Obituary written by Sylvia's son, Stephen, with the help of Ed West.

Sylvia Chamberlin died on 11th November 2018, after a rich and varied life, at the age of 84 following a long battle with vascular dementia.  Sylvia was known in the beekeeping world for her work on a scheme for introducing bees and beekeeping into schools through the “Bees in the Curriculum” project that she developed from scratch. For this work she was awarded an Honorary Life Membership of BBKA.

 Sylvia was born to John and Edith Greenwood in 1934 in Denton, at that time a small Lancashire town on the Cheshire border, east of Manchester. Her mother had a career as a grammar school teacher and her father was a Dyestuffs scientist.  She went to the local County primary school until 9 years old when her parents transferred her to the Preparatory Department of Manchester High School for Girls. There she met her life-long friend Mary Peers; the two of them were academically the top two in the top stream.  The school had been bombed out of its new, unfinished buildings in 1940 and had moved to temporary accommodation in a Victorian house in Didsbury. These were exciting times according to Sylvia. The family moved to Didsbury, a southern suburb of Manchester around this time.

Sylvia was by now already showing the characteristics that guided her life. She joined the Girl Guides and through her parents’ help and encouragement developed interest in plant taxonomy, wild flowers and natural geography and landscape. At senior school she studied science and continued her outside interests. She went on what must have been one of the first Outward Bound Courses for Females prior to going up to Manchester University, which reinforced her love of outdoors and adventure and is probably where she first started rock climbing. When she went up to Manchester in 1952 one of the first things she did was found the Womens Mountaineering Club where she was responsible for organising trips all over the country. (Her friends commented on her ability to find and organise holidays in interesting places.) Immediately after graduating in 1955 she organised trips with her fellow graduands to Skye and Ben Nevis. Amongst many other expeditions, in 1960 she organised a trip by plane to the Pyrenees. It is very likely that on another holiday she climbed the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye. It was on a skiing trip to Norway in 1961 that she met her husband-to-be Raymond and they were married in 1963 and spent their honeymoon camping in the Outer Hebrides.

Sylvia’s first job after graduating was teaching physics at Millhouses  Grammar School in Sheffield where she shared a flat with her sister Celia who was studying medicine at the University. She moved to London after marriage to Raymond, living in Neasden where she taught science at a local school and Raymond worked at the then Post Office Research Establishment at Dollis Hill. Their three sons were born in London and Sylvia was initially fully occupied with their care. In 1971 the family moved to what would be their permanent family home in High Wycombe. Raymond continued at Dollis Hill and Sylvia initially taught science at Cressex Secondary School in High Wycombe and then for the rest of her career at Beaconsfield High school for Girls. She retired from teaching in 1992.

Sylvia and Raymond started beekeeping in the early 1980’s, well before retirement, taking the BBKA preliminary exams in 1986. She soon became an active member of High Wycombe Beekeepers Association, becoming Honey Show Secretary in 1993 and Speakers Secretary in 2003. She was elected President of HWBKA in 2006. She ran the Honey Show tent at the Wycombe Show for several years and had an educational section as an important part. She played a major part in establishing contact with children, schools visits and development of material for introducing children to and educating them about bees and beekeeping. This seeded a National Honey Show essay on the subject of bees in schools that was the incentive for the Bees in the Curriculum project which was later transferred to BBKA and introduced nationally. During her time as Speakers Secretary she and Raymond used the opportunity go off around the country to “audition” speakers to see if they were worth inviting to Association meetings.

Sylvia was also active at County level, becoming Secretary of Bucks County Beekeepers Association. She and Raymond were long term members of the Central Association of Beekeepers and the International Bee Research Association. She was involved with Bees Abroad, Bees for Development and the Transrural Trust. One project she was particularly proud of was undertaken during a visit to Kosovo after the civil war of 1998-99 where she was shocked by the levels of poverty and the horrors left behind by the conflict. She worked with local beekeepers teaching them how to diversify from honey to other hive products such as soaps, creams, lotions, tinctures and other wax products to increase their income.

Sylvia’s keen interest in travel was greatly indulged in retirement. There were visits to Apimondia in Vancouver, Canada in 1999; Lubljana in Slovenia in 2003; Dublin in 2005; Melbourne in Australia in 2007. For the Dublin meeting they travelled in their VW Campervan!  There were also visits to meet beekeepers in Nepal, India and Africa, and nearer to home in Europe.

In between all this activity Sylvia and Raymond continued their own beekeeping, having 3-4 apiaries with a total 30-40 hives at their peak. They were great fans of the Smith Hive (Raymond made all their hives himself in their garage workshop). They were keen on all aspects of the science and practice of beekeeping: using microscopy for disease identification and study, swarm control techniques, queen rearing etc. and teaching beginners and more advanced students at HWBKA. Sylvia was also keen on showing, and they were members of the National Honey Show where they exhibited successfully in honey, mead, wax and wax products, winning prizes. Her beekeeping activities scaled down in later years and she retired from beekeeping in about 2010.  The last thing to go was the indoor observation hive in about 2011.

Sylvia and Raymond were also members of the High Wycombe Society; Raymond being a keen supporter in the restoration of Pan Mill on the Rye, an old corn grinding watermill.

Sylvia managed all this activity and still did the most important thing to her in her life – raising her family. Her sons remember a wonderful mother - for boys, (a great cook!),  a mother who brought home the school computer during the holidays (which gave them the opportunity to learn to program in BASIC and machine code at an early age), and provided a loving home environment. She is survived by her husband Raymond, her three sons and a grandson. Her sister predeceased her.