An ambitious ten-year plan to safeguard the future of honey bees in the southern Dales has been launched by Wharfedale Beekeepers Association.

And it is being helped in its survival and growth plan by offenders.

The UK’s honey bee population is in decline and Wharfedale Beekeepers Association (WBKA) has launched a long-term project at Tarn Moor, just north of Skipton, with the emphasis on education and training. Association chairman Simon Croker has linked his dream of developing an apiary and training centre with his work as a probation services officer.

His ten-year vision has not only helped secure the land and equipment needed to turn the vision into reality, but he has arranged for probationers to carry out much of the work at the site, including fencing, hedge-planting and dry stone walling. The offenders are doing the work as part of their time on probation, helping them to put something back into the community while learning the skills that might keep them from re-offending.

Craven College has tailored a course around the work and will award certificates in areas such as first aid, health and safety, rural skills and dry stone walling. Upon completion of the work, the offenders will receive a job reference and credits towards further qualifications.

Simon said: “This project is already working for the ten offenders involved. They are enjoying the work, which they find challenging and cold, but they understand what they’re doing and feel ownership of the project.

“I’m delighted with how the project is working. The partnership with Craven College is excellent and the offenders are learning a lot that they feel will help them go on and get a job. This is a project of worth with real outcomes for WBKA, probation and the offenders themselves.”

Offenders from both West and York and North Yorkshire Probation are involved in the project.