My Suffolk Life: ‘I gave up my career to become a beekeeper’ 

Laura Middleditch of Lovelands Honey with her hives. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Laura Middleditch of Lovelands Honey with her hives - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

As I talk to Laura Middleditch about her new life, I can’t help picturing the rural idyll in my mind’s eye. It's akin to a scene from The Darling Buds of May. 

A flower-strewn cottage. Plank swings dangling from trees. Meadows of wildflowers dancing on the wind. The gentle hum of cricket wings clicking in tall grass. 

While there’s poetic license in my imaginings, they’re not far from the scene Laura has conjured of her new ‘office’. 

Tired of working for others in the paralegal world, just before the pandemic Laura downed tools and retreated to her and husband Robert’s farm (Lovelands) in Belchamp St Paul on the Suffolk/Essex border to decide what she’d do next. 

At the time her son Jonathan, who has special needs, had just returned home. It felt like a swift change of direction was on the cards for both of them. “He didn’t have many friends locally, and I saw an advert for an introduction to beekeeping at West Suffolk College – so we went along to see what it’s all about. As the weeks went by I thought ‘this is so interesting’. 

Laura Middleditch of Lovelands Honey with her hives. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Laura Middleditch - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“At the end of the course they said ‘does anyone want a hive?’, and I put my hand up!” 

Beekeeping as a new career didn’t occur to Laura at the time. She was still feeling out her options. “I’m very close to my children – we're a solid unit – and I wanted to do something for myself. Something we could have as a family firm, that I could pass on.” 

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Laura was lured by a history of art course in Cambridge, which she completed during lockdown while expanding her beekeeping empire to two hives, gaining insight and more knowledge from a local chap who’s been tending to the stripy insects for five decades. 

She made her own beeswax candles. “I couldn’t believe how fun it was...and the warm honey scent they gave off was gorgeous.” 

And when a local farm agreed to stock some of her excess honey, they sold out. 

“Robert said to me, ‘why don’t you have a go at selling this properly?’.” 

Laura Middleditch of Lovelands Honey with her hives. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Laura Middleditch of Lovelands Honey with her hives - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Laura Middleditch of Lovelands Honey with her hives. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Laura Middleditch of Lovelands Honey with her hives - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Then opportunity came knocking. 

“There was an initiative by Mid Suffolk council, offering a pitch at the local market. They’d lend you a gazebo and give guidance for a couple of weeks to see how it felt to run your own business. 

“I bottled some honey and went along to Hadleigh Market. It was so much fun and Justine Paul, who runs the market, said she thought I could do this for real.” 

Laura invested in a gazebo of her own, and today finds herself at Hadleigh and Needham’s markets regularly. 

“It’s absolutely flourishing,” she says of the business. “People are coming back to me week after week saying how lovely the honey is, and approaching me for candles.” 

It’s become quite the family affair too. “My daughter Lottie is looking after the marketing and social media, and Jonathan helps me travel to the markets, get the gazebo up and run the stall. It's so good for him, getting out meeting people.” 

As for the honey itself, Laura says: “It’s such a light, delicate, floral honey. People keep commenting on that. It’s not overpowering, so you can do an awful lot with it. We put it on chicken breasts with sea salt, which crisps up nicely. It’s delicious on feta, or in cocktails. We love it with gin and crushed ice.” 

The flavour of the honey is informed by the bees’ wild playground. Beyond the farm are fields that blossom with rapeseed, and phacelia – a dainty, insect-attracting blue flower used by farmers as green manure. There are wild pear trees nearby too. 

“Also, on the farm we’ve got a really really old lime tree. The bees love limes, and when you stand under it in the evenings it’s absolutely buzzing.” 

This bucolic new way of life has, she says, had a threefold affect on Laura. It’s brought her already tightknit family closer together, has given her a focus for practising mindfulness, and given her a greater appreciation of and connection to nature. 

Laura Middleditch of Lovelands Honey with her hives. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Laura Middleditch of Lovelands Honey with her hives - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Lovelands honey. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Lovelands honey - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“The whole family is enjoying joining in. I wasn’t sure what on earth I’d do when I decided to have a career change, but they say things happen for a reason, and this just seems to have fit for us. 

“What I enjoy most is the old-fashioned idea of talking to the bees. When I talk to them, I am right in that moment. I’ll open the hives and read the bees to see what they’re ‘saying’. They’re wild creatures. You can’t control them. You have to think ‘what are you trying to tell me?’. It’s relaxing and so cool. 

“I also think, in these times when we’re having to be so much more conscious of nature...that I’m doing something for the greater good. Helping keep the bees healthy and active. Gathering a beautiful natural product which I’m selling locally (with a low carbon footprint). Everything about this ‘ticks a box’ and makes me feel good.  

“It’s magical.” 

Find Lovelands honey at Hadleigh or Needham Market markets and find out more via their Facebook page Lovelandsbeeline.