Quince Honey Farm, South Molton
Hooray, it’s half term so I thought we’d showcase a great little attraction that is undergoing a metamorphosis soon but I really recommend you catch it in its current incarnation and then visit again next year when it’s in its all new location.
There is a lot of buzz, and rightly so, about bees and the threats they face at the moment. They are a vital part of our biodiversity, providing pollination to food plants and wild plants alike while providing us with nature’s sweetener, honey.
We’d like to do our own little bit at Halsbeer Farm and Blackdown Yurts so we are looking into getting beehives. To research it a bit further I bought Mark a beekeeper experience day at Quince Honey Farm in South Molton, just to the south of Exmoor around 45 minutes drive from Halsbeer Farm.
While he did his theory and got dressed up in a bright orange beekeeper suit, Mia, Felix and I spent the entire day at Quince Honey Farm and there was loads to see.
The fascinating honey museum provides a real glimpse into the whole process from hives out in the fields and on nearby Exmoor to extraction and bottling of the honey and making beeswax candles. You can look down into the working factory with plenty of explanation boards and videos explaining what you are seeing.
Upstairs is a long gallery with holes cut into the roof for bees to come and go to the display hives ingeniously located inside cutaway chimneys, an old post box, a log that opens up mechanically so you can see the combs inside and more. The great thing is the hives and bees are safely behind glass so they can’t bother you and you can wonder at them as they go about their business.
Mia and Felix got hands on making beeswax candles and then watched a keeper open up a hive and look for the queen. You can even hold a frame yourself using gloves a bit like they use on the Crystal Maze.
The great thing for children is that Quince Honey Farm is not just about the bees and the honey, fascinating as that is. There is also a monster soft play with a cafe perfect for rainy days plus a safe enclosed outdoor play area too. They have a fair few critters besides honeybees to look at including mesmerising leaf cutter ants. The same member of staff did all of our tours, talks and demos during the day and he was so knowledgable, friendly and enthusiastic.
The food in the cafe was excellent and innovative. While the children played I enjoyed a Devon honey cream tea with apple and ginger scones. Instead of jam I was treated to a dollop of four different honeys – rich golden dandelion, pale waxy ivy, smooth heather and oh-so-sweet flower honey. Delicious. You can also taste all the honeys in the shop which has an amazing selection of bee and honey based gifts including beautiful moulded candles. All available to order online too, see link at the bottom for details of current discounts.
Quince Honey Farm’s location in a (it must be said fairly unattractive) building on the edge of South Molton seemed a bit incongruous with its ‘farm’ name, so I understand their desire to move to a larger rural area outside the town where they can have wildflower meadows and orchards in which the bees and their visitors can frolic. The plans for the new visitor centre and farm look amazing. I just hope they don’t lose some of the charm and fascination that the old museum had inside, it was really great to be able to look down onto the whole honey and candle making process and I’m sure that has played a large part in their recent nomination as finalist in the Devon tourism awards for both Best Small Attraction of the Year and Best Learning Experience of the Year, in my opinion very well deserved and I wish them every success in the final.
The existing attraction will close the end of half term on 28th October 2018 and they will re-open in their new location near South Molton on 6th April 2019. I suggest you follow their social media feeds for updates.
You may be wondering how Mark got on at his full day experience – well he did a bit of theory, had a lovely lunch with the very knowledgable father and son team who run the family business at Quince Honey Farm, and then got to get kitted up and go out to inspect his own hive for the afternoon. He found it very informative and useful to know what it’s really like to be a beekeeper and have the bees buzzing around you. It was great to access the knowledge of the beekeepers. Hopefully they will be running more beekeeping experience days next year at their new premises.
If you fancy keeping your own bees you may be interested to know that Eat Natural is running a competition for new beekeepers ending on 31st October. For details see http://www.pollenation.eatnatural.com/bee-keeping-application/
For more information about Quince Honey Farm see https://www.quincehoneyfarm.co.uk
You can also buy their gorgeous products online and they have a couple of promotions going at the moment. Use voucher code QUINCE10 for 10% off their online shop plus free shipping over £30. And use code TASTERHAMPER20 for 20% off their gorgeous taster hamper which not only contains three different honeys but also marmalade, mustard and chutney flavoured with honey.