsp water – you want to create a consistency that’s thick and pipeable, and not too thin or it will run. Decorate the cooled biscuits with the icing using a piping bag with a thin nozzle.

This month we have two markets so please make sure you come along and see us for Christmas gift inspiration!

4th & 5th December – Ashby Food Gusto, 10am – 5pm
19th December – Market Bosworth Farmers Market, 9am – 1:30pm

Thank you all for reading our blog, hopefully you have enjoyed seeing our amazing old photo, and got a few Christmas gift ideas too! If you do decide to make the delicious recip-bee do send us a picture or post it on social media!

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Our Honey Room Is Complete!

I’m happy to say that our honey room has now been complete for about two weeks, I’m really happy with it and the transformation from its previous use as a disused milking parlour to its new lease of life is unbeliveable!

Our first real use of the new honey room (other than storage) was processing Heather Honey. We’ve been really happy with our crop producing over 25lb per hive that went to the Heather Moors. The very best comb is used to make our Cut Comb, then the smaller peices of comb get used for Chunk Honey and everything else gets pressed through a machine called a Screw Press which squeezes out the honey, and leaves us with beeswax that we can use for our wax products. The honey is then filtered and jarred to produce our limited edition Heather Honey.

Back to our new room, my grandpa stopped milking in 1991 and since then, the milking parlour has mainly be used for strorage. The first job was to strip out all of the old electrics and take out the large ceiling that was used to house the feed that would drop down to the cattle while they were being milked. Taking the ceiling out really made a mess and it was hard to see just what it would become, but the next job was just as big. The milking parlour trench had to be uncovered and filled in with the new floor drains fitted.

The insulated panels arrived next, and with some help we managed to get the panels and roof up in around three days. We knocked through to our existing honey room and the flooring company were then in for a few days to level the floor and put down the new flooring!

Unfortuantely the door was one of the last things to arrive due to shipping issues but that meant there was plenty of time for the electrians and plumbers to get finished off. The new room has two heated pods which can heat up to around 45 degrees which is as hot as we need for warming honey. Each pod would warm up to 1,800 kg of honey, far more than we need at the moment but it’s been built with expansion in mind!


This Month’s Recip-bee

Honey Honey Comb! (Adapted from BBC Good Food)

Happy November! We have decided to go for a classic this month relating to Bonfire Night, which is known for Cinder Toffee. In a true Holt Hall Apiary style, we have shaken things up by literally putting the honey in honeycomb. This recipe was made with our warming Cinnamon Honey, but would work with any of our honeys! As always, please share pictures of your creations to info@holthallapiary.co.uk

Ingredients:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 5 tbsp Honey
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method:

  • STEP 1 – Butter a 20cm square tin. Stir the caster sugar and Honey together in a deep saucepan over a gentle heat until the sugar has melted. Try not to let the mixture bubble until the sugar grains have disappeared.
  • STEP 2 – Once completely melted, turn up the heat a little and simmer until you have an amber coloured caramel (this won’t take long), then as quickly as you can, turn off the heat, tip in the bicarbonate of soda and beat in with a wooden spoon until it has all disappeared and the mixture is foaming. Scrape into the tin immediately – be careful, the mixture will be very hot.
  • STEP 3 – The mixture will continue bubbling in the tin, simply leave it and in about 1 hr-1 hr 30 mins the honeycomb will be hard and ready to crumble or snap into chunks.

This month we have two markets so please make sure you come along and see us for Christmas gift inspiration!

13th & 14th November – Open Air Country Fair, Planters at Bretby 10am – 3:30pm
28th Novemeber – Market Bosworth Farmers Market, 9am – 1:30pm

Thank you all for reading our blog, I’m hoping as winter arrives and I get more time I will be able to share more with you and show you some more of our honey room and spring preparation!

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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The bees are coming home!

The start of October has certainly seen a shift in the weather and it really does feel like we are in autumn now! The leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping overnight and unfortunately for the first time in about two years I have got a cold. This month has been a bit of a mix of jobs but focussing heavily on our new honey room and getting the bees moved to their winter sites and fed.

The not quite finished room!

The new honey room isn’t quite done just yet but it’s coming on nicely! We are now only waiting on the door (A rather important part!) and the heaters which hopefully will be done in the next two weeks! The new honey room connects into our old room and is going to allow us to process far more honey, both for ourselves and for our packing and own label customers.

Our major bottle neck in processing has been warming large amounts of honey, the new room has two built in warming areas that can both warm two pallets at a time which would be over a ton of honey in each one! The other major advantage to the room is storage space that’s something we have struggled with in the past so it’s great to be able to move around in there properly without tripping over!

As well as building the new room we have been busy getting the bees moved! Almost all of our bees are now at their winter sites. Most beekeepers don’t move their bees for winter however I find it really helps me keep on top of jobs and save fuel when I can go to one or two sites and feed all of the bees in one go rather than driving around.

The bees were moved back from the heather moors now it has gone over and we are really pleased with the amount of honey produced this year, now its just the mammoth task of getting it ready for our customers to enjoy! Unlike our jarred honey we produce comb honey from the heather which takes quite a lot more time to get right, but the end result does look amazing!

This month we are a bit quieter on the market front but remember all of our honeys are available at our stockists which can be found – HERE or directly from us via our website

23rd & 24th October – Open Air Country Fair, Planters Garden Centre 10am – 3:30pm
24th October – Market Bosworth Farmers Market, 9am – 1:30pm

Thank you all for reading our blog, I’m hoping as winter arrives and I get more time I will be able to share more with you and show you some more of our honey room and spring prep!

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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September – The end of the season draws closer

Well the summer draws to an end… or at least what was supposed to be summer is ending. We have finished extracting our honey over the past couple of weeks and although there wasn’t as much as I was hoping for it is still our biggest ever crop! At the time of writing we are just finishing off extracting 30 supers for a fellow bee farmer.

We have been treating for Varroa Mite. Those who have been on one of our experiences will know what a Varroa Mite is but for those that don’t know. Varroa are an invasive mite that has been around in the UK since around the 1980’s it can now be found in practically all hives in the UK. When in small number the bees can manage the mite however at certain times of the year they can build up and cause serious issues for the bees. We use Formic Acid strips that kill off the mite without hurting the bees. We treat for one week before feeding syrup to make sure the bees have more than enough for the winter.

Wasps are currently an issue for us too as at this time of year they are after sugar and will fight with weaker hives to gain access and steal the honey. Not only that but they become an issue trying to get into any storage areas and will find the smallest gap to get into. We have to be very careful not to spill syrup near the hives as it can attract wasps and bees from other hives to ‘rob’ the weaker ones.

Back in the Yard we are busy expanding our honey room, our current room has been used for the past few years but is now proving far too small, the new room will about triple floor space and I hope that for the next blog I will be able to show you the conversion we have done, so watch this space!


This Month’s Recip-bee

Thai Chicken Stir Fry (Adapted from Marcus Wareing’s Thai Chicken Salad Recipe)

Hey Blog Reader!

I LOVE making stir fry’s, they lend so well to chucking in any vegetables that you have left over and taste so fresh. They can also blend with so many flavours and work with many different proteins depending on personal preference. At the time I made this stir fry I did not have many vegetables in, so please do not judge me putting peas into the pan, obviously isn’t a staple in a stir fry, but it didn’t taste too bad in the grand scheme of things!! I think the lovely flavour of the sauce helped with this!! As always, please share photos and successes!

Ingredients:

  • Protein of your choice – Chicken Breasts or Thighs thinly sliced into strips (I used a salmon fillet and this worked really well!)
  • 200g Rice Noodles – I find the ready-to-wok noodles work best and don’t go into a mass when you add them to the pan
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 200g beansprouts
  • Pak Choi
  • 1 Bell Pepper
  • 1 Courgette
  • Fresh Coriander/Sesame Seeds to garnish

For the sauce:

  • 100ml (3½fl oz) rice wine vinegar
  • 25g Ginger Infused Honey
  • 50ml (2fl oz) fish sauce
  • 100ml (3½fl oz) toasted sesame oil
  • 2tbsp tamarind paste
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer layers removed, inner layers grated with a fine or microplane grater – Lemongrass paste also works!
  • 4cm (1½in) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated with a fine or microplane grater
  • 2tbsp peanut butter
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

Recipe:

  • Thinly slice all the vegetables (I find using a peeler helps with making carrot ribbons), and wash ready to add to the wok
  • Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl/jug. Add a small amount to a large frying pan (enough to coat and flavour the chicken) and fry the chicken, until browned all over, ensuring the chicken is fully cooked (if worried, use a temperature probe.
  • Add all of the vegetables and the remaining sauce to coat the vegetables, stir fry on a high heat until the vegetables have some give but still have a crunch.
  • Add the ready to wok noodles to the pan and allow them to be combined with all the other ingredients. Stir fry for a further 2-3 minutes to allow the noodles to heat through.
  • Ensure food is piping hot throughout before serving!
  • Add garnish if desired.
  • Enjoy!
  • *If using salmon, I would add a little bit of soy sauce and Ginger Infused Honey, and bake in a preheated oven for around 10 minutes at 200C.


As always thank you for your support and for reading our blog. We have lots on this month so it would be great to see you!

Open Air Country Fair – 4th & 5th September
Tamworth Food Gusto – 11th & 12th September
Sheepy & District Ploughing Match – 26th September
Market Bosworth Farmers Market – 26th September

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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What’s happened to the Sun?

As it seems I have done all year I’ll start this months rather short blog off with a mention of the weather. The warmth of early July seems to have given way to a rather wet and cool end of the month, it has been the earliest I have known the flow (When nectar is available to the bees) to end and having a look at the forecast I’m not too sure it is too likely to start again this season unfortunately.

We’ve had a busy month this month with some honey packing work for another honey brand earlier on followed by lots of our own jarring because we have been out and about at quite a few markets. It’s been great to see the support for local markets holding steady despite the opening up of other venues and events so I hope one of the good things to come from Covid will be peoples interest in supporting local businesses. I for one am very happy that we will be changing our label supplier from a large national producer to a local label printers in Sutton Coldfield.

As well as our ‘normal’ bee jobs we have just been up to the Peak District to check our heather site! Many of you will have enjoyed our chunk or comb honey which was produced on the moors last year. We are taking more bees this time so we have plenty more to go around! Hopefully the weather will be kind to us and allow the bees to make the most of the Heather.

Competition Alert

If you follow us on Facebook you will already have seen our latest competition but if not there’s still plenty of time to get involved.

Last year lot’s of local families and schools decorated our hives, this year we wanted to do something a bit different so we are running a label design competition, which is available for children up to 12 years old.

Simply design your label using the template linked below and send a scan or photograph to info@holthallapiary.co.uk or send it us on Facebook, be sure to include your name!

After the deadline of 28th August 2021 we will create a shortlist of our top 3 and have a competition on social media with the winner getting 3 jars of their honey, we will also do a limited edition run which people will be able to buy from our website and markets.

INTERESTED? Simply use the template in the photo or download it as a PDF at the below link and print it on A4 paper – https://www.dropbox.com/…/Label%20Competition%20August…


Thank you for reading our brief update and I hope to see you at one of our markets:

The Open Air Country Fair – 7th & 8th August 10am – 3pm
Market Bosworth Farmers Market – 22nd August 9am – 1:30pm

Remember if you have a beekeeping experience voucher we are into the final few weeks for this year and spaces are booking up fast, you can book your slot – Here

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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