Last weekend I was invited to run a straw skep
making course at the Bee Barn, Buckfast Abbey.
My Bee team colleague Rande joined me, and
together we helped fifteen bee-lovers weave a
straw skep and learn the techniques needed to
start a new skep after the course.
I’d met Deborah at Enys Gardens Bee Fayre last Summer. She had travelled from Devon to see my skep making demonstration at the Fayre and was inspired to get a group together to justify my travel and time and run a course for her.
Deborah was a master course organiser, sorting all the details and filling the course, which is no mean feat by anyones standards. She found fellow community beekeepers, a former thatcher, soldier, sailor, pilot, and teachers to make up the group. Despite the variety of backgrounds, a friendly, jovial atmosphere was felt by all, learning tips from each other as we went along.
Rande and I arrived on the Friday evening, staying at the hotel within Buckfast Abbey. While the mists were still in the valley, early on Saturday morning, we arrived at the perfectly sized bee Barn and unloaded my van, setting up the equipment for all the students.
We had a lovely weekend and took plenty of photographs, which is probably the best way to show off what was achieved and how much fun we all had sharing tales of bees, swarm catching, and baking!
A special mention has to go to Norma, a teacher, who after the first day went home and found a large cardboard tube, perfect to stand her straw in to avoid constant bending down, and with a stroke of genius, a wooden napkin ring, absolutely perfect for using as a guide. The best alternative yet to the traditional cow horn, the unethical plastic bottle neck, or the not quite ideal elastic bands.
From now on, ‘Norma rings’ are to be used when skep making!
The Abbey looked stunning after our first day of making skeps. The full moon was rising through the mists and we were able to spend some quiet time walking around the beautiful grounds and the interior of the Abbey before dinner.
Many commented on how therapeutic the weaving
was, distracting the mind from any other stresses or
concerns. As when working with bees, it pays to be
absolutely ‘present’, and the weaving of skeps has
enough details that require attention, checking where
you’re entering your fid, lining up stitches, checking
the tension, adding enough straw, to keep you
focussed, yet not stressed.
It is said that a well made step will take the weight
of it’s maker. Dave and Julian were eager to test
theirs, thankfully, they were indeed strong enough!
If you’d like to learn more about making skeps or join a course, then please make sure you’ve subscribed to my newsletters by clicking HERE