Author: beestonia

Beeston Bees

(Yes, it is all about bees).


Roald Dahl once wrote a short story called ‘Royal Jelly’. It revolved around a beekeeper called Albert, who fed his family the bee food, especially his underweight baby daughter. The twist being of course, that he and his daughter turn into bees.

So I was wondering what I would expect when I met experienced local beekeeper Mary Venning, and her three hives, which are situated in the Wollaton Road allotments, one of nine in the area. “Did you know that Oliver Cromwell’s son in law gave this land in perpetuity? That was found out when they built the medical centre.” As anyone that’s visited the site will know, it’s a very big triangle shaped area. We reach Mary’s rather large growing space.  “This hive is the most productive at the moment,” says Mary, indicating a hive prominently placed and literally buzzing with the sound of bees. Mary then shows me her other two hives, which don’t seem to be as active. “The queen may have died in this one,” indicating a hive with very little activity around it.

Mary’s bees were also very busy around the parts that they make their honey in, that she had out on display  “They are licking all the honey off. Every little bit.” We watched as many, many bees were swarming round these honeycombs. “Bees have such different personalities. I used to have a hive where they were quite aggressive. But the ones now are friendly. People shouldn’t be anxious around them. Bees don’t like loud noises, people waving their arms around, or strong perfumes, as they might think you are a flower. Leave them alone, and they will leave you alone. If you do get stung, then pull the sting out and apply something alkali, like milk of magnesia.”

They prefer to gather nectar from open or tubed flowers.  Dandelions are the best plant for bees, as its nectar is already 50% food

I asked Mary how she got into beekeeping. “I studied the life of bees as part of my psychology degree. The nature of animals. I then did a beekeeping course when I retired. It was a weekend course over five weeks.” It is an expensive hobby. Did you know that once the queen has been chosen, she is fed royal jelly, created by worker bees?  You can see how enthusiastic Mary is about the insects. ‘Buzzing’, you might say as she imparts so much different information about them, quicker than I can write it down. “Bees hum in the key of C major.” Or, “They prefer to gather nectar from open or tubed flowers.  Dandelions are the best plant for bees, as its nectar is already 50% food. If only people would let a few dandelions grow in a patch of ground or in a tub, then that would be very helpful to them. Pussy willow and Hawthorne are also good sources of pollen.”

Mary then goes on to tell me about the worker bees’ waggle dancing, a figure of eight movement and how it informs the other bees about where the best pollen can be found, how far it is from the hive and if there are any dangers about. All this in very little, or no light in the hive.  She then told me about some joint research being done between Nottingham Trent University and the Centre Apicole de Recherche et D’information in France over the vibration of bees. Martin Bencsik at their Brackenhurst site is also looking at ‘swarm preparation’ that should aid beekeepers in the future, in that it may reveal health of bees and how the hive is doing.


There have been a lot of stories in the news over the last few years about the vast reduction in bee numbers, due to a change in farming practices and the increase in chemicals that are used on the land these days. Bees are vital to the food chain with their pollination of plants and fruit trees. So the work that Mary does, and other beekeepers like her around the world are so important to the life of these interesting and much loved insects and, in fact, for us.


Take it to the Ridge

We take a ramble through the Ridge…


If you’re in search of a little patch of green in the (greater) Beeston area, maybe it’s worth looking just across the A52 to a little known piece of land called Bramcote Ridge or the Alexandrina Plantation. The two linked plots are an elongated area between Wollaton, Bramcote and Lenton Abbey and can be best approached from Thoresby Road, as you head away from Bramcote shops. The ‘open space’ is about 12 acres: “a mosaic of acid grassland, naturally regenerating scrub and mature woodland which, through lack of appropriate management in the recent past, has developed into the attractive semi-wild area” you’ll find when you visit. Part of the space is privately owned and the rest belongs to Broxtowe Borough Council but despite this mixed ownership the public has unrestricted access.

The history of the site is a bit vague: Bramcote generally was enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1771 and the land put to unknown agricultural use. The westernmost section of the Ridge was planted with trees between 1836 and 1880, possibly to celebrate the marriage of the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) to Princess Alexandra in 1863 – hence this woodland is known as the Alexandrina Plantation. Many of the older trees were coppiced, probably during the Second World War when fuel was scarce. The Sandy Lane Bridleway runs along the eastern edge on the original Nottingham City boundary and this used to be the only way from the main Nottingham/Derby Road (A52) to the village of Wollaton. Remnants of hedgerow and even an old boundary marker from 1933 can be found. There is broom scrub on the site, reminding us that ‘Bramcote’ derives from ‘cottages in the broom’ which indicates what our Anglo-Saxon forebears found when they arrived!

The site has 85 species of wild flowers, 20 species of trees and shrubs, 20 species of grass and 3 species of ferns; 40 species of bird have at one time or another been spotted here.


As residential development increased this area came to be seen as a valuable amenity and in 1975 Broxtowe BC designated the whole of the Ridge as an ‘Area of Restricted Development’ ensuring its survival as a wild area, valuable both for residents and wildlife, up to the present and, we hope, beyond.

Environmentalists especially will be pleased to know that the site has 85 species of wild flowers, 20 species of trees and shrubs, 20 species of grass and 3 species of ferns; 40 species of bird have at one time or another been spotted here. Common woodland mammals such as fox, grey squirrel, hedgehog and the occasional badger inhabit or visit.

If YOU fancy a visit, there are a number of access points and it might be worth going to the Friends of Bramcote Ridge website to check these out. If approaching from Thorseby Road, don’t park on the road itself as you’ll restrict traffic – there is limited parking on side roads.

Before we go, we must give a ‘shout out’ to those ‘Friends’ who have frequently won Green Flag awards. They are an intrepid band of volunteers who clear and plant to keep this site as an amenity for the rest of us – and a little haven for wildlife: good on yer!


Mikk Skinner

I am Beeston: Mikk Skinner

We took Mikk’s photo a few weeks ago for the I Am Beeston project. Very sadly, Mikk died suddenly soon after.

And so we print this as a tribute to one of our favourite Beestonians, a kind and thoughtful man who never found a musical instrument he couldn’t play or a Blue Monkey Ale he couldn’t sup. RIP Mikk.


Mikk Skinner
IT Technician

“Although I was born in Bristol, I moved to Beeston in the late nineteen sixties. I was head chorister at Beeston Parish Church.”

“Beeston has some great pubs for chilling out. It also has a lively acoustic music scene.”

“I think Beeston needs a spectacular and magical sculpture. Something like the Kelpies in Scotland. Something that would get people to visit. Maybe we could have a giant bee!”

B-Town: A Podcast

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isha pic

A mysterious Beestonian has made an epic, deeply strange podcast about our town. Here, she tells us why…

Not all places inspire. Not all places excite. Not all places have stories growing out of the cracks in the pavement.

But then again, not all places are Beeston.

Not all places can be. Which is the whole point about naming somewhere, really. To distinguish it from somewhere else. If there were another Beeston it would have to be called something like New Beeston, or Beeston-upon-Avon.

Except… well there are a few other Beestons, actually. There’s a Beeston in Bedfordshire, one in Cheshire, another in Norfolk, and one in Leeds. How I feel sorry for those other Beestons, living in the shadow of our own epic town. People must ask those Beestons:

  ‘Wow, are you the Beeston?’

And the other Beeston probably looks embarrassed and says:

  ‘Oh no… you must be thinking of the one near Nottingham.’

The person would then apologise:

  ‘Oh right, sorry, you must get that all the time.’

The other Beeston would then look off into the distance, a tear glistening in his eye, glistening with the glory of what might have been, what could have been possible with a name as majestic as Beeston.

  ‘Yes,’ the other Beeston would reply, ‘yes it happens quite a bit, actually.’

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Beeston is particularly inspiring. Which is quite lucky really because the other month I wanted to make a fictional investigative journalism podcast for a birthday present. At first I was at a loss… what would it be about? I wandered the streets… along where Fletcher Road changes into Middle Street. It’s funny how streets do that, I thought, changing name with no notice and we just have to carry on, as if everything’s fine.

I kept walking, trying to forget about Fletcher Road and all the great times we’d had a few seconds ago… the Humber Road chip shop, the newly installed tram lines, the front gardens – some elaborately planted and others elaborately abandoned… Of course! I realised. I could make the podcast about Beeston. Where else is more inspiring? London? Paris? New York? Don’t be ridiculous.

And it was there, out of the cracks in the pavement around the Middle Street tram stop, that the story began to grow.

An enthusiastic podcast maker would get a mysterious email from a fan of her previous podcasts, offering her ‘something meaty’ for her next project. When they met, he would give her a small box wrapped in a plastic bag.

‘I found it on the tram tracks at the Middle Street stop one morning,’ he would say.

Then he would have to leave because he had an abs-core-and-bums class to get to.

What the box would contain would horrify the enthusiastic podcast maker. She couldn’t face this alone, she would need help from friends – willing or otherwise. The gruesome object would send her on a quest, an arduous quest condensed into 4 episodes of 20 minutes each, to unveil hidden depths of Beeston that none us could ever have thought possible.

The podcast can be found here:

(thanks to Isha Pearce, Benjamin Taylor, Adele Nasti, Peter Iwanciw, Martien Williams, Giulia Grisot, Lia de Simon, Mariele Valci, Connor Murphy, Paul Holmes for producing something wonderful)

The Yorkshireman Speaks on…camping

Pass me the tent pegs!

As summer approaches a strange phenomenon sweeps across our great nation. People of all ages turn their backs on their brick built cosy weatherproof dwellings and choose instead to spend their nights huddled under thin canvas sheets in the arse end of nowhere, on squeaky airbeds with slow punctures that leaves you with chronic sciatica. They do this bizarrely as a holiday, swapping everyday life for the stress of living like a road protester angry about the development of a new bypass. We’ve done it for years and these days it’s as popular as ever. A recent survey conducted by Go Outdoors revealed that 58% of Britain’s campers go camping more than three times a year. The same survey also revealed that given the chance to pick your perfect camping partner men would choose Ray Mears or David Attenborough whilst the women would go for Bear Grylls. I can’t help thinking that the men didn’t quite think that question through. I’m guessing that whilst the men would be off in the woods asking Ray to whittle them something from a tree branch, naughty old Bear would be in the tent with your other half, doing some whittling of a very different kind.

I have mixed feelings about choosing to holiday under canvas. “It’s a great bonding experience for all the family” was one camper’s viewpoint. I beg to differ; if things are tense with your family before, spending seven nights in a cagoule eating cup-a-soup in the Breacon Beacons frankly won’t improve matters.

These people weren’t born; they were grown in sleeping bags like caterpillars in a chrysalis.

Recently I took my six year old daughter camping for the first time. She was so excited, “it’s going to be great daddy, camp fires, falling asleep under the stars and bacon sandwiches for breakfast!” I reminded her that we were going to a field near Calverton, half a mile from the A46 and she should perhaps lower her expectations. Still, it was nice to have the enthusiasm. This expedition was part of the annual Beavers, Scouts and Cubs get away. It was our first time and it would just be Olivia and I representing the Bennett clan. My wife did suggest going as a family, but then I reminded her that having a screaming baby on a campsite would be as welcome as E-coli, so we decided against it. I was only just recovering from having taken the family on an aeroplane for the first time; it was learning experience, and I learnt that a baby is the only thing less popular on an aeroplane than a bomb.

Arriving at the camp I was confronted by some of the most naturally gifted campers (is that even a thing?) I’d ever come across. These people weren’t born; they were grown in sleeping bags like caterpillars in a chrysalis. Before I’d even reached for my rubber mallet, I was surrounded by perfectly pitched tents and the sound of kettles smugly whistling. I’d seen organisation like this before, many years ago when I went on my last caravanning holiday with my parents; two weeks in Morecambe, a chemical toilet and getting hammered on little bottles of Beer D’Alsace from Asda, which often took several days as it was only 2.5% a bottle. I remember watching a couple pitch up opposite, it was quite simply stunning. Him in his tan shorts, sandals, caravan club polo shirt and those shades with the flip up lenses; she was wearing the same. They barely spoke, just the occasional nod or gesture, as they glided around the pitch fetching water, lowering jockey wheels and putting up awnings. It was graceful, like watching Roger Federer play tennis. In no time at all they were both sat down on matching deckchairs, cup of tea in one hand, cigarette in the other, basking in an almost post coital level of satisfaction.

I finally attracted the attention of a scout leader who, once he had finished laughing, came to my aid.

My daydream was brutally interrupted as I realised, stood in that field in Calverton, clutching my mallet, that I hadn’t got a bloody clue how to put up our tent. I was, quite literally, for the first time in years, not able to put a roof over my daughters head. My wife suggested we do a trial run before we went, I suggested she was being ridiculous, “it’s a couple of poles and some pegs love, I’ve got a degree, I think I’ll manage, how hard can it be?”  Well almost impossible as it happens, “Daddy, why aren’t you finished yet? Do you need help?” “Daddy is just thinking darling” I was thinking, thinking about sleeping in the car. After nearly an hour, which culminated in me zipping myself inside the liner and my daughter hammering tent pegs into the ground at various locations across the site, I finally attracted the attention of a scout leader who, once he had finished laughing, came to my aid.

There are some people who scoff at us amateur campers. With our airbeds artic rated sleeping bags and pitching up within yards of a fully furnished toilet block. These people are the wild campers. These lunatics are like scouts on steroids, wherever they lay their groundsheet then that’s their home. They can read the land like Sherpas, all they need is a stream, a machete and a tree to defecate behind and they are as happy as the Kardashian’s on a shopping spree. They often live off the land; foraging for mushrooms with the chance that if you make a mistake you’ll either end up dead or hallucinating. I’m all for adventure but having to hunt your dinner and wash your genitals in a puddle somehow seems like a backwards step to me. A friend of ours had their cat bring back a half dead pigeon recently and they had to do the decent thing and finish it off with a house brick, it took ages,  imagine going through all that then sitting down to a starter.

Camping and festivals are well acquainted bedfellows. Recently at a festival I was performing at, fancy dress seemed to be the order of the weekend. There were a variety of weird and wonderful costumes on display. A gang of lads dressed as Superheroes; Spiderman, Batman, Superman and bringing up the rear, a Crayola crayon. He was shuffling his little legs trying to keep up. They were giving him a hard time, Superman shouted; “Kev, you look daft pal, what were you thinking!” “I didn’t get the email, this is all they had!” was his reply. I bumped into a rather depressed looking Super Mario brother by the Portaloos. Rather worse for wear and struggling to keep his makeshift insulation tape moustache adhered to his top lip, he was complaining about the state of the facilities, “These toilets aren’t right, there’s stuff leaking everywhere, it’s a disgrace, someone should do something about this!” “Don’t moan to me,” I said, “you’re the plumber son.”

Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

The Friends of University Park

Since 2004 the Friends have been encouraging the local community to visit University Park to enjoy the attractive well laid out gardens and grounds.

Each year we organise a series of events which are open for anyone to take part in.

This year we have already had a Wildlife Walk in conjunction with Notts Wildlife Trust in April and took part in the University’s Wonder event in June. In July we welcomed over 300 people to our annual Picnic in the Park, which was held in the Millennium Garden with live music from the Newstead Brass Band and activities for all the family.

Coming up is our Summer Spectacular on Sunday the 20th August 1.30pm to 5pm. This is part of the National Garden Scheme. A free of charge bus will link various gardens including the Walled Garden which is not normally open at weekends. Mini walking tours and refreshments will be available. There will be free parking available at the Millennium Garden.

On Friday 1st September, we have a Bat Walk from 8pm and in October we have 2 events. On Saturday 7th we will be Foraging for Wild Food looking at different edible species to eat from berries, nuts and fungi, herbs and spices, roots and flowers. On Saturday 28th we have a demonstration of Propagation Techniques, showing us how to increase our stock of favourite plants.

In addition to these public events we can also offer guided tours of the gardens and a Heritage Walk to look at historic buildings in the Park and the people who lived in them. These are suitable for horticultural societies, social clubs and other interested organisations. To find out more please email:

Heritage Walk:
Garden Tour:

University Park, which has been awarded a Green Flag every year since 2003, is open to the public at any time although there is a charge for parking on weekdays. At evenings and weekends parking is free.

For information on any of our events please email

Our website is where you can find further information and also download 4 free booklets:

University Park garden guide and tree walk
Historic Houses walk
Winter Tree walk
Geology walk “Rock around the Campus”

We look forward to seeing you at any of our Events.

David Henson

Top Trumps

I’d like to think I’m something of a dab hand at Top Trumps, having definitely been one of the better players at Stevenson Junior School in the early eighties.


Not many could walk away unscathed from my mastery of First Division footballers, a stack of red-faced, blue-legged men with universal awful hairstyles and expressions that bordered on the Neanderthal. Being pretty awful at most other sports, I took pride in this.

So when I find out a Top Trumps Champion is living in Beeston, I jump at the chance to interview him, and challenge him to a game. He accepts, and so I meet Alex Clements, 9, a pupil at Roundhill. We face each other at a table, and his steely gaze tells me this might not be the walkover I expected.

He selects the pack: Animals, appropriately enough, as he recently took part in The Top Trumps Championship at Chester Zoo. As he deals, he lets me know he’s been playing since he was 3, an obvious attempt to demoralise me before we even begin. I tell him that while that is young, I’ve played, on and off, for four decades. The first card goes down. He flukes a win.

He knows around six complete packs off by heart which is the key to being a Top Trumps champ.

He then flukes another, and a further seven more and I’m just about to cry ‘FIX!’ (or just cry) when I beat him as my Sumatran Orangutan has a higher Risk of Extinction rating than his rhino. ‘YES!’ I cry, punching the air. I’m very sorry the Sumatran Orangutan is disappearing because of man’s greed…but a win’s a win.

He tells me that his favourite pack is Awesome Animals, and his favourite card Scruffy the Monkey, who has a brilliant mischief rating. He knows around six complete packs off by heart, which, he tells me, is the key to being a Top Trumps champ. He gets another strong run, taking my meerkats, giraffe and aardvark. I’m in trouble now. Desperately, I try and distract him by asking him what he wants to be when he grows up. ‘A professional Top Trumps Player,’ he tells me, but is encouraged to think again by a disapproving noise from his mother. ‘Ok,’ he says, reconsidering. ‘A ninja’.

If ruthlessness is a necessary quality in ninja studies, then Alex has it, ripping through my final few cards and claiming an easy win over his shocked opponent, who can only ask if he is going to have another crack at the title next year, after coming third – better than Murray at Wimbledon and the English football team EVER – in June. ‘No, but I am going to coach other players to be good enough to make it to the finals,’ he explains. As I sit, bereft of cards, thoroughly trounced, I realise I’m in the presence of a card master, and was a fool to think I stood a chance.

Next issue: Lord Beestonia loses a game of darts to a new born.


Buzzword Poetry Competition

Here’s all you need to know before taking up your pen/pencil/keyboard/quill:

The winner will win £100, a trophy, inclusion in an anthology and much more.
Under 16s will win £50 as well as the other stuff. Judging alongside our editor Christian Fox will be a panel of professional poets:

• Tommy Farmyard, organiser of Hockley Hustle and Nottingham Poetry Festival
• Jenny Swann, co-owner of Candlestick Press
• Alan Baker, editor of the poetry publisher Leafe Press

It is free to enter, and you can send as many poems in as you like.

The winners will be announced on National Poetry Day (28 September) at a special event.


Email your entry to:
Or alternatively, send it to: The Beestonian, 145 Meadow Lane, Beeston, Notts, NG9 5AJ
Submitted poems consent to future publication in The Beestonian. Please state name, contact details and if under 16 to ensure entry into correct competition.


Our poems to get you thinking:

The home I’ve always known,
the place that’s changed almost
as much as I’ve grown:
sufficient to make a difference,
but not enough
to lose its touch.
Jade Moore

Here’s an Oxjam stage with an artiste on;
Station platform, has no arriviste on;
There’s the parish church aisle with a priest on
And a playground with kids just released on –
What a sight here for our eyes to feast on!
Colin Tucker

I like Beeston,
I like the bees.
Last weekend I burnt my knees.
I wasn’t wearing any sun cream,
and now I can’t wear shorts.
Because it’s embarrassing.
Dan Cullen

Beeston, it’s never about bees,
Nor is it ever about Dan’s knees.
Lots of places for beer,
Pottle to the weir.
Though don’t get me started on Breeze.
Darren Kirkbride


Street Art: Time to Act!

In the current issue of the Beestonian, we have an article about the potential street art project to lift up the tired dull mess that is Beeston Interchange / Birds wall. We can now tell you that the project has taken a huge step forward…

Beeston Square’s old dark walls (down Station Road and adjacent to Beeston Centre’s tram interchange) badly need an aesthetic lift.  We are planning a potential Street Art Festival for 2018 – a community regeneration project.

Broxtowe Council have an ‘art budget’ set aside which is £8k (subject to committee approval).  Artists are now invited to submit their work – the designs will ultimately be chosen by the council and its planning department but will be shown to the public who should have some say.

To give yourself the best chance of being chosen for this paid commission we suggest your designs are naturalist rather than brutalist.  It may also be advantageous to perhaps incorporate Beeston and Chilwell’s heritage and character somehow:

This Blue Plaque booklet is very useful – illustrating the area’s history and personalities

We have also put together a Dropbox folder of images/ideas to help inspire; including pictures of the buildings that were demolished for the current 1960s Square we are trying to improve, and more famous residents not featured in the Blue Plaque booklet.

Please do submit your designs to by 31/8/17 if you would like to take part and join our Facebook group ‘Beeston Street Art Festival’ to stay in touch.

Best of luck!

Wall adjacent to Beeston Tram Stop