And they’re off: our bees are busy at work. To enjoy the fruits of their labour, you first need to find the right place to set up the hives: ideally, facing south, shaded by trees at sunrise, not far from a water source, and most importantly, somewhere where their favourite flowers grow in abundance. The season begins with lime trees and acacias, followed by heather, broom, hawthorn and then chestnut blossoms, thorn bush flowers and meadow flowers.
“In the month of April we see, going from flower to flower,
from garden to garden, the clever bee
Flitting and pillaging the crimson harvest.” Ronsard
Mission accomplished: last night, our beekeeper, Nicolas, moved the hives – a rather tricky process which is carried out at night while the bees are asleep. Now 26 more hives have been added to the six permanent hives. They’re located at two different places: one in the middle of the forest above Le Castelet, overlooking a huge meadow, and the other in the grounds of the estate, near the vegetable garden and orchard, ideally situated near our flowerbeds.
“Like the bee in our gardens blooming, different flowers I assemble and compose, the honey that I produce.” Jean-Baptiste Rousseau
Set in 60 hectares of land near Castres, 300 metres above sea level in unspoilt, natural countryside free of intensive farming, Le Castelet is an ideal environment for our busy worker bees, allowing Nicolas to make his high-quality honey.
After trying various careers, Nicolas decided to go back to nature and discovered a passion for beekeeping when he set up the Monts de l’Autan Apiary. In the beautiful natural setting of the Black Mountain, Nicolas now practises one of the oldest professions in the world in a spirit of simplicity and authenticity. In harmony with nature and the environment, Nicolas sees himself as a harvester – like the bees who gather nectar from flowers to make an exceptionally pure honey. Focusing on quality over quantity, Nicolas is always in search of a vintage honey. We recommend you take time to meet our “nectar harvester” during your stay at Le Castelet, and let him tell you about his passion.
No detail is overlooked: did you know, for example, that bees can distinguish certain colours (yellow, green, blue, ultra-violet)? Not the same way humans can, perhaps, but they can, which, is why Nicolas paints some of the hives blue to help our bees find their way back ‘home.’
The “Spring blossom,” “Chestnut blossom” “Castres flowers” and “Mountain” honeys all come from the Castelet hives. In addition to serving it in the morning for our bed & breakfast guests, we also use it in the home-made punch we serve at aperitif time and in salad dressings, sauces and gravies for our set menu dinner. You can also buy it from our gift shop and at a number of delicatessens in the area. So why not try an authentic "made in Tarn" and "made in Le Castelet" speciallity?
Translation: S Turbié