Why bees love to forage on Salisbury Plain
The bees that make local Salisbury Honey forage on Salisbury Plain, rather than in the City of Salisbury. So the honey they make is mostly from wild flowers.
Salisbury Plain is a large plateau forming part of the chalk downlands that cover southern England. This is, in fact, the largest expanse of chalk grassland in north-west Europe – the result of several thousand years of sheep and cattle grazing.
You might associate Salisbury Plain with Neolithic archeological sites, of which Stonehenge is the most famous. Or perhaps you'll be thinking of military training grounds.
But what may not be not so well known about Salisbury Plain is that it's been named an 'Important Plant Area' by Plantlife, the charity dedicated to conserving plants in their natural habitat.
This, along with the large military training areas that are not accessible to the public, have made Salisbury Plain a wildlife haven. Parts of the Plain are a Special Area of Conservation due to the orchids and other wild plants growing there.
Sanfoin, the honey bees' favourite
Of all the wildflowers that like the chalky soil of Salisbury Plain, the one that attracts the most honey bees is sanfoin (Onobruchis vicifolia). This plant is said to attract more honey bees than any of the other well known honey legumes, including clover, alfalfa and acacia.
This is why nectar from sanfoin is the most predominant in our Salisbury honey. Sanfoin honey has a delicious, sweet taste and is a paler golden colour than other honeys.
Sanfoin flowers (shown above) are almost conical in shape with small pink, or sometimes whitish, stripy leaves, at the base. It flowers between between May and September.
As well as growing wild, sanfoin is also used in agriculture as a soil cover crop and provides forage for sheep and cattle as well as honey bees. It's also called 'holy hay'!
Sanfoin had been declining in popularity since the 1960s, but is now attracting more interest due to the trend towards sustainability, the plant's beneficial properties and increased support for pollinators.