Annie comes from generations of beekeepers. After WW1 her grandfather, William Hawkes, sailed for Australia, bound for a new life and a new job taking his young wife and child, Annie’s mother, with him. When arriving in Australia his promised job in the cement works had fallen through, so he built a house made of used oil drums in the bush for his family and became a large scale beekeeper. William became very good at this trade and in 1925 was able to sell his honey enterprise for the princely sum of £225, which equates today to some £15,000 pounds. This was enough to secure him and his family a passage back to Derbyshire, England.
William Hawkes’s apiary Mac’s Reef Bywong NSW Australia
Although William never returned to commercial beekeeping in England he passed his love and knowledge of bees to his sons and daughters, Annie’s Mother, uncles and aunts, and tales of beekeeping and a love of honey became firmly fixed in the psyche of the family.
As a small child, Annie, would often accompany a local Derbyshire beekeeper and family friend, to the local farms and woods where he kept his hives. She would help spin honey, catch swarms and take hives to Holymoorside, on the eastern fringes of the Peak District National Park, to take advantage of the heather in August.
In 1975 she completed the Duke of Edinburgh’s silver award with Beekeeping as her specialist interest. It is with fondness she remembers her dear mentors comments in his obligatory qualifications box on her award. It read ‘40 years amongst the bees’. Because that is what it takes to be a great beekeeper, many many years of learning, mistakes, and triumphs.
The years past and Annie forgot the bees, family, work and life took her a different path until she came to Leigh to marry her farming husband Charlie. The 500 year old farmhouse presented many problems…but living in the external walls of the house were wild colonies of honey bees….Charlie’s family said they had been there for over fifty years… the old excitement and love of all things apicultural overcame Annie and the first swarm that issued from those walls 15 years ago became the beginnings of Leigh Farm Honey.
Many years later and many bee colonies later Annie is helping her young sons to learn the love of the craft. See below Youngest Oliver, budding beekeeper.