A project involving offenders safeguarding the future of honey bees has been highly commended in a national awards scheme.

Ten offenders from North and West Yorkshire Probation Trusts have been working with the Wharfedale Beekeepers Association to develop an apiary on Tarn Moor, near the Yorkshire Dales.

They have been learning skills including hedge-planting and dry stone walling, but also work ethic, team work and thinking skills.

The beekeepers association launched the project in January last year, and have now been recognised in the 2011 National Offender Management Wildlife Awards.

A similar programme with a new group of offenders has just begun on the site to develop a wildflower meadow, orchard and bee-friendly garden.

Simon Croker, chairman of the association and a probation service officer, said: “Being judged and highly commended for the community and outreach project category is a fantastic achievement for the three lads nominated. They have really made the project their own, working incredibly hard in challenging and cold conditions on an exposed, windy moor. I couldn’t be prouder of what they have achieved.”

The site, previously used for wheat production, is being transformed to create a bee paradise. As part of the project, the offenders undertook training led by Craven College, which enabled them to gain accredited qualifications in health and safety, first aid, dry stone walling and land-based rural skills.

Tristan Dudley, 33, a probationer who worked on the project, said: “I have learnt new skills, picked up qualifications, work experience and a reference. Being nominated for my work made me feel really proud, but to be commended by the judges is fantastic and makes me feel really positive about the future.”