Weekend Course: Beekeeping

Saturday 13th May to Sunday 14th May

Unit price


Detail from Der Bienenfreund (friend of the bees) by Hans Thoma, 1863

If you are thinking of keeping bees the Idler beekeeping course teaches everything you need to get started, even in a city, and without effort.  If you are simply interested in bees, apiarists and bees in culture the weekend provides a wealth of stimulating facts to take away with you.

You’ll look inside hives at thriving bee colonies and learn how to handle frames heavy with wax, honey and bees. You’ll learn how to look after bees the natural way.  You’ll learn about the life cycle of a bee, how it makes honey, and how to harvest honey. You will even learn how to build your own hive.

Bee farmer Pete Brundell from the Beekeeper’s Association will open up hives and show you how a colony of bees works throughout the year.

Beekeeper Nicola Reed will show you all the equipment you’ll need to get started and where to get it from.

Urban beekeeper Bill Anderson will teach how to keep bees the idle way with minimum interference Warré hives.

Bill will also be teaching you how to build a Warré hive out of cedar wood. You’ll leave with designs for a flat pack hive kit to take to your local timber merchant to cut, and the skills to put it together.  For those of you who would like to cut the wood yourself Bill will show you how.

The weekend takes place at Eastcourt House, a 17th century manor with beautiful walled gardens near Malmesbury in Wiltshire, home of artist and beekeeper Nicola Reed.   Your hosts will be Nicola and Victoria Hull of the Idler Academy.


The Idler Academy’s bee weekend is suitable for complete beginners. It is also a fascinating and enjoyable weekend for anyone who wants to learn about bees represented throughout history in the arts.


Urban beekeeper Bill Anderson keeps bees on the roof of his Notting Hill flat in Warre hives.

Pete Brundell of The Beekeepers’ Association

Historian Elizabeth Birchall, author of In Praise of Bees. Elizabeth will give a talk on the history of bees in human thought.

We will take a field trip to the apiary at nearby Charlton Park, the Earl of Suffolk’s estate. Here we’ll meet colonies of English black bees, our country’s indigenous honey maker.

You will take home a bee kit including designs and patterns for a make your own Warre hive, equipment and resources list, and a copy of In Praise of Bees.

We will answer practical questions including:

• How much time, money and space does beekeeping require?
• Where should you put a hive, and what about neighbours?
• What equipment do you need and where do you find your bees?
• How do you handle bees and how do you harvest the honey?



Saturday 13 May 2017

10am Start – Coffee and introductions

10.30am – Bill Anderson gives an introduction to the bee, its life cycle and the home it really wants

11.30am – Inside a hive: Nicola Reed gives a guided tour of her WBC hives with bee farmer Pete Brundell

12.30 – Light lunch

1.30 – Field Trip to one of Pete’s local apiaries

5pm – Bee Poetry: over tea and cake we discuss six great poems about bees selected by words doctor Rachel Kelly

6pm – A chance to relax and watch the bees, go on a walk, or just take time off.

8pm – 9.30pm – Supper


Sunday 14 May 2017

10am – How to Keep Bees in the City: Urban beekeeper Bill Anderson shows us how to build a Warré hive

12.00 – The Bee in History: Author Elizabeth Birchall takes us on a tour of bees in the arts throughout history

1pm – Light lunch in the garden

1.30pm – So You Want to Keep Bees: Practical session with Pete Brundell

3.30pm – Tea and conclusions

Please note the itinerary may change and is dependent on the weather for the outside hands-on sessions and opening of hives.

Please email victoria@idler.co.uk with any queries and to book children’s tickets.


The weekend will include light lunches, home baked treats and Saturday evening’s  supper.

Elizabeth Birchall

Elizabeth Birchall is the author of In Praise Of Bees: A Cabinet of Curiosities and a poet. Elizabeth’s youthful jobs ranged from market gardener to Wren aircraft mechanic before she trained as a social worker, eventually taking up a research fellowship at Stirling University. As practitioner, manager and policy researcher, she wrote books and articles for various professional journals.  Having lived and worked in many parts of the United Kingdom, on retirement she returned to a much loved Cotswold village to write poetry, her work appearing in many anthologies and poetry journals. Her love of bees and the creation of this book have kept her mind active for the last several years.


Bill Anderson

Bill Anderson is a TV drama director.  After installing some purchased bees in a Warre hive on the tiny sliver of horizontal roof atop his West London home, over the last three years Bill has enticed four wild swarms to move into Warre hives.  This hive system strives to emulate the bees’ natural habitat in the wild – a cavity in a tree – whilst also making some accommodation for human sweet teeth.

Bill prefers to think of himself as more of a hive-keeper than a beekeeper – the bees are always free to leave his hives whenever they feel like it – just like an inn-keeper’s customers…

Pete Brundell is a registered beefarmer with a ‘regular’ job which includes teaching technicians and customers in the UK and world-wide. Pete kept bees in the ‘80’s, and after a nudge and encouragement from a neighbour started keeping bees again 7 years ago. He now has 13 apiary’s around Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.  He works with the MDNIA Project on the Marlbrough Downs placing hives at strategic points in an effort to create a web of pollinators, which in turn pollinates the flowers, which develop into seeds and berry’s which brings birds and mammals. On areas out of the Marlbrough downs Pete assists farmers with stewardships, and places hives in areas they are turning back to nature.

Location: Eastcourt House is easily accessible via the M4, and is around two hours from London. All our talks and meals will take place at the house. There are plenty of nice places to stay locally on the Saturday night.

Eastcourt House

Local places to stay:

The Rectory Hotel, Crudwell – therectoryhotel.com

The Old Bell, Malmesbury – oldbellhotel.co.uk

The Snooty Fox, Tetbury – snooty-fox.co.uk

Or any B&B in Crudwell (two miles away) or Eastcourt. For instance:




Camping at Eastcourt:


Weekend Cost: £390 per person.  Children welcome at £35 each. Price includes all meals and Hendrick’s gin and tonics on Saturday evening.  You are welcome to bring wine to drink at supper.  Please email victoria@idler.co.uk with any queries.





Eastcourt House, Near Malmesbury, Wiltshire


Maximum of 14


10am – 7.30pm Saturday 10am – 4pm Sunday


Coffee, tea and cakes, light lunches, and Saturday dinner.

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£390. £35 child under 12. Price includes coffees, teas, cakes, two lunches, gin and tonics, and Saturday supper.


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