Happy 2nd birthday World War Zoo gardens

 Happy birthday to carrots, and cabbages and rhubarb chard …

Celebration bunting, cabbages and mascot Blitz Bear out in the World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo, Summer 2011

Today we mark the second anniversary of our wartime zoo keepers garden at Newquay Zoo.  It was officially launched on the weekend of 31st August 2009 to link with the 7oth anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two.

We’ve just reached overnight 20,001 visits on this blog (some of whom were wondering why on earth a wartime garden in a zoo in Cornwall came up on their search engine!) We know many people have enjoyed reading this because of the comments we get through the blog comments and our Newquay Zoo website.

You could of course trace back through two years of blog posts archived on this site to see what we have done. Or maybe a few photographs would do the job.

Digging up the Lion House lawns , July 2009: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

From this bare patch of lawn in Summer 2009, through winter snow in 2009 and 2010, to bigger space in Summer 2011.

Armistice day in the Wartime garden at Newquay Zoo, November 2010

The wartime garden under snow at Newquay Zoo, winter December 2010

World War Zoo gardens graphic sign Summer 2011New fencing and enlarged space, Summer 2011: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

In the past two busy years we have:
1. grown lots of useful unsprayed / organic veg, herbs and fruit for some of our very rare animals (and occasionally our visitors through the zoo’s Cafe Lemur). Visitors tell me how nice the strawberries are that they have sneaked out through the fences!
2. researched the family history stories of many of the lost generation of zoo staff killed in the first and second world war in British zoos (see the November 2010 blog posts) and this work continues …
3. made a podcast about vegetables (see our Newquay Zoo website)  http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/news/world-war-zoo.htm and set up a Facebook page for our World War Zoo vegetables, until Facebook realised that veg aren’t ‘real’ people and closed it down! 🙂
4. had our roving gnome gaurd-ener vanish from the zoo and send postacrds gn-home from zoos across Britain and Spain.  He came back several months later in May 2011
5. visited garden centres, open gardens, garden societies, Women’s Institutes, Zoo history conferences at Chester Zoo and others to talk about the project and display our growing collection of wartime objects. 
6. launched schools workshops using our image and object collection on how zoos and ordinary people survived the challenges of World War Two http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/education/world-war-zoo-1.htm
7. publihsed several articles about zoos and their staff in wartime in magazines
8. had thousands of people do our wartime zoo trail around Newquay Zoo
9. Linked up with the Imperial War Musuem’s exhibitions on  rationing in 2010 (they now have a brilliant exhibition for 2011 on classic wartime stories for children) and with the BBC’s digital online museum for their  History of the World in 100 objects . See blogroll right for links  
10. Met lots of like minded people and wartime gardening enthusiasts  through the RHS, Garden Organic and other forums, along with the new Victory garden project at National Trust Trengwainton Gardens. They’re opening their allotments up forOpen Heritage Day on Saturday 10th September 2011 if you want to pop along to Penzance and see  for free!  http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/heritageopendays
So what next for 2011/12 …
a. We’re off to go and plant cabbages (to match the carrots and catch crop lettuce, leaf salad etc which are already sprouting) for early Spring crops;
b. We’re working on an article on zoos in wartime for Britain at War magazine, along with some gardening articles for magazines for 2012;
c. We’ve got lots to do on the wartime zoo and botanic gardens book. Our research and talks have taken us to Birmingham and Chester, we have London and Paignton  zoo archives to visit next;
d. We continue to work editing several  home front diaries from around the UK for general readers and schools use  to be published 2012;
E. We want to be more involved in the Growing Schools Gardens network  in 2012;
f.  We’re planning in time for Armistice / Remembrance Sunday 2011 dedicating a  memorial stone for the front of the garden , itself a peaceful memorial to zoo staff and animals of all nationalities affected by war since 1914.
g. We’re off to talk about the World War Zoo gardens project to other British and Irish zoos at the national BIAZA ACE meeting at Twycross Zoo  in November 2011. We’d like lots of other zoos to unearth and use their history but also unturf their lawns and plant veg for their animals. We’ve got our garden up for a BIAZA planting and landscape display award for the first time, so fingers crossed for this recognition.  
But best of all are the informal ‘over the garden fence’ chats  about the animals, growing their food and the successes and failures of  our garden plot that we’ve had with hundreds of zoo visitors of all ages and garden sizes from young families growing veg at home, children growing at school in the gardens, to former Land Army girls who are still gardening in their eighties and nineties … and the occasional group of visiting naturists (that’s nudists, not naturalists, and that’s another story!)
And we’ll keep on blogging and Twittering, chatting over the virtual garden fence … 
We’ll post here when our new Website section / Facebook site is up and running. Even vegetables can have friends on Facebook … 
So Happy Birthday to us ! And Happy gardening and happy reading to you, and we look forward to you one day visiting in person our wandering gnomes, wondrous cabbages and seemingly ever hungry zoo animals of our World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo …
Keep in touch via our comments page.

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