I was really pleased to finally make it to Trengwainton Gardens at Penzance in Cornwall to see their wartime garden project this week. I was scouting out locations for our possible World War Zoo Gardens wartime garden display at Trengwainton’s 1940s wartime garden weekend “Hoorah for the Home Front” on Sunday 11th May 2014.
I came across this project several years ago when I was researching our own Wartime garden at Newquay Zoo and exchanged 1940s plant variety notes with one of the Project consultants, Paul Bonnington.
Trengwainton have recreated an Anderson shelter, something I wanted to do in the first plans for the Newquay Zoo version of a wartime allotment in 2009. Many months later trawling eBay for original ‘heritage rust’ available from as little as 99p (if you travel to the other side of the country to dig up and dismantle it for the owners), I decided against the idea.
Instead I sent Paul the shelter plans and dimensions from original 1940s ARP publications and woodworking magazines. Trengwainton have recreated one in full shiny glory, not yet covered in a protective and productive coating of soil and produce. People at the time were worried that the shiny metal would be too easily visible from the air, hence the edible camouflage that soon appeared on top.
In several Land Girl autobiographies and histories (such as the oral history account produced by the Penzance / West Cornwall based Hypatia Trust) Trengwainton is mentioned. Land Girls from all over Britain trained, lived and worked at gardens like Trengwainton.
Propaganda posters of WLA Land Girls aside, the less glamorous side of wartime gardening has been ‘recreated’ in this working garden such as compost heaps. Just as we use produce from the Newquay Zoo version to feed our animals (and occasionally in the cafe), Trengwainton uses produce from its several sections of walled gardens (built apparently, no one knows why, to the dimensions of Noah’s Ark) in its tearooms.
I look forward to joining the events and gardens team there and other re-enactors from the Southwest WW2 reenactment society in celebrating “the spirit and ingenuity” of the 1940s on the 11th May 2014, with a small display of our wartime garden materials that we use with schools (see previous blog post). You can find out more about the Trengwainton garden and events: Www.nationaltrust.org.uk/trengwainton-garden There are photos of past 40s weekends there in local news coverage.
Our Wartime garden project co-opts Newquay Zoo’s free-ranging chickens as and when required for displays. Trengwainton has built coops in the orchard for several beautiful Buff Orpington hens and chicks, a great sound effect background noise to the garden project.
Another clever idea (similar to something I am working on at Newquay Zoo) is their display potting shed, full of period items.
Rose hips were (after research into their Vitamin C content at Kew) gathered as a source of Vitamin C during wartime, often by WIs and schoolchildren keen to make some pocket money.
I hope you enjoy these glimpses of Trengwainton’s Wartime garden project and get the chance to visit.
I might even meet some of you at their 1940s event on Sunday the 11th May 2014 which we hope to attend with our display; if I get the chance to photograph the event, I’ll post some further pictures here.
Pedople asked for views of the walled kitchen gardens at Trengwainton so here are a few more shots:
Posted by: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall. Contact via http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk