Sweat, toil, yes but thankfully no tears or blood (Yet) …

A half day of digging double trenches breaking up unworked stony ground on an old lawn section near the Lion House. No treasure. No cables or pipes. A few well rotted roots that were demolished by happy Visayan warty pigs when put in their enclosures. (The pigs are better diggers than me!) No sign of any animal bones so far (it was not uncommon in the past for some zoos to bury large past occupants of enclosures in quiet corners before cremation was a more common and dignified disposal).

Several offers made of visitors’ children to line the bottom of the trenches being dug for zoo vegetables in our wartime zoo keepers’ garden. Useful things trenches, for parents to persuade small children to behave, as they told their offspring that I was busy digging small graves.

A humid day with light rain, so lots of sweat dripping into stony ground, the bottom of the double trenches lined with well rotted zoo compost and zoo poo from out of  our muck heaps in the service yard.

Lovely being able to talk to visitors about what the World War Zoo garden project was about, so a certain amount of ‘leaning on a spade and chatting to visitors’ time needs to be built into the project.

Want to see how it’s properly done? Look at www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profiles0105/double_digging.asp  

Off home for a soak in a very warm bath, as digging new ground is harder work than I thought!

Project Background: Our World War Zoo research project and blog aims to uncover and collect many of the strange tales from this time not only for their own merit, but as a tribute to people of that difficult time and also for what lessons we can learn for our own future. There are lessons to be learnt for the coming days when our food and fuel, resources and climate may become scarce or more unpredictable.

Our World War Zoo project will be a practical living memorial, almost history that you can eat in the form of a wartime “dig for victory garden” being recreated at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall. More news of this project follows over the next few weeks as we prepare the ground and get planting.

Watch this space!

Mark Norris,

World War Zoo Project team, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK

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