ESS Launches Latest Beehive Project at RAF Marham

30 October 2023

The Defence, Marine & Aerospace sector of ESS, part of Compass Group UK & Ireland, has officially opened the latest beehive project on its Defence estate at RAF Marham. Guests including Station Commander Fred Wigglesworth and Squadron Leader David Bliss joined a special event to celebrate the sustainability project which has been delivered in collaboration with the site and Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO).

ESS established its first bee colonies in 2020 at Brompton Barracks in Chatham and has since launched similar initiatives across its estate to support bee populations and promote biodiversity.

In the latest project at RAF Marham, a beehive has been introduced in an area of the site preserved for nature that also includes a bird-watching shelter and pond for use by the whole Defence community. Three ESS team members, one RAF colleague and a member of the site team have completed an eight-day course in beekeeping delivered by the West Norfolk and Kings Lynn Beekeepers Association and are now qualified to care for the bees. The team plan to harvest their first honey next year. 

The bee project is a part of a wider sustainability programme that ESS is driving at RAF Marham where it has also started a food growing initiative. The company has an allocated allotment on site where it grows potatoes, onions, rhubarb and leeks. Produce is donated to team members and was showcased during a recent event where ESS chefs designed a special menu for the site command.

Beekeeping is also a recent addition to ESS’ contract at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. Here the apiary is located within an organic garden built on site by ESS to grow ingredients for use in its menus.

At the original ESS apiary in Brompton Barracks, the project is going from strength to strength. The team won first place in the Medway & County Kent Beekeepers Association Honey Show during their first year of production and are now supporting three hives containing 135,000 bees in total!

Bees are being introduced elsewhere in the ESS business too, with the Government Services sector recently introducing hives at one of its police training centre contracts.

Gp Capt Fred Wigglesworth, RAF Marham Station Commander, said:

“It’s fantastic to be able to support another environmental initiative at RAF Marham, with the introduction of our very own beehive within our Ladywood area. This was great work by ESS at RAF Marham to support a sustainability programme and we look forward to producing our very own ‘Buzz Lightning’ honey next year!”

Jill Tinsey, West Norfolk and King's Lynn Beekeepers' Association, commented:

“West Norfolk and King’s Lynn Beekeepers are delighted to be part of the Marham bees project. We became involved last year when we provided a taster session about what would be involved and what equipment they would require. This year we have delivered a beginners course to train five people to look after the bees and will provide ongoing support so the project can continue to grow."

Anthony Edwards, Medway Beekeepers Association, commented of ESS’ original project:

“The RSME bee project is so important because there are simply not enough honeybees in the UK to pollinate our fruit and vegetable crops. If every large organisation followed the example of RSME and made land available for similar beekeeping projects, we would be going some way to addressing this problem.”

Bob Gray, Managing Director – ESS Defence, Marine & Aerospace commented:

“It’s great to be working with our clients to maximise the potential of the land available on the Defence sites where we operate. I’m proud to see the team at RAF Marham following in the footsteps of other ESS sites to support bee populations and wider biodiversity. These are important elements of our sustainability commitments as we work towards Climate Net Zero by 2030.”