It is with great sadness that I have to announce that our dear friend and long standing Dean Forest member Phil passed away peacefully at 5.40pm this afternoon. He has been ill for 18 months, and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about 6 months ago.

He died at home in the house where he was born 79 years ago. I’m sure you will all join with us in sending his wife Jean and his family our deepest sympathy.

Jim and Val, Tuesday 10th May

Phil’s funeral was held on Friday, 27th May at the Forest of Dean Crematorium.

Phil Phelps wins theHoney Show Cup 2007

Phil Phelps wins the Honey Show Cup 2007

With Phil’s passing Dean Forest Beekeepers has lost a man who contributed a lot of time and energy to the association and whose support I valued in my role as Chairman from 2004 to 2010 and as a member.

In the Autumn of 1999, I joined DFB as a very new and inexperienced beekeeper and, at my first meeting, I met Phil who had 40 years experience  in the art. Despite his deafness, he was easy to communicate with and we quickly became friends.  I took over as Chairman and with it a lot of problems but Phil was always there to help.

In 2006 we had found a permanent site for the apiary and Phil restored a bit of waste ground into the site we have today.  Every week he cut the grass and, as we only had apiary meetings every fortnight, helped Jim, Marie (our secretary at the time) and me with the second weekly inspections. He always knew what was needed and could find queens from several feet away. To be in the shed whilst he built frames was an experience. Not gentle hitting of gimp pins but great big thumps, to which he was oblivious but sent us out into the apiary!!! We didn’t have to worry about servicing  equipment, Phil just took care of it all in his gentle manner.

He knew the whole of the forest and was invaluable on Bee Safaris and a very good baker always winning the cake class at the annual Honey Show and invariably taking home the cups for best exhibit and most points. Unfortunately as the number of members increased he found it difficult to deal with a crowd and his visits to the apiary became rare.

Phil’s dogs were all rescue or uncontrollable when they came to him but Phil worked his charm on them and they became lovely pets. He always had a little terrier in the car with him.  Apart from his bees, Phil also kept a herd of goats, a flock of hens, several geese (the gander being rescued from Hereford Christmas Market) and a crow which was brought to him 18 years ago with a broken wing. He had a splendid garden but didn’t grow flowers only plants he could eat.

Phil was a gentle and compassionate man with a natural and instinctive feeling for the bees.  I learnt a lot about bees and life from him and will miss his kindly manner and his sense of fun.

Goodbye, dear friend

Val