Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Driving over an 1820s suspension bridge and visiting Chain Bridge Honey Farm

There were two items of great news awaiting me when I returned from
Bus cafe at Chain Bridge Honey Farm 
our bridge and honey outing yesterday! An email from PETA celebrated the government's decision not to go ahead with its proposed vote on repealing the fox hunting ban today - I am very happy that the weight of public opinion actually broached their ivory towers! I also got a 'heads up' from my Half The Sky Kiva team that 'free loans' were on offer from The Chegg Foundation so I rushed to their website to get mine. Thanks to the Foundation I have lent $25 of their money to Rosa Enid who is a coffee farmer in Costa Rica.

Union Bridge from above 
Coffee farming leads, in a tenuous way, back to the main events of
Union Bridge cables - stronger
than they look! 
yesterday because we had more of the delicious Northern Edge coffee in an adapted cafe-bus at Chain Bridge Honey Farm! Our drive there was along tiny, mostly single-track roads which are very pretty, but somewhat nerveracking for the driver, in this case Dave. Then just before the farm, we knew that the a bridge ahead had a two ton weight limit, but had missed the two metre width sign. Our car just crept between solid concrete bollards and we were driving across Union Bridge! Opened in 1820 and, at the time, the longest carriage-carrying suspension bridge in the world, I am glad we drove over it before parking up to take a closer look. I would have had a major Michael-Palin-in-GBH moment otherwise! As we walked on the bridge it was very obvious that it moves significantly with passing traffic. Three children jumping in unison could also make it sway and ripple - thanks to them for that! I know it was safe, but the real sensation of its hanging-ness was bizarre.

Union Bridge 

We chose to walk for a couple of hours to Horncliffe and along the River
Herriot's Walk at Horncliffe 
Tweed's banks. At one point we joined the Herriot's Walk for a very pretty loop. We learned from an amazingly woodworked and gravelled bench installation in their memory that the Herriot in question was not the famous author but Paddy and Alan who were 'Good Village Folk'. A chatty dogwalking woman advised us against continuing too far along the riverpath as the grass would become waist-height and 'saturated'. We turned uphill and paused on another impressively located bench. We were happy to see a swift flying alongside swallows. It's easy to tell them apart when they are together! I photographed some more beautiful unknown flowers. Perhaps there is a floral version of the RSPB's bird identifier somewhere online? no-longer-unidentified flowers! Thanks for sharing the info, Gemma!

A now-identified flower! Himalayan Balsam which I
learn is invasive and we are trying to eradicate it 
Chain Bridge Honey Farm is a working bee farm that has some 2000 colonies, a vintage bus that has been converted into a cafe, and lots of bee information in an information centre by the shop. We can highly recommend the lentil and vegetable soup, the honey sponge cake, the gingerbread which is served with butter, and the aforementioned coffee. We thoroughly enjoyed starting our thirteenth year together with this lunch out! It was a Bristol bus too!

A collection of vintage vehicles is mostly farming-types, but also had a
Gentleman's caravan at Chain Bridge Honey Farm 
couple of motorcycles, scooters, a steam engine, and this Gentleman's Caravan - actually owned by a woman and used to take her family on holidays. The caravan is about four metres long inside and has a lovely built in wooden dresser sink unit at one end. Too cute! This section of the farm also has a mezzanine with hundreds of vintage domestic and garage items including oil cans, food packaging, 1940s newspapers, matchboxes, .... The collection reminded us of the madness of the similar Amberley Museum, although Chain Bridge is on a much smaller scale.

A real bee hive behind glass is a feature of the visitors' centre and there
Some kind of vetch 
is also a viewing platform from which we watched a trio of operatives filling plastic pots with fresh honey and securing the lids. We purchased a jar of honey from the shop and also picked up a copy of Still Alice from bookshelves outside. Walking, cake, honey and a book - my perfect day!

I hope independent bee keepers such as Chain Bridge Honey Farm continue to exist. Its eccentric mix of attractions and cafe made for an excellent afternoon out. However, as we all know, mass-produced chemical products are threatening bees with global extinction, possibly as swiftly as within three human generations. They pollinate as much as a third of all our food plants. What will be the cost of replacing them - environmentally as well as in cash on our grocery bills? We may soon find out as "a contractor for Bayer -- one of the biggest producers of bee-killing pesticides -- is threatening to sue SumOfUs if [they] don’t back off" in their campaign to protect bees. Can you chip in to help SumOfUs fight these bullying tactics? Even if you can't spare money to help, please share the campaign on social media networks and by chatting with friends. The more people who stand up against the likes of Bayer, the more chance we have of keeping bees. Thank you.

Tree tunnel near Horncliffe 

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