Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester to Edinburgh cycle ride

September 21-24 2016

This September an intrepid group of cyclists will make an epic journey northwards to raise awareness of urban beekeeping, tree planting and cycling. The ride will be a four day test of character from Manchester to Kendal, Kendal to Dumfries, Dumfries to Glasgow and then finally Glasgow to Edinburgh totalling 334 miles. The ride team, which includes Manchester Museums and Galleries Partnership staff, staff from Manchester City Council and invited guests, have spent the summer donning lycra and pounding out the miles in a desperate attempt to be ride fit for September.

Manchester Museums and Galleries Partnership Cycle jersey 2016

This year’s ride follows on from the success of a cycle to London in 2015 in collaboration with the Chelsea Fringe Festival. That journey culminated in an event at Bethnal Green where, quite literally hot off his bike, Visitor Services Manager John Mouncey gave a presentation about the urban sustainability work of Manchester Museums and Galleries Partnership.

The event is supported by Grow Wild, Manchester City of Trees and River of Flowers to promote the importance of tree and wildflower planting across the UK.

Launching the ride will be a tree planting event in Whitworth Park in conjunction with Manchester City of Trees. The ride will culminate with a celebratory event in Edinburgh in collaboration with Grow Wild Scotland and Cycling UK.

Along the route a bespoke mix of wildflower seeds curated specifically to provide flowers for bees will be given away.

We’ll be posting regular Twitter, Instagram and blog updates from the peloton as it ventures north.



Gardens, bees, honey, beer and cycling

The start of the year is when my thoughts turn to our bees and to the projects I can get involved with to ensure their continued survival and to provide forage. The honey that we harvested in autumn sold out within weeks, although our yields were low compared with 2014. A particularly wet summer meant a lot of lost foraging time. We have checked our hives this week and they seem to be healthy and strong, let’s just hope for a long hot summer.

The success of The Lost Gardens of Manchester has resulted in an award from The Royal Horticultural Society and North West in Bloom – It’s Your Neighbourhood Award, Level 5 Outstanding. The award came as a complete surprise and I am very proud to have played a part in such a positive and well received project. Its success has provided the momentum to work on further ideas and establish a legacy.

This year I am planning on extending the gardens by planting an urban orchard, the space will provide forage for bees and other pollinators while doubling as an area to relax and spend 15 minutes away from the bustle of everyday Manchester life. The benefits of urban green spaces have been documented extensively and this is an area which we are keen to promote and explore.

I am hopeful that the trees will provide fruit that can be harvested and used in some way for a series of Thursday Lates events. My interest in urban growing is also going to continue due to funding from Grow Wild, who have awarded myself and Richard Searle from Manchester City Council and a fellow bee-keeper, an award to create ‘Brew Wild’. We’ll be linking with local communities to grow produce that will be harvested to create a Manchester Beer and non alcoholic cordials. This is something we are very excited about, so after securing funding we now have a lot of hard work in front of us to actually make it happen. There will be events here at the gallery focusing on the orchard and ‘Brew Wild’ so please watch this space and our twitter and Facebook channels for information.

Although September seems a long way off and my thoughts are exploding with fruit trees and making beer, my third project of the year will see an intrepid group of cyclists make the journey from Manchester to Edinburgh. Last year’s cycle to London was such a great achievement that this year we really want to challenge ourselves! The ride will be in collaboration with Grow Wild, River of Flowers and Red Rose Forest and we’ll be stopping at destinations along the way over four days to plant flowers and trees. We’ll be promoting the benefits of trees, cycling, planting and growing, culminating in an event at the Headquarters of Grow Wild Scotland.

So a lot of work to be done on the three projects but I am sure they will bring great rewards for everyone.


John Mouncey, March 2016

Behind the Scenes: The Gallery bees and garden

It all started in 2011.

I wrote a proposal to keep bees on the rooftop of Manchester Art Gallery. I had been reading an article about rooftop beekeeping on The Tate Modern and thought if they can do it then so can we. It also seemed apt that the symbol of Manchester is the bee. The proposal was accepted and that is when I wondered how to implement it!

I had no training or knowledge of beekeeping so along with my enthusiastic co-worker, John Peel, we enrolled on a beekeeping course and then bought a hive.
We now have 3 hives on the roof which produce enough honey for us to sell in the gallery shop – Bee Raphaelite Honey. We also have lip balm made with the wax from the hives.

The last four years have given me a wonderful insight into the world of beekeeping. It has introduced me to amazing people and provided fantastic experiences. I have appeared in a film about urban rooftop beekeepers. I have given a talk at Tatton Flower Show. We have held staff forums on the roof and even a BBC Radio Manchester broadcast. It has led to my interest in urban sustainability and planting flowers for foraging. As well as the three hives on the roof we now have a rooftop garden growing flowers for the bees to forage.

There has also been an allotment using old pallets and the produce grown used for a Harvest supper at MAG. My passion for urban sustainability has led to my involvement with the Lost Gardens of Manchester, working with The National Trust to create the new green space at the front of the gallery.

I have been working with Grow Wild, an organisation who promote the planting of wildflowers and was successful in receiving funding from Grow Wild to plant a medicinal garden at the front of the gallery. This is a space that we hope to develop and ultimately be able to use the herbs and plants.

I have worked very closely with River of Flowers – an organisation which encourages wildflower planting in urban areas – and Landlife from The National Wildflower Centre in Liverpool. These amazing people have helped to produce a bespoke Manchester Art Gallery wildflower seed mix called Cycle-Flower-Power also available in the gallery shop.

In May of this year 6 gallery colleagues joined me on a 3 day cycle ride from Manchester to London to promote the sustainability projects that the Manchester Museums and Galleries Partnership undertakes. Along the way we gave out packets of our wildflower seed mix and we ended our journey with an event in Bethnal Green as part of The Chelsea Fringe Festival. We have big plans for another cycle ride in 2016 to further promote the work we do with partner organisations.

The last four years have seen a lot of hard work and effort into realising these projects. They wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the extraordinary help some people are prepared to give and also the backing and encouragement of the gallery. There are many like minded people in Manchester who keep bees on roofs, who plant wildflowers and endeavour to make the city, and beyond, a better place. In the future we will hopefully be able to have a cohesive map of these wonderful spaces that are hidden to many people.

As the bees get prepared for the winter and as the flowers wait for spring, I will be planning next years growing and cycling. For now our Honey will be on sale in the shop and we have an evening of celebrating apples to prepare for.

There is an old folklore which tells us to tell the bees all our news and they will pass that on. I think specifically it is births, marriages and deaths but I will take that analogy and pass on all future happenings from our rooftops.


John Mouncey, Visitor Services Gallery Manager

Bee-Raphaelite Sisterhood

New hives on the roof

So after the morose opening post of the 2015 bee season we return to sunnier times. Yesterday the sun came out and it felt like summer had finally arrived. In true synchronistic style we installed 2 new bee nucleii onto the Gallery roof. This brings our hive total to 3 and provides us with the perfect opportunity to rename the apiary. Following in the tradition of the Bee-Raphaelite honey the apiary will be named the Bee Raphaelite Sisterhood; with the hives named after the founding members – Honey Hunt, Milly Millais and Rosie Rosetti.

Honey Hunt will be our remaining hive from previous years. Milly Millais and Rosie Rosetti will be the 2 new hives that will be in a new position – an experiment to see if the reason behind all the queen problems of the now absent hive was due to its location. Today we shall be transferring the frames from the nucleus boxes to the hives themselves now that the bees have had chance to reorient themselves.