FARMERS across part of East Lancashire could benefit from new grants aimed at stopping the decline of the country’s bee population.

The Duchy of Lancaster has announced a new Beekeeping Grant to encourage its farm tenants to support bees.

The organisation will offer the start-up support for tenants or interested parties who wish to take up beekeeping on its land.

The Duchy of Lancaster’s estates include large areas of the Ribble Valley including Whitewell and Dunsop Bridge in the Forest of Bowland.

The grant will provide aid for the equipment required to begin keeping bees as well as to cover the cost of training courses delivered by the network of Local Beekeeping Associations and by the British Beekeeping Association.

In recent years, the number of beekeepers in the UK has declined and bees have reduced in number.

But experts say bees are instrumental to the agriculture industry and the wider environment.

Nathan Thompson, chief executive of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “As custodian of the land with significant interest in the long-term viability of the countryside, we are seeking means to help promote bees and beekeeping within our surveys.

“As one of the main hindrances for aspiring beekeepers is the associated start-up cost, we are proposing to offer a grant to cover the initial cost should any of the Duchy’s tenants wish to keep bees.

“The grant will cover a beginner’s beekeeping course officiated by a beekeeping association, essential equipment including a hive, safety wear and honey extractor as well as the first swarm of bees which will used to begin honey production.”