Is there honey still for tea?
The Jefferson family - 82 year old Allan, son Tony and nephew Richard - are a honey dynasty that between them can count 100 years of bee-keeping at the lovely Stonelea Apiary, tucked away in a peaceful wooded valley beside Roxby Beck at Dalehouse near Staithes.
At 15, Allan carried his first sack of buzzing bees home on the bus and over the next 60 years picked up all the awards at local and national honey shows. Five years ago, in recognition of his services to bee-keeping, Allan attended the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace, naturally taking with him a pot of honey. We’d like to believe Stonelea’s honey found its way onto a royal slice of bread.
The Jeffersons produce mixed flower honey from oil seed rape, hawthorn, sycamore, bramble, rose bay willow herb. But it’s the single flower heather honey for which the Jeffersons and the other moorland beekeepers are justly proud. In summer they take their hives onto the North York Moors, some 554 square miles and the biggest expanse of heather moorland outside Scotland which becomes a magnificent purple carpet in high summer.
So what’s all the fuss about? Take the lid off a jar of new season Yorkshire heather honey and you will get the heady fragrance of a summer day on the moors. Floral, aromatic, complex and a genuine local and seasonal product, buy it wherever you see it for sale, it is far more potent than any mass-produced commercial honey. Good news, too, the beekeepers claim that 2016 has been the best year for honey in 50 years.
You can find Stonelea’s mixed and single flower honey in Richard Lyth’s butcher’s shops in Hinderwell and Staithes, and at Botham's of Whitby.
Tim Heald is a retired dentist and another prize-winning honey producer from Eskdale whose honey is also stocked by Botham's. Look out, too, for ‘honey for sale’ signs around the moorland villages. Bryan Nellist, beekeeper and champion gooseberry grower at the annual Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show, usually has one outside his house at Egton Bridge.