A COMMUNITY apiary enjoyed a successful first open day ahead of its grand opening this weekend.

The apiary was created on the defunct bowling green at the Bowling Dene park off Widdowfield Road thanks to Darlington Council leasing the land to the Darlington Beekeepers Association (DBKA).

The DBKA is keen to involve the local community in the upkeep of the hives and held their first public open day on Saturday.

Visitors could borrow beekeeping suits to get close to the hives safely and DBKA members were onhand to answer questions and give advice on the art of beekeeping.

Lenny Mutton, technical director of the DBKA, said the event had been a success, helped by the sunny weather.

“It couldn’t have been better from that point of view,” he said.

“We are quite happy with how it went, maybe we could have done with a few more people, but it picked up when the kids came along.

“We had bought little suits for children and it was nice to see them get right up close to the bees; they were brilliant and really seemed to enjoy it.”

The DBKA is now creating a wildflower meadow around the apiary with help from the Darlington Friends of the Earth.

Planting of the meadow has already begun, although it will take around three years for the flowers to establish and show themselves.

Mr Mutton said: “It is a joint effort, the council has done its bit for us as well.

“One or two locals also came down and brought some plants for us; one woman came down with a lovely honeysuckle in a wheelbarrow and said she’d really like it to be part of what we’re doing.

“That is all good, we have had a good response from people generally.

“ We know there are going to be objectors, that is just the way life is, but we keep coming down to get people interested in bees for the benefit of all of us.”

One resident who has bought into the project is Steve Finn of Pierremont Road.

He joined the DBKA after attending a meeting earlier in the year and now his 14-year-old son Rob is also getting involved.

Mr Finn said: “I like the technicality of it, and the bees are just fascinating.”

The apiary is being officially opened at noon on Saturday (June 7) by Darlington MP Jenny Chapman and the Mayor of Darlington.