A FRIENDLY bunch of beekeepers is celebrating 75 years of dedication to the age-old craft.

Kendal and South Westmorland Beekeepers Association was founded in 1945 to bring together experienced apiarists and people new to beekeeping.

This year's 75th anniversary marks a milestone for the group of around 80 bee enthusiasts, who are looking to the future by sharing their passion with a new generation of beekeepers.

Bee clubs have been set up at Crosthwaite CE Primary School and Kendal's Heron Hill Primary School, where dozens of children are reaping the benefits of taking part in the rewarding hobby. Students don protective bee suits and veiled hoods to tend to their colonies, and make their own honey.

Dr Julia Pigott, who runs educational activities for Kendal and South Westmorland Beekeepers, said beekeeping could "change lives" for both young and old.

A beekeeper for around 35 years, her interest dates back to her childhood.

She said that although the Kendal group started after World War Two, beekeeping had been popular during the war, perhaps because of the extra sugar rations given to people for feeding their hives of honeybees.

"I think there were other organisations running in the county, so I imagine it was a sense of this is going on elsewhere, let's get together and do it," said Dr Pigott, of the Kendal group's origins.

"The appeal is that it's definitely a social thing and you meet people from all walks of life.

"There's something in it for almost everybody."

During the winter, Tuesday night gatherings take place monthly at Cumbria Wildlife Trust in Kendal, where members learn about topics such as keeping their bee colonies healthy, or how to turn beeswax into candles. The summer sees members out and about visiting apiaries and schools.

They also help to run Brigsteer Bee Reserve, in the Lyth Valley, where grassland is managed to favour flower-rich flora.

Beekeeping courses are run in late spring and summer, and there will be an introduction to beekeeping course at Brigsteer Village Hall from May 15 to 17.

To find out more or get involved, visit kendalbeekeepers.com