Welsh honey

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

It was during a rather hung over secret santa that I found out about local beekeeping collective, Nature’s Little Helpers. Among the polite smiles and baffled looks, I was genuinely pleased with my present.

And what had the triumphant secret santa produced, you may be wondering. Well, santa had taken himself off to the farmers’ market and found a honey lip balm, made from local beeswax. (And within the £5 price limit, I might add!)

Honey bees

Nature’s Little Helpers was started by three friends, Tim Wright, Pete Shaw and Nigel Harris, on an allotment site in Cardiff, five years ago. The website says: “The company was set up as a result of many cups of tea and conversations around a picnic bench on our allotment.”

Mr Harris said: “We love growing our own veg and have ventured out into other things, such as keeping honey bees, producing honey, handmade candles and also skin care products from our own beeswax and honey.”

He added: “Bees have been having a hard time of things over the past few years, so we intend to give them as much help as possible, by increasing their numbers and providing people with products from these wonderful insects.”

Endangered species

In fact, according to the Bee Part Of It Campaign, honey bees are worth around £200m a year to British agriculture. However, poor summers have caused enormous damage to bees and a third of all colonies were lost in 2008.

Figures show that there are 250 species of bee in the UK, and most of these are in decline. According to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, two species have become extinct in the last 70 years, and more are seriously threatened.

Mr Harris said: “The idea of helping Mother Nature appealed to us. We have gone from two hives to 80 and our plans are to expand to eventually have around 400 hives in the South Wales area.”

Natural

I can certainly recommend the lip balm. It smells sweet and natural, and doesn’t suffer from that overpowering chemical smell that so many skin care products have today. The wax is quite hard, but can easily be applied to the lips and has made my skin wonderfully soft.

To find out more, take a look at the Nature’s Little Helpers website.

Photo: John Sargent

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Riverside Community Garden

The Riverside Community Garden Project has been running for six years and proves that growing and cooking your own vegetables is much more fun than anything you might pick up in a supermarket. I went along to meet Jenny Howell, who runs the project.

After cycling through the rain, I finally arrived at the garden, looking rather muddy and bedraggled. I was met by a hardy bunch, who were certainly not put off by the weather.

The garden is located at the northern end of Pontcanna Fields, about half an hour’s walk from the city centre. Jenny gave me a tour of the site, which consists of two poly tunnels, a pond and wildlife area, a social space, containing a number of weird and wonderful bread ovens, and even the odd gnome.

Riverside Community Garden sign

Riverside Community Garden sign

The project allows local people to get together and grow their own food. Regular gardener, Lewis Mottram, said: “I was looking for somewhere to volunteer and heard about this project at the Riverside market. I live nearby and I love coming to the garden.”

Diversity

The project brings together people from many different backgrounds. Jenny said: “We have individuals with learning difficulties, unemployed people, students, and sometimes groups of school children. You don’t need any experience. We welcome everyone.”

The project has a core of eight dedicated members, who work in the garden come rain or shine. During the summer months, up to 20 members take part in growing, building and cooking activities.

View of Riverside allotments

Riverside Community Garden Project

Organic

The aim of the garden is to provide a place where people can learn how to grow food in a friendly and supportive setting. The wide range of organic fruits, vegetables and flowers  reflects the diversity of the project’s members.

Jenny said: “We’re working on several new projects at the moment. We’re in the process of refurbishing some sheds, using salvaged materials.” The volunteers are also working on a new forest garden, which will provide a different growing environment.

Riverside chillies

Chillies grown at the Riverside Community Garden

The volunteers meet on Wednesday and Fridays between 10am and 4pm. If you fancy getting involved, take a look at the Riverside Community Garden Project’s facebook page.