Skep Course at Buckfast

Straw and lapping cane
Straw and lapping cane

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.

Course organiser Deborah, concentrating on lining up her stitches
Course organiser Deborah, concentrating on lining up her stitches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Paula demonstrating how to make a starter
Paula demonstrating how to make a starter
Paula demonstrating making a starter
Paula demonstrating making a starter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Former thatcher, Julian, at one with his straw
Former thatcher, Julian, at one with his straw

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norma threading the cane through the fid
Norma threading the cane through the fid
Norma expertly stitching using her fid.
Norma expertly stitching using her fid.

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!

 

Inserting the fid for a stitch
Inserting the fid for a stitch
After the first day
After the first day
Buckfast Abbey Saturday evening
Buckfast Abbey Saturday evening

Anna, always smiling, a very happy weaver
Anna, always smiling, a very happy weaver

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.

Sue & Norma deeply focussed
Sue & Norma deeply focussed
Jerry, now inspired to use new skills with old rope
Jerry, now inspired to use new skills with old rope

 

 

Keith & Diana with their very different techniques
Keith & Diana with their very different techniques

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!

Dave & Julian testing the strength of their skeps
Dave & Julian testing the strength of their skeps

 

Buckfast Class of January 2019
Buckfast Class of January 2019
Buckfast Class of January 2019
Buckfast Class of January 2019

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

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