Ever been stung by a bee or a wasp or any of their flying family of stingers? I’ve had a few. We all remember our first. Mine was when I was a little feller in England. I was 4. I remember looking out an upstairs window of a house we were visiting somewhere in Surrey. A wasp landed on my cheek and stung me. Ouch.
The latest sting happened this past summer at the back (stern) of our boat in the marina where we’re moored. I stood, minding my own business, leaning on the tiller arm, when one of those aggressive wasps landed on my shoulder. As I brushed it aside, it stung me. Wretched beast. It burned like mad. Fortunately, I do not get an alergic reaction to the sting, just pain.
Some people have phobias when it comes to certain insects. Spiders are the worst I would imagine. But there are those who run a mile if a bee, of any description, comes near them. My sister-in-law in Canada can’t be near bees. She carries an epipen in case of a sting. That jab could save her life.
But, as we’ve been hearing in recent years, we need the bees….the productive ones….to keep our planet alive. Honey bee numbers have been dwindling these past few decades and that is not, apparently, a good sign. So, we do our bit by having flowers around our boat that bees like to pollinate. Not so much like to as have to. It’s their function. And, as usual, humans are getting in the way with our pesticides and such.
I watched a colony of bees last Spring at a fair I attended. Beekeepers had a display where bees were kept in a wooden panel to build up the bee home. The one I saw had the worker bees building a new throne room for a new queen bee. The old queen had become lethargic and the drones knew it was time to retire her and crown a new one. A world within a world. Fascinating creatures. No one really knows how many species of the Apoidea family there are. Thousands for sure. All we know is we need them.
So, hoorah for the folks at Hitchin Lavender Fields in Hertfordshire. You can tell by the name that they grow lavender and the bees love it. So does everyone else. A nice day out in the country among the lavender rows, 25 miles of them to be precise. When in full bloom, the sight is magnificent. If you like the colour purple, and I do mean the colour, you’ll love this place.
It all began with our boat neighbours, Eddie and Miriam. They grew up in Hemel Hempstead and know the area intimately. Miriam has a BMW tank and drives it with the finesse of a humming bird. How she negotiates the roads around Hertfordshire so quickly and deftly is a marvel to behold. Anyway, she and Eddie have taken it upon themselves to educate my best friend and me on the wonders of the area.
“We’re driving out to Hitchin to see the lavender fields. Coming?” she announced one day this summer. We never say no. Our adventures are always full of fun, frolic and flamboyance. “Sure,” we said. And off we went. I wasn’t too sure about this trip. Going to see a bunch of lavender in a field sounded a bit like going to see your least favourite relative.
My best friend was more excited. She’s into potions and such and lavender is right up there in her eschelon of smelly substances. As I was writing this, she was giving me all the special properties of lavender and what it’s good for and all that. I won’t burden you. I can’t remember any of it anyway. Far too complex for my wee mind to absorb.
I had no idea how beautiful fields of the purple stuff could be and they had a snack bar on the premises too. Quite an elaborate set up at that. I had worn shorts for the occasion as it was a rather hot summer day. No one told me we would be walking along the rows of the purple plant. We paid the fee and walked out onto a sight that took away my breath. I had never seen so much purple in one spot.
But very little odour. You can’t smell lavender to its full extent until you crush the purple pods in your hand. Then the aroma is divine….if you’re into that kind of thing. At the gate, they give the ladies a paper bag and a pair of scissors announcing where you can and cannot cut. It was obvious some people heeded not the injunction. But not one employee stopped them.
I stood at the head of the field, looking along the long rows of lavender that ran up a hill to the crest. Miriam dove right in, as did Eddie, camera in hand. My best friend waded in next. I was the last to venture into the purple haze. My hesitation had more to do with me wearing shorts than any aversion to lavender. I was loathe to scratch my lovely legs. But that ridiculous notion didn’t last very long and off I went.
What I had not counted on was the bee infestation. Silly me. Of course there would be bees among the lavender. All this lavender and no bees? Impossible. And here they were….in droves. At points you couldn’t see the lavender for bees, honey bees and bumble bees. No wasps that I saw. But here I was wearing those damned shorts, bare legged, short sleeved and no bee hat.
I began to walk, oh so tentatively, along one of the rows. I kept looking over to my best friend and Miriam who were busy clipping lavender pods. There is no clear path between the rows of lavender, just the suggestion of one. The lavender, you see, grows over the path. I was literally, and I do mean literally, walking through swarms of bees, most of whom I could not see. But not one of them could give a care about my presence. I moved slowly so as not to get any of them riled up (agitated). And eventually, I made it to the top, unscathed.
From the dizzying heights I watched Eddie, down in the lavender, sometimes nearly disappearing among the lavender bushes, probably to get the perfect photo. And as I walked back down, a bride and groom stood among the lavender having their photos taken.
What a glorious experience. I highly recommend it to anyone with no bee sting alergy. For kids too. At one with the bees and the plants. I had walked the line both up and back without a scratch or a sting. Lavender Fields where there really was nothing to get hung (or stung) about.