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

Living France - - Lifestyle -

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

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