The Mancunion

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Live from the hive: Printworks’ hidden eco-garden

It’s a hive of activity at The Printworks…

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As a long-term lover of all things bee-related, when the opportunity arose to attend the event for The Printworks second annual rooftop eco-garden harvest, I was buzzing.

To celebrate the success of this year’s bumper harvest, we gathered at The Printworks in the city centre. While our hosts the Hard Rock Café treated us to a delectable selection of nibbles and drinks, I had the chance to find out more about this lovely enterprise.

Unknown to many, nestled atop The Printworks in the middle of the bustling Manchester city centre lies a small flourishing oasis of nature complete with un-bee-lieveable views.

This charming eco-garden is home to four hives accommodating over 320,000 hard-working honey bees. These were introduced as part of a drive to re-establish bees in the city centre, to help combat the massive losses seen in honey bee populations in recent years. The urban garden and allotment is also home to six hens, an orchard, a herb garden, wild flower meadow, as well as a custom-made Beetle Hotel habitat housing 100 common ground beetles.

The honey itself is the star of the show. Sweet and delicately floral, this years impressive yield comes beautifully packaged in jars designed by local artist ‘Mancsy’. One of these 213 #LiveFromTheHive limited edition jars has also been signed by the artist and sold at an auction for up to £75 to raise even more cash for good causes. All of the proceeds from the sales of the honey (sold for £10 a jar) go to Forever Manchester and The Booth Centre. This funding helps these charities to support community projects and the homeless in Manchester.

The eco-garden project has input from all corners of The Printworks. The Hard Rock Cafe sponsors two of the hives, and has trained several members of staff in apiarism (that’s beekeeping to you and me), who tend lovingly to the bees on a weekly basis and attend workshops with the Manchester District Beekeepers Association in their spare time.

The Centre Director of The Printworks (and qualified apiarist) Fred Booth says: “The second honey harvest is the biggest batch yet and has created a real buzz at The Printworks. We are proud to be raising even more money for two outstanding Manchester charities and we’re sure that the jars of honey will go on to become collectors items yet again.”

The six hens that reside in the rooftop garden also contribute to the gardens charitable donations.  Each hen has a local business as a sponsor, including Hard Rock, Chiquito and Bierkeller branches. The eggs laid are sold for 20p each (or £1 for a dozen), with profits of £650 to date going to The Booth Centre.

The garden’s allotment yields a wide variety of traditional English staples, including strawberries, rhubarb, cauliflower, potatoes and carrots. This produce has been previously donated to The Booth Centre to make vegetable soup for the homeless of Manchester as part of their event ‘The Big Manchester Sleep Out’. The crop from this year has also been put to good use within The Printworks itself, with the creation of rhubarb crumbles by staff of the Waxy O’Connors Irish bar, which were also donated to The Booth Centre charity.

The harvest celebration was overall a lovely event championing charitable social enterprise. I for one am thrilled to see this award-winning eco-friendly venture still thriving over three years on from the official launch, and hope to see more of its kind flourish in the future.