TAUNTON Beekeepers’ new centre of excellence was officially opened at Bradford-on-Tone by Taunton Deane MP Jeremy Browne on Saturday.

He joined the president of the British Beekeepers’ Association, Dr David Aston, Somerset Beekeepers’ chairman Jonathan Friend and members at the £83,000 building, which includes a lecture room, workshop, honey extraction facilities and kitchen.

Mary Adams, chairman of Taunton Beekeepers, said: “It marks a major milestone for Taunton Beekeepers. We now have a facility which we can use to provide a year-round education programme and lectures.

“It is fast becoming a centre of excellence for beekeeping in the Westcountry and we have already attracted external groups because of the quality of the facilities and our location so close to the M5.”

The cedar-clad, single-storey building replaces a small, dilapidated clubhouse built more than 50 years ago, which was demolished by volunteers.

The club covered the costs by running courses, holding an annual waggle dance and selling honey at Taunton Flower Show.

Mr Browne said: “Beekeeping is obviously important for the ecology and conservation of the area, but it’s also a magnificent social activity.”

Outside in the apiary there are 15 hives for teaching aids for beginners and more experienced beekeepers.