Bee closer to nature

John checking the hives © Hidcote Manor Garden/Hidcote Manor Garden

John checking the hives

John Bainbridge
Careership gardener

Before I joined the Hidcote team I...

was lost in the mire of unhappy employment in my hometown of Liverpool. In need of a change of scene, I booked a place on a National Trust gardening working holiday. Fortunately, Hidcote was the place available on the dates I was looking for.

The experience of that week changed my life. Immediately, when I returned to Liverpool, I began volunteering at my local National Trust place, Speke Hall.

The work experience I gained with the garden team there formed the basis of my application to the Careership. I was lucky enough to be accepted to Hidcote in 2009.

What I enjoy most about being a Careership gardener...

almost every day is different. As I'm training, there are always new, interesting tasks that I'm involved with.

It's also great fun seeing the progress I've made. For example, in the space of a year my hedge cutting has gone from wonky mayhem to something more presentable.

These little successes keep me plodding along and inspire optimism for the future.

Not a lot of people know this but...

honey bees have five eyes.

What I love about Hidcote...

for me it's the perfect English country garden, and it's the garden I've been to so far that is most to my taste.

Growing up in the city, I formed this fanciful image of the English countryside. Coming to Hidcote for the first time was like a realisation of that daydream.

Even after living here for a while it still inspires me. It's an unbelievable place and I'm chuffed it's part of my life.

A few of my favourite things...

cats, tweed and foxgloves

I first got interested in bees...

not long after I first began developing an interest in gardening. I joined the Liverpool Beekeepers Association and started attending meetings. But with nowhere suitable to set up a hive I had to hang fire.

Fortunately, it was only a matter of months after I joined Hidcote that we decided to get some new bees for the garden. We joined the BBC Bee Part of It campaign, along with some of our other places.

My top beekeeping tips...

read as many different books as you can possibly stand. Then just spend as much time as you can with your bees.

Watch what they're up to and find your own way of handling them. Admittedly, it's petrifying the first couple of times you open up a hive and they're buzzing all over your head. But this quickly passes, and then it's just a case of building your confidence.

A mentor is useful when you're just starting out. You may be able to find one of these at your local Beekeepers' Association.

My last top tip is to dust your bees with icing sugar. It helps to keep the numbers of varroa mites down.

Bees are important because...

they pollinate our flowers and also provide us with delicious honey. For me, they're also an intrinsic part of the English garden.

When you hear bees buzzing around the border it reminds you of warm, sunny days when all is well with the world. It wouldn't be the same without them.

My plans for the future...

a long and varied career with the National Trust. I'd also love to own a Rover P4 and live in a cottage with enough surrounding land to grow my own vegetables and keep a few chickens and goats. And, of course, a huge apiary.