Snow on the sandbags, snow on the salad leaves in the wartime zookeeper’s garden – and whether to feed the birds in wartime winter weather.

Managing to get into Newquay Zoo for the first time in a week, the zoo having been closed for several days by snow and ice on the paths,  I was surprised not to find our wartime zoo keeper’s garden entirely blighted by snow, ice and frost. I couldn’t get in to put covers on before we were hit by snow, an unusual occurence in Cornwall but certainly a disruptive one.

As best we can tell, the leeks have come through, the  last lettuces have poked their heads through the snow again, the carrot tops are still buried in snow and the last salad rocket straggles through the snow. A few days off have given time to plan a little more of what can be planted for this year’s cropping plan.

Gardeners experienced several severe winters during wartime and just afterwards in 1947.

Hopefully the cold weather will kill off some gardens pests and diseases. The local garden bird life at the zoo and at home have been busy hunting through the leaves and garden edges for grub. In the early days of wartime, feeding the birds with scraps (reported by watchful neighbours) was prosecuted by zealous authorities as  a waste of food.

At the same time early wartime issues of Zoo and Animal Magazine in Autumn 1939 (copies in the Newquay Zoo archive wartime life collection) featured an unusual request from Julian Huxley on the ZSL staff at London Zoo. He wrote encouraging visitors to bring scraps of food for the zoo animals and wild birds at the zoo.

Although birds such as pigeons can be pests of fruit and veg crops, there are many ways of feeding the birds  and enlisting their grub-catching abilities whilst producing a good crop of vegetables. Look at  produced by The RHS and The Wildlife Trusts – “encouraging wildlife into your garden”, a site well worth a look.

The 70th anniversary of rationing happened last week, 8th January 1940 – some nice material about this on the site.

Enjoy your garden!

World War Zoo team, Newquay Zoo


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