June 2022 | 963 words | 4-minute read
Did you know that around a third of Swedes engage in outdoor activities at least once a week, living by friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv) — the Nordic concept of getting outdoors? Friluftsliv was coined by the Norwegian playwright and poet, Henrik Ibsen, in the 1850s to describe the value of spending time in remote locations for spiritual and physical well-being.
This concept of ‘open-air living’ has gained popularity the world over, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the UK, the government has allocated additional funding for Green Social Prescribing — the practice of supporting patients to engage in nature-based activities for augmenting positive mental well-being. The activities include walking, cycling, community gardening and food-growing projects, as well as practical conservation tasks such as tree planting. Green Social Prescribing is part of the NHS (National Health Service) Long-Term Plan that focuses on nature-based interventions and activities.
Teams at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) UK have been supporting the government’s health and wholesomeness agenda by encouraging people to reconnect with nature. JLR’s Outspiration Hunt, held last year from May 29 to June 6, was one such initiative where ~900 participants across the UK explored and discovered over 200 scenic and natural hotspots across England, Wales, Scotland, Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands; thus, becoming one with nature!
More recently, JLR employees at the Solihull plant have been engaging in beekeeping as part of the government’s agenda of spending time in green spaces and participating in nature-based activities to improve mental and physical health.
Solihull’s onsite apiary, home to nearly 250,000 honeybees, recently reaped its first honey harvest. Volunteer employee beekeepers were overjoyed with the produce which was sold at the Jaguar Land Rover Experience Centre. The proceeds from the sale are being ploughed back into the bee yard.
Says JLR Solihull’s lead team beekeeper, Dean Clarke from Material Planning & Logistics, “It feels amazing to have collected our first harvest and to know that the bees are happy and healthy in their new home. All of the proceeds from the sale of our honey will go back into maintaining the bees; we’re also hoping to have enough money to pay for an annual field trip for children at our onsite nursery, where they can learn more about bees and the environment.”
For the first time, employees at Solihull hosted a session on ‘Busy Bees Discoveryland’ where children of the Busy Bees Nursery, an onsite facility for employees’ children, were acquainted with the centuries-old tradition of rearing honeybees.
“Beekeeping is brilliant for your mental health and well-being, as well as being great for the environment, so this is just the first step in our mission to providing a home for a million bees across all Jaguar Land Rover sites.”—Dean Clarke from Material Planning & Logistics and JLR Solihull’s lead team beekeeper
What started out as an onsite Team Improvement Circle (TIC) initiative, with the introduction of 2 hives, has today grown into a full-fledged apiary with 5 beehives — 3 Flow hives and 2 traditional Langstroth hives. The apiary is managed by 7 volunteer beekeepers, 4 of whom have installed hives in their homes, housing ~200,000 honeybees and taking the collective count to just under 50% of the project’s target of 1,000,000.
This apiculture project is not just bolstering JLR’s sustainability credentials but is also doing wonders to the mental well-being of all those involved in it. This is pertinent particularly at a time when the world is witnessing an increase in the number of people afflicted with mental illnesses caused by the pandemic.
Bee-keeping for the soul
“Beekeeping is brilliant for your mental health and well-being, as well as being great for the environment, so this is just the first step in our mission to providing a home for a million bees across all Jaguar Land Rover sites,” says Dean.
Spring to early winter is the main bee season when the beekeepers meet weekly to take stock. JLR UK has a wide network of beekeepers that has grown from 12 in 2019 to 90 at present. This community is connected on the company’s internal Yammer portal where they regularly interact and exchange notes.
The success of Solihull’s bee colony and the benefits derived from it have inspired JLR to set up apiaries at its Fen End, Whitley and Halewood locations. Halewood’s apiary with 5 beekeepers is expected to be functional this spring, with the eventual aim of tending to a million honeybees.
With more than 13 acres of woodland and grassland in its campus, JLR Solihull serves as the ideal location for nature-based activities. In May 2021, the plant observed ‘No Mow May’ to allow grass and wildflowers to grow freely to attract more pollinators.
The first Flow hive at Solihull was installed by TIC’s ‘The Bee’s Knees’ team led by Dean who invested his personal funds to start the beekeeping project. JLR provided additional funding and today the apiary has become 90% self-sufficient with its basic running costs being covered from the sale of the harvested honey.
The project has become quite popular, finding a mention in JLR’s Team Talk magazine and, on the company’s social media handles. Not just this, a beekeeping course for beginners is part of the JLR Employee Learning scheme. Run in collaboration with the British Beekeeping Association, the courses are offered to all JLR UK employees who can enrol for training at their local beekeeping clubs.
“I use beekeeping for mental health and overall well-being. The Solihull apiary is open to anyone who would like to get involved or is looking to take up beekeeping through our onsite mentoring programme,” adds Dean.
So, if you are an outdoorsy kind who would like to spend time ‘bee’-ing one with nature, then beekeeping is just the thing for you.