Spitfires, penguins, science and sowing seeds … getting busy with Spring in the wartime zoo keepers’ garden

Spitfires, Stukas, George and the Dragon: Newquay War Weapons Week poster design from Carmen Blacker and Joan D Pring at Benenden Girls School, evacuated to Newquay in the 1940s. Copyright: World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo

Finally it has rained! It’s been a busy few weeks on the World War Zoo project following the success of the BBC Radio Cornwall interviews (see previous blogs) . We’ve been up country to Birmingham for the ‘How Science Works’ events http://hswbham.blogspot.com  during National Science Week talking ourselves almost hoarse about the penguin breeding programme and genetics in a big hangar of a room.  Hello to all the Year 9 pupils from Birmingham schools that we met and talked to!

"How would you publicise our World War Zoo gardens weekend?" was a question we asked at the recent business studies challenge day at Penrice School. Anya and Cassie came up with this fashion idea and collage on their event poster and leaflet ideas roughed out in a very short time.

I had hoped we’d be downstairs in the Move It! gallery of Thinktank at Birmingham with two fabulous Birmingham and Black Country built icons – the Spitfire and the Hurricane. These are hung low enough to have good look at the wonderfully basic engineering and shapely streamlining. http://www.thinktank.org.uk

It would have been great to have been chatting about the camouflage, countershading and aerodynamics of penguins, fish and leopard seals with these two shapely beauties hanging above!

 A few days later back in Cornwall, we were busy  digging in plenty of free muck from the zoo’s lovely compost heaps (a bit less to landfill!) sowing veg and flowers in the wartime garden and signing up for free seed varieties from the BBC Dig In Campaign. Raised beds or terracing from recycled timber around the zoo, more sandbags and an old and rusted Civil Defence helmet now grace the wartime keepers’ garden.

Crop rotation has seen beds shifted around to cut down on disease. Beans, sweet peas and ‘saladings’ are already sown. Sympathetic planting of flowers (Marigolds and Chives) should naturally protect our tomatoes and carrot crops, adding a bit of colour as well. Catmint and other herbs for animal enrichment are germinating ready to go in next to the Lion Enclosure, where we have dug up part of the lawn for our wartime keepers’ garden (Plot No 1.)   Not far for the Catmint to be picked by keepers and used with our retired pair of lions who roll around on this happily and wear a big sleepy grin!  

Last week we were back on the road again. A shorter trip twenty miles away to St Austell to Penrice School and Community College to work with Kate Whetter from the local Education Business Partnership and Penrice’s Business Studies students on ideas to promote the World War Zoo gardens weekend here from 1 to 3 May 2010.

Some chose ideas to publicise our Plant Hunters trail celebrating the many plant hunter links there are with Cornwall, the plants in the zoo and the secret exploits of daring botanists like Frank Kingdon-Ward, Robert Fortune, Francis Masson, ‘Chinese’ Wilson, Joseph Banks and the Cornish brothers Thomas and William Lobb (a few of their relatives were amongst the groups by the sound of the surnames)  and others.

Some great event ideas to store away – from a Ready Steady Wartime Cook style challenge using wartime ingredients (BBC radio’s  wartime Kitchen Front had its own celebrity chefs) to  Forties fashion parades  – lots of ideas to use in future years!  

We’ve included some of their poster and leaflet designs on this blog entry – congratulations to all who took part on a hectic and different day at school.  We also have the equivalent poster designs by Benenden Girls School who were evacuated to Newquay in wartime, to promote Newquay War Weapons Week in wartime.

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