SPARSHOLT College celebrated the return of bees to its 400-acre campus at an event which launched the start of the college’s centenary celebrations.

The milestone marked 100 years of land-based education and training on its current site. Special guests and VIPs including college president Lord Malmesbury joined the principal and the Sparsholt team last week to mark the launch of the centenary celebrations.

Lord Malmesbury was joined by John Cosburn, head of Hampshire Beekeepers Association, and Adrian Kelly, seasonal bee inspector from FERA, the Food and Environment Research Agency, as 120,000 bumblebees living in four hives took up residence in the college’s orchard.

A lime tree was planted as a permanent commemoration of the event. It is particularly attractive to bees and will support the cross-pollination between the orchard trees and the wild flowers.

Tim Jackson, Sparsholt College principal, said: “This event marks the beginning of our centenary celebrations, which recognise the incredible contribution this college has made to the training and education of those working in the land-based industries.

“From ploughing the land in 1914 to research and innovative development in 2014, Sparsholt College has been at the forefront of training to ensure those entering these professions continue to push industry ever forward.”

Once happily settled among the college orchard, the bees will make an important contribution to the curriculum, in particular for students on the horticulture, agriculture and conservation programmes.

They will experience first-hand the vital role bees play in pollination and how this feeds into sustainable agriculture and the environment.

Sparsholt will also be marking its centenary with a series of activities throughout the year, including a specialist lecture programme, conferences and events.

This year, Countryside Day will be vintagethemed, as visitors are invited to celebrate 100 years of progression.

For former students an alumni group will be launched, and for prospective students looking to advance their studies to degree level, a centenary scholarship.