60 seconds with… Queen Bee, Paula Carnell

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Paula Carnell

From artist to global naturopathic bee expert and consultant to the unique Beezantium at The Newt at Hadspen House, Paula has an incredible passion for bees and our connection with the natural rhythms of the earth. Here Paula shares how sometimes the worst thing that happens can become a gift that transforms our lives

How did your passion for bees begin?
I was in bed and wheelchair-bound for seven years with Ehlers Danlos syndrome (a condition that affects joint hypermobility and extreme tiredness). About two years in, my husband built me a beehive and a local beekeeper, Chris Wright, put some bees in and taught me beekeeping. Before being ill I was a professional artist with a gallery and so losing my health and career meant I needed to think of things I could do to stay sane, rather than thinking about what I could no longer do.

Beekeeping means one must have an innate sense of calm: how do you manage it?
I think the seven years in bed helped to teach me to be calm! Bees resonate at a frequency of 256Htz: this related to emotions is ‘being present’, so to work with bees if you match their frequency or wavelength, they are happier when you work with them. Fact is a healthy colony spends most of the time resting.

Paula Carnell

You’re a ‘honey sommelier’?
Yes, I trained in Bologna. It’s a name given to someone trained to distinguish the floral and other sources of honey from taste, aroma, and visual appearance. I now get to use my skills as a honey judge in global competitions.

How did you become The Newt’s bee expert?
They found me and invited me to look around in 2017. I was asked what I thought they could do with bees, so I outlined my dreams for bees. They said: ‘Wow, and will you do it?’ It’s the Beezantium.

Do your family share your love of bees?
More a love of honey!

How did lockdown affect the bees, and you?
I delved deeper into my bee world during lockdown and was grateful I was able to still work with them. My secret to happiness is in living my passion, while balancing my health. 10 years ago, I was still very poorly. I’m so inspired by trees and the way nature communicates with each other. My garden in Castle Cary is full of medicinal herbs and trees that I planted 17 years ago.

What’s the best thing you’ve learned while developing your passion?
The connectiveness of ALL things and our place within nature. My favourite time of the day is early morning, for the peace and quiet.

You’ve always been a Somerset gal; why is the Blackmore Vale so special to you?
I was born in Dorset, moved to Yetminster in 1976, then to Castle Cary in 1990, so grew up in the Blackmore Vale and with the magazine: it supported me throughout my art career during the 1990s so it’s lovely to be featured in the magazine again.

Best moment in business? And the worst?
The worst moment for me in my career was in losing my art when I was ill, but the best moments are when I hear how people have been inspired by my work with bees.

Best moment in life so far?
My 50th birthday meditating in a Bhutanese temple with 20 women and a couple of yogis. (Obviously my wedding day and my sons being born are up there too!)

Paula Carnell

What is your favourite way to retreat in life?
I like to just sit with bees or walk in nature. I go to the Dorset coast when I need peace and solitude: my favourite corner is Hilfield Friary. I don’t really listen to music, preferring silence, however in 2020 I found a song by Rayah called Become yourself, which I played repeatedly to keep my spirits uplifted whilst chaos in the world was going on.
What’s the one thing about bees you think many people don’t realise?
We need them more than they need us! It’s not about pollination, it’s about the fact the environment we share with them is killing them, and us.

Can you say anything positive about wasps?
Yes, we need them! There are over 100,000 different varieties and they are the rubbish collectors of nature.

What’s one thing you think people won’t know about you?
I used to play the piano accordion. I do love sewing my own dresses. I have a single vintage pattern which fits me and so have it in about 20 different fabrics!

You’ve achieved so much in your career… What’s next on the horizon?
Bees inspire me. I’d love to do more filming, about bees, particularly a documentary about what I learned in Bhutan. It inspired my book, A Quest for bees in Bhutan, and I’d love more people who are unable to visit there to have a taste of the incredible sense of peace and purity in that kingdom.

What’s next for Paula Carnell?
For me, it’s seeing more people understand the messages from the bees and doing little things every day to help them. Messages such as ‘what is killing them is killing us’, and: oh, we can learn so much.

To learn more about Paula’s story, her books or one of her beekeeping courses, visit paulacarnell.com.

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