Crispin Reeves, Haughton Honey
PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 September 2014
Cheshire seems to breed entrepreneurs like no other county, and the tale of Crispin Reeves and Haughton Honey is as inspiring as any I've heard.
Having grown up in Cheshire, Crispin left for the bright lights of the South and the budding, barely nascent, internet industry and helped establish one of the first ISPs in the UK. Drawn deeper into the world of multi-media and web enabled mobile phones, Crispin lived life at high speed – jetting across Europe on a weekly basis and barely home in time for weekends. One morning he woke up and announced to his family that enough was enough, he was quitting.
“I just did it. I walked into the office, handed my notice in and have never looked back,” he says. “Having grown up in a rural environment, I knew I wanted to get back to that life, so I took on a farm tenancy in Cambridgeshire and established a herd of rare breed cattle, the White Park.”
While farming in Cambridgeshire Crispin started his first beehive.
“It was just a hobby at first, I had no thought of making it into a business. Sadly, my marriage ended around this time and so I decided to return back to Cheshire.
“Having experienced selling my honey to the generic packers I realised that there was an opportunity for a new honey brand, pure English honey. Much of what you find in supermarkets is imported. We have the land, and the bees, here but nobody had attempted to create a national honey brand.
“I built my own collection of hives and also created a co-operative of honey farmers in Cheshire, and Haughton Honey was born. We have now have over 1600 hives in the cooperative, stretching across Cheshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire. We produce two ‘crops’ annually; this year we’ll have produced in excess of 30,000 kilos. Our bee-keeping year runs from March to October, and then, once we’ve fed up the bees to ensure they survive the winter, we get on with all the boring jobs!
“We’re getting more and more approaches now from beekeepers and from farmers who would like us to site hives on their land. Crops can produce 20% more when there is an active hive in close vicinity, so it makes sense for farmers to have us there. A benefit of this is that they then also take more care of the land, so it’s bee-friendly, which benefits the native bumble bees too, which are in severe decline. In fact, we donate 5p of the price of every jar of Haughton Honey sold to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
“We hope next year to expand our operations into Warwickshire, Hereford and Worcestershire. Fruit growers there are already asking us to migrate hives into the poly-tunnels to help with pollination. It’s a truly symbiotic relationship; everyone’s a winner!”
It’s not only the English farmers who benefit from English honeybees, we do too.
“Supermarket honey is always pasteurised, which destroys the enzymes and proteins, and so vastly reducing the goodness. Haughton Honey is simply spun from the trays, filtered and jarred; it’s raw honey so it’s still filled with all the beneficial proteins and enzymes. There’s increasing anecdotal evidence too that a spoonful a day of raw English honey can help with hayfever. It’s thought that because the honey is filled with the pollen from the flowers the bees have used to make it, this desensitises the body to those pollens, so that when pollen season arrives, your body is ready to deal with it. Thousands of people swear by it!”
Crispin’s honey has not only attracted the attention of honey-lovers and hayfever sufferers, but of Michelin-starred chef Nigel Hawarth too, who uses it in his new Cheshire restaurant, the Nag’s Head.
“Nigel is very keen to use local producers as much as possible, and we couldn’t be more local, being less than two miles away! His honey-cured salmon is proving very popular I’m told – and it’s all about the honey, of course!”
It’s absolutely all about the honey, and that’s what Crispin is all about too. He is laid-back, relaxed and has a very English sense of humour – gentle and dry, all of which no doubt contributes towards happy bees making delicious honey. And trust me, it is delicious – spread thick on toast, with lashings of butter below, I can’t think of a better way to salute our bees, our farmers and Crispin himself.