Waste not, want not and D-Day: throwaway food versus Newquay Zoo’s wartime zoo keepers ‘grow your own’ garden

A bucket full of weeding, 'waste not, want not' signage from a wartime children's book and Spinach beet from the Newquay Zoo wartime zoo keepers' garden.

A bucket full of weeding, 'waste not, want not' signage from a wartime children's book and Spinach beet from the Newquay Zoo wartime zoo keepers' garden.

The wartime Squander Bug is back in Britain with a vengeance!

The change in hours with Daylight Saving Time (another hangover from wartime) meant I was awake for the farming news on the radio this morning . WRAP the food wastage and recycling thinktank reckoned that over five million potatoes are thrown in our household bins each day, with a similar number of tomatoes and 1 to 2 million apples a day (which would obviously keep away lots of doctors). You can find out more on their website http://www.wrap.org.uk/ and and their ad campaign Love Food Hate Waste http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/.  

This is obviously one very large wasted compost heap going into landfill! I wonder what wartime zoo keepers and families on rations for themselves and animals would have thought of this? What would Potato Pete (as sung by a young Betty Driver, later Betty Turpin of Coronation Street fame) have said?

The facts and figures of annual UK household food waste make alarming reading by wartime standards  http://www.wrap.org.uk/downloads/The_Food_We_Waste_v2__2_.dd97c529.5635.pdf 

Perhaps if we had to grow more of our own vegetables we might treat them with more value?

Weeding out grass from amongst the late autumn salad in the zoo veg patch over the weekend (my least favourite job) brought this home. Later on in the day came  the news reports of possibly the last Normandy Veterans commemoration service at Westminster Abbey  yesterday.  Many of these D-Day veterans, now in their eighties and nineties, left England for France from beaches along the West Country locally at Trebah Gardens, where a memorail now stands to them. GI troops from the USA encamped at our sister zoo in Paignton (and ate the peacocks)  or trained disastrously around Paignton Zoo’s now peaceful nature reserve at Slapton Sands and Ley (as mentioned in our earlier blogs with its own poignant Sherman tank memorial). One of these Normandy veterans Peter Dwyer, an old friend of the zoo and contributor of nature notes to the Zoo Newsletter Paw Prints in the past, has his own happier occasion plaque on a bench in the zoo celebrating his 80th birthday here a few years back.

Today the Poppy appeal is launched locally by the Royal British Legion and we will plan to plant poppies (alongside potatoes!) in next year’s wartime garden. Poppies will be there not for the eating nor the colour but to help us remember. To happily remember men like Peter Dwyer and sadly remember thousands of others, zoo staff included, who did not return or recover and who could not forget. Not forgotten …

World War Zoo

World War Zoo is about looking back and looking forward, learning from the past to prepare for our future. The project developed from a chance discovery that zoos were closed in the early weeks of World War Two, and even though they were re-opened and supported as a way to boost morale, they struggled throughout. This was a time when food was short, and animals didn’t get ration books. Staffing was low with keepers being called up to fight, and repairs were difficult.

‘‘Our Wartime Garden project reflects the Dig for Victory gardens that sprang up in unlikely places all over the country, including zoos. It will also act as a living memorial to the bravery of many ordinary men, women and children. Newquay Zoo already recycles, composts and think about food miles when sourcing food for the café, and now the Victory Garden will demonstrate how keepers would grow food for the animals.’’ Staff at the zoo are hoping for a good crop of vegetables before the weather turns!

 To bring the period alive for families and schools visiting the zoo, staff members have been collecting wartime memorabilia and evocative items from everyday life of keepers, families, evacuated children and zoo visitors.


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