It’s seed time at the World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo. After a quiet snowy January when not mush could be practically done outside, ‘Home Guard’ variety seed potatoes are being chitted and sprouted ready for planting. ‘Vera Lynn’ sweet peas are among the seeds for new displays of food and colour (the wartime garden cleverly manages both) ready to sow and plant. The garden is getting busy again …
Excitingly last week, I had the chance to take a couple of our wartime life display cases to a ‘Men In Business’ event in Cornwall run by the Cornwall Education Business Partnership (EBP). We set a business challenge about our Plant Hunters and World War Zoo gardens event at Newquay Zoo on 1 to 3 May 2010 to some very bright teenage business studies students from Wadebridge and Falmouth school and community colleges in Cornwall . Biology meant I didn’t attend the ‘Women in Business’ event but we’ve received their ideas back from Kate Whetter the EBP organiser.
In the short time allotted, the students came up with and presented to our panel of local business people (from Newquay Zoo, Volunteer Cornwall and Creative Juices) some great ideas about events, marketing and the use of new media such as blogging.
Great design suggestions of discount tickets for the zoo shop or food vouchers in the style of ration books, along with wartime style posters exhorting or enlisting people to “Fall In, Families!” and come along to the zoo. Free “trail sheets designed like ration books to take you on a self-guided tour around the zoo to discover ‘”how the animals were used and treated in wartime” (to quote from the students’ sample leaflets and blog entries).
“Solve puzzles and break secret codes” using the help of Zoo staff in uniform in the company of 1940s re-enactors who stamp your booklet. The group were quite taken with the story of Frank Kingdon-Ward, plant collector and wartime secret agent, when shown one of the original pilot’s silk escape scarves for South East Asian jungles. Suggestions of discounts and prizes for the ‘bestest dressed’ 1940s visitors to the zoo where “adults and children can dress up as World war 2 people”.
More sound effects, “listen to music from 70 years ago” and more chance to look at and handle the zoo’s growing collection of objects from wartime life pictured on our blog since August 2009. Learning ‘bomb shelters’ was another unusual idea, full of sounds and display panels. (We did have to say no sirens, bangs and flashes etc because of the animals nearby!)
Other brilliant suggestions by students included having veterans and volunteers to tell their stories alongside the wartime zoo keeper’s garden display and display cases. This worked really well informally at last August’s event with visitors and our older volunteers sharing and retelling their family stories with their families and zoo visitors and staff. Our play areas transformed or retitled into ‘Assault courses’. The chance to get stuck in get digging new garden areas and filling sandbags on your family day out. Thrifty gardening tips, recycled planters and seeds to take away. These were all great suggestion that we will think about for this and future World War Zoo garden events.
Curiously the only thing they didn’t seem too enthusiastic about was trying authentic wartime food. No fat, no sugar, powdered egg (still available form the 1940s Society online shop), mock banana. Despite being only teenagers, they’ve obviously heard how uninspiring yet healthy much of the food was, often depending on what you could grow. We look forward to trying out some wartime nibbles on visitors at the World War Zoo gardens event at Newquay Zoo on 1 to 3 May 2010. Lots of seeds of ideas for the future for our growing wartime zookeepers’ garden project – thanks to the students, staff, organisers and hotel staff who hosted the event.
Maybe the soon to open ‘Ministry of Food’ exhibition at the Imperial War Museum London will have more success tackling the poor opinion of wartime rations http://www.iwm.org.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.6574
Speaking of seeds, beautifully packaged wartime dig for victory seeds have been bought for the zoo garden from the Imperial War Museum’s online shop along with reproduction posters and books which are hard to obtain as originals. This includes the poster of the famous Off The Ration exhibition at wartime London Zoo, about which we’ll blog more in the future. Check out the exhibition and addictive online shop http://www.iwmshop.org.uk/category/639/Ministry_of_Food
In the February 2010 edition of Grow Your Own magazine www.growfruitandveg.co.uk , there is a good write up by Sara Cork in her article Digging for History about war-time veg gardening, the IWM Food exhibition until 2011 and one at the Garden Museum in London until 7 March 2010 www.museumgardenhistory.org. Other gardening magazines are available in your local newsagent ! Thanks for the three free packets of tomato seeds in the magazine which will go into our wartime zoo keeper’s garden for this summer, no doubt to be eaten like last year’s strawberries by cheeky scrumping small children!
Happy digging! Contact us at the World War Zoo gardens project via comments on this blog. We look forward to seeing you on 1 to 3 May 2010 at our World war Zoo garden weekend. Then there’s the Twitter reminders , the attendance function the students told me about on Facebook (for fans of the worldwarzoo garden page on Facebook) … “Fall In, Families!”
Tags: 1940s, 1940s Society, botanic gardens, Cornwall EBP, dig for victory garden, Falmouth School, food waste, Frank Kingdon Ward, garden history, gardening, gardens, Grow Your Own, history teaching, Imperial War Museum, London Zoo, Museum of Garden History, Newquay Zoo, plant hunters, primary history teaching, reenactment, salad, sustainability, teddy bears, Vera Lynn, vintage toys, Wadebridge School, wartime gardening, world war 2, world war two, zoos