The BUZZ of it
Kevin and Amanda Baughen left behind their busy lives in Surrey to run bee-keeping holidays in Charente. Stephanie Sheldrake finds out how they turned their passion into a business
Sitting on their terrace at 10 o’clock at night looking at the summer sun setting over the River Vienne, Kevin and Amanda Baughen relax and take in everything they have achieved. Their large detached villa, situated on the edge of Confolens in north-east Charente, is surrounded by three acres of land where they have cultivated wild flower meadows – an essential part of their new life in France, as the couple are avid bee-keepers and share their passion with guests by hosting bee-keeping holidays and workshops.
It was a yearning to leave behind their busy lives in Surrey that triggered the need for change. “We were tired of the rat race, the rampant consumerism and materialism of the south-east… We started to think there has to be more to life,” explains Kevin who used to work in marketing and communications, while Amanda was a fundraiser for St John’s Ambulance. “We wanted a change; to be able to bring some of our own private passions into earning a living, which involved educating and coaching people, and bee-keeping.”
Having decided that they needed a new direction in life, the couple remembered a piece of advice that a mentor had once given Kevin: “Whenever you’re looking at a significant life decision, try to make sure you’re running towards something positive, not just away from something negative,” he says. “And the two halves of that equation came together for us.”
The couple have been interested in bee-keeping for many years, but the desire to learn more started in earnest eight years ago when Kevin bought Amanda a day’s taster session at a local bee-keeping association in the UK.
“From then on she was completely smitten and spent months convincing me to do the same, and then we invested in some DEFRA-sponsored training.”
The residential training course that the couple attended in Shropshire gave them inspiration to do something similar themselves. “We thought, ‘we could do this in arguably a nicer, warmer, sunnier location’. That’s when we first got the kernel of the idea,” remembers Kevin.
The couple were too young to retire, and both needed and wanted to continue earning a living. Running bee-keeping holidays was the perfect solution. “We both love bee-keeping and sharing what we know; we love having people here and showing them the lovely part of the world we’re lucky enough to live in,” says Kevin. They also knew that ‘experience holidays’ are becoming increasingly popular.
“And, bee-keeping is in the news – it’s a hot topic right now,” says Kevin. “Those things all came together to suggest there was an opportunity here for us to share what we love with other people.”
Kevin and Amanda spent the next four to five years in the UK working with various bee-keeping associations, and practising what they had learned. Initially the couple looked into running beekeeping holidays in the UK, but realised it would be too expensive to buy the type of property with the land they would need, without giving up their day jobs. So they turned their sights further afield and France was the logical location for their new venture.
“We have loved coming to France for many years, and always talked about the advantages of living here as opposed to
Left: Guests attending a bee-keeping workshop open a hive for the first time Above: Amanda and Kevin Baughen Top right: The couple currently have five hives, with plans for 10 by the end of September Right: Examining one of the hives