Hives to the Heather 2022 Update

In the past registered members of HBA have had the privilege of taking a combined maximum of 350 colonies onto the New Forest, spread across several designated areas and enclosures.

Forestry England has allow beekeepers who have been granted permits to place their agreed number of hives on sites allocated to them, between 01 July and 31 October 2022.

The honey bees and beekeepers often benefit from the heather if it produces a good flow. In 2021, bees in a total of 350 hives enjoyed a working holiday. The 28 beekeepers who owned those hives enjoyed the challenge of dealing with a different type of honey; heather honey is thixotropic.

However this year HBA became aware of a certain clause in the contract that put the association, it’s trustees and members at risk in the event of significant damage to the New Forest.

John Lauwerys – HBA Chair

I regret to report that a major problem has emerged in respect of the agreement HBA has with Forestry England (FE) which enables Hampshire beekeepers to apply to bring hives to the New Forest.

The agreement with Forestry England requires each beekeeper to be covered by an insurance policy with a claim limit of up to £10 million per claim. This is automatically provided to any beekeeper who is a member of a local beekeeping association in Hampshire, and who is a registered member of HBA and thus able to benefit from the group policy provided through BBKA.

Over the winter HBA has been reviewing the terms of the agreement with Forestry England and in particular there has been discussion about removing one onerous condition. This states that if there were ever a claim arising from some catastrophic event connected with ‘taking bees to the heather’ which led to a claim above the £10 million provided by the insurance policy, ‘the amount of such claim shall not limit the Permit Holder’s (i.e., HBA’s ) liability to Forestry England’. What this means that in the event of a claim running to, say £15 million, HBA would be liable to meet £5 million of that claim!

Unfortunately, Forestry England are not willing to remove this condition largely because it is the standard clause in all their many thousands of agreements covering access to the land they own.

HBA has reserves of just a few thousand pounds, so as a charity whose trustees do not have limited liability status, the claim would fall personally on each trustee. You will recognise that this is not a situation that the trustees can risk, albeit the chance of a claim connected with taking bees to the heather is very remote.

So reluctantly I have informed Forestry England that HBA will have to withdraw, at least for 2022, from the agreement we have had with FE, and its predecessor the Forestry Commission, for nearly 50 years. There is a possible option for HBA to adopt a different charity constitution (CIO) which would protect its trustees from any personally liability affecting the charity. However, that needs careful consideration and would take many months to effect.

Relations with the Forestry England staff are good, and they are very willing to work with HBA to find a solution to the problem which has arisen.

For this summer the approach we are working on is to enable each beekeeper who wishes to bring bees to the heather to enter a direct agreement with FE.

HBA will help set up this arrangement which will include the insurance cover of up to £10 million held by registered HBA members but this will still leave the individual beekeeper liable were there to be a claim above the insurance limit.

However, each beekeeper can decide if that is a risk they are prepared to take in return for the perceived benefit of bringing their bees to the heather.

The charge per hive will be levied directly from each beekeeper by FE which would also charge an application fee. This is usually £90 inc vat but Forestry England has agreed in the circumstances to reduce this by 50% to £45.

The charge per hive would also be levied from each beekeeper but a reduced charge will apply to hobby beekeepers bringing nine or fewer hives to the heather.

Any registered member of HBA who wishes to apply for a permit to bring bees to the heather in the summer of 2022 should submit a request by email to

An application form will be returned by Forestry England to each applicant in mid-June for completion and return.

Further Information please email

Peter Grimes:

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