Bee-lieve in local

Celebrity chef Gennaro Contaldo, left, with Arlene, right, at her market stall in Walthamstow last year
Celebrity chef Gennaro Contaldo, left, with Arlene, right, at her market stall in Walthamstow last year

Jo Sealy from Waltham Forest Business Network meets a beekeeper whose unfortunate allergy has not held her back

When Arlene Dunkley-Wood inherited a dormant beehive in 1998 following a house move, little did she know that it would be the start of a new business venture.

The hive was left by the previous householder and, by the spring, a swarm of bees inhabited it. Arlene explains: “That was 22 years ago and the start of being a beekeeper and a supplier of local honey.

“I began to sell my honey to local shops and health food shops in Chingford.”

After a move to Walthamstow, Arlene, who is also a prenatal yoga and massage specialist, saw the number of hives increase from two to six with impressively high yields. This prompted her to seek to branch out to local farmers markets in North London.

“I’m really proud that my honey is ‘hive to jar’, with the help of a few million bees. It is locally produced, jarred immediately after filtering, and that’s it – nothing but pure honey.

“I expanded my range to include sourdough spelt loaves and gluten free cakes and that side of the business has grown steadily from there.”

Arlene now offers a postal service for honey orders and delivery for bespoke orders for cakes. However, what might come as a surprise is the fact that as a beekeeper, she is allergic to bee stings.

“Yes, it’s true! I was contemplating giving up last year after experiencing an anaphylactic shock. I have to carry an Epipen with me at all times, make sure I am well covered, and ensure someone is nearby in case I get stung when tending to the bees.

“I’ve made the decision to continue to be a beekeeper though, it’s the best mindfulness activity in the world. I love that sense of aliveness it brings.”

For Arlene, Covid-19 has meant no markets for the past three months, but things are now starting to pick up. “It’s been great to meet people and feel part of the community again. Everyone has been so supportive – long may it continue!”

For more information about Arlene’s Bread & Honey:

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