Today marks a significant occasion, long-awaited and carefully prepared for! A group of young people from Slough are embarking on a journey to Ley Hill Cricket Club, eager to begin their education in the art of beekeeping.
But how did we reach this point? The British Science Association (BSA), along with the University of Reading and Slough CVS, extended invitations to community groups and charities in Slough and Reading. These groups primarily serve communities that are either new to research or typically underrepresented in such endeavours, inviting them to participate in a Community Led Research Pilot.
Initial discussions between the young volunteers of Together As One (Aik Saath) and representatives from the University of Reading and SCVS revealed a strong interest among the young people in the natural world and environmental issues. Some were concerned about climate change, while others were eager to contribute more to environmental causes.
Throughout the summer of 2023, the young volunteers participated in a diverse array of environmental activities, including upcycling clothing, canal cleaning, and learning about bat conservation and beekeeping. Among these activities, the beekeeping session emerged as a favourite among the young people. Their feedback indicated a strong enjoyment of all sessions, with beekeeping being the preferred pursuit to carry forward.
So, what came next? The university recognized the value of the young people’s journey, and due to the success of the initial exploratory projects, a decision was made to delve deeper. It became apparent from the outset that engagement in environmental activities could benefit the young people, and beekeeping was a subject they wished to explore further.
After successfully reapplying to the BSA, the project was selected to explore the impact of beekeeping on young people’s mental health. The search began for a beekeeping club or society willing to offer support. Several societies were contacted, and one, Chalfonts Beekeepers’ Society, enthusiastically offered their assistance. Their President, Sarah Peterson, has been supportive from the outset, and the society has generously collaborated to develop a training program for the young people.
While bees play a vital role in humanity’s survival, they aren’t always viewed positively. Securing accessible land willing to host a hive posed challenges. However, a pocket park next to Cocksherd Woods in Britwell has been identified as the ideal site. The volunteer-led site has everything a hive might need, including security, level surfaces and access to water via a pond (not essential but most welcome). Moreover, this initiative has the potential to contribute to broader initiatives aimed at making Slough more hospitable to wildlife, facilitated by the newly established Green Slough Community Development Trust.
Meanwhile, the university introduced the project team to Prof. Ciara McCabe, a renowned academic in mental health research, and her doctoral student, Sena Demir Kassem. They lead the research aspect of the project, focusing on mental health. Additionally, the project team is gaining valuable insights from them into the research process undertaken by universities and how to collaborate effectively with higher education institutions.
Please check back to follow our journey!