About World War Zoo Gardens

World War Zoo   Gardens


Newquay Zoo is remembering World War Two with its own wartime garden project.

World War Zoo launched on the 30th & 31st August 2009, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two in September. The project focuses on how zoos and families survived shortages during the war and the role that zoos played when they reopened after initial closure.

The garden and blog won a BIAZA national zoo award for planting in November 2011.

Keep watching the blog and what’s on section www.newquayzoo.org.uk for more details.

Mark Norris,  Head of Education explains: World War Zoo is about looking back and looking forward, learning from the past to prepare for our future. The project developed from a chance discovery that zoos were closed in the early weeks of World War Two, and struggled throughout. This was a time when food was short, and animals didn’t get ration books. Staffing was low with keepers being called up to fight, and repairs were difficult.

Today as an award winning Green Tourism Business, Newquay Zoo is tackling similar issues that the home front would have dealt with – rising fuel costs, recycling waste and thinking about future food sources. Our Wartime Garden project reflects the Dig for Victory gardens that sprang up in unlikely places all over the country, including zoos. It will also act as a living memorial to the bravery of many ordinary men, women and children.

Newquay Zoo already recycles, composts and think about food miles when sourcing food for the café, and now the Victory Garden will demonstrate how keepers would grow food for the animals.

Hopefully we’ll get a good crop each year before the weather turns. We have been tracking down wartime gardening and cookery books and they were surprisingly close to organic garden methods today. Some wartime varieties are hard to source today but this is very much a garden for the future with all the unpredictability of climate change to consider as well.’’

To bring the period alive for families and schools visiting the zoo, staff members have been collecting wartime memorabilia and evocative items from everyday life of keepers, families, evacuated children and zoo visitors. It is hoped that visitors will contribute their stories and experiences for the archive as they visit the zoo.

Newquay Zoo was the first attraction in Cornwall to win Gold accreditation in the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS); a Europe-wide initiative recognising accommodation providers and visitor attractions that are taking action to support both the local area and the wider environment. For further information please visit http://www.green-business.co.uk

Zoos throughout the country were closed during the first few weeks of War in September 1939. However they were re-opened and supported as a way to boost morale.

Our World War Zoo project will be a practical living memorial, almost history that you can eat in the form of a wartime “dig for victory garden” being recreated at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall. More news of this project follows over the next few postsas we prepare the ground and get planting.

Watch this space!

Mark Norris,World War Zoo Project team, Newquay Zoo, Cornwall, UK

Note: The World War Zoo and Wartime Garden project links with UK government education initiatives on Sustainable Schools Initiative, School Grounds and Gardens, Healthy Eating, Every Child Matters, Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto, the new primary school curriculum 2013.


4 Responses to “About World War Zoo Gardens”

  1. nathan Says:

    Hello Mark, just came across your website. I think it’s brilliant. I work at Bristol Zoo in the gardening department and today have been pulling out the beans and carrots and digging over the edible garden. I only left Newquay about 3 and a half years ago after living there since i was 4 (now 27). I lived in meadowside up over the railway tracks. Anyway, I just wanted to say that what you’ve done looks great! Is there going to be something still up over Christmas? I’ll be back for a few days and would love to come along and have a look.




    • worldwarzoogardener1939 Says:

      Hello Nathan, Thanks for your comments. Keep reading! Bookmark the site and pass it on to other gardeners and zoo people! We’ve had some good feedback from the RHS forum on cheap planters with loo rolls, bit of wartime recycling!
      If you’re around Newquay, come and see the zoo and garden. We hope to expand it next year, its being done by non gardening staff in our breaks etc. Lots of exciting work done at the zoo also. The wartime garden stays up all year and we should have another wartime weekend in May 2010 if all goes well. Our signage from the first wartime weekend should survive the winter to be replaced with new in Spring 2010. We should have an article in Roots the BGCI Botnic Gardens education magazine next year.
      Your edible garden sounds fun. The Eden Project have been doing lots on this too. I saw a great idea in the book Defiant Gradens, about gardeneing in wartime by Kenneth Helphand which was photo of a Puerto Rico community garden in USA which featured a Grow Your Own Pizza garden plots with tomatoes, sweetcorns, onions and herbs. Brilliant!
      Whilst the planting is at its autumn / winter low, we’ll do our research and put it up on the blog – Bristol Zoo’s wartime story included, based on the one Bristol Zoo Story book I have. I can’t imagine what the Bristol zoo gardeners would have thought of digging up their fantastic flowerbeds there in wartime. (A trip needed to go and see what you have in the archive there). Give my regards to Simon Garrett and the education team – try and persuade him and your gardener colleagues that every zoo needs a “dig for victory” garden to feed its animals in future!
      Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo

      First greens and salad leaves harvested today … and fed to our encounter rats. Great enrichment. Sunflower heads drying out Pictures to follow on the blog


  2. Santos Whittall Says:

    Nice site! It really looks awesome. I have a really good friend who I think would enjoy your blog. I’ll definitly pass it on to her.


  3. Russell Weddel Says:

    Though I would’ve loved it much more if you added a relevant video or at least pictures to back up the explanation, I still thought that your write-up quite helpful. It’s usually hard to make a complicated matter seem very easy. I enjoy your weblog and will sign up to your feed so I will not miss anything. Fantastic content


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