Archive for the ‘gnomes’ Category

Our Zoo: Chester Zoo and the drama of zoo history

September 5, 2014

I have been looking forward to watching this autumn BBC’s “Our Zoo” about the  early days of Chester Zoo, with some excellent links to past and future on the Chester Zoo website –
http://www.chesterzoo.org/global/about-us/our-zoo-bbc-drama

Researching zoo history is often a “Cinderella” subject, many people wondering why it’s worth it (outside of the zoo history enthusiasts of the Bartlett Society – see blogroll links) and rarely makes it to mainstream television!

Back in May 2011 I spent an interesting couple of days tracking down wartime concrete at Chester Zoo, during a zoo history conference. Here is an edited blog post I wrote at the time tracing an intriguing bit of Chester Zoo’s history and on the way discovered four wartime hippos in Budapest.

Mr. Mottershead, founder of Chester Zoo – memorial plaque near Oakfield House, Chester Zoo (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

May 2011, Chester Zoo: We weren’t sure whether to called this post Zoo Do You Think You Are? (after the BBC TV Family history series), thanks to a quick quip from Richard Gibson at Chester Zoo or maybe  Zoo Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler? (to the theme tune of Dad’s Army) in view of the wartime concrete, Home Guard and Zoo family history connections I was tracking down.

Family history is big business now on the internet and on television, genealogy being the social or leisure side of genetics. Genetics is now the everyday business of zoo breeding programmes. Looking back at baby photos past for a glimpse of a familiar adult expression or looking at your children for a fleeting recognition of family faces, it’s something we all do over time. Like gardening, it’s probably age-related, primal and territorial. My family, my birth place, my tribe. So why should it be any different for zoos to look back at where they came from? Can we catch a glimpse of the future from a look at their past? This is partly what I’ve been researching through the World War Zoo Gardens project.

Chester Zoo history symposium 20 May 2011 from the SHNH website

What are zoos for? How should zoos work together? Why should zoos keep an archive of past events and what should they do with this material? These were some of the many questions raised by the May 2011 Symposium on Zoo history / Zoo future hosted at Chester Zoo “From Royal Menageries to Biodiversity Conservation”http://www.chesterzoo.org/ and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Zoo and  a joint celebration of the work of several societies together. The Bartlett Society (www.zoohistory.co.uk), World Association of Zoos and Aquariums   (WAZA) www.waza.org , Linnaean Society and celebrating its 75th birthday, the Society for the History of Natural History (SHNH) www.shnh.org The proceedings or symposium was recently published in 2014. It reflected the World of Zoos and Aquariums as it was attended by delegates from Britain, Ireland, Europe, North America and South East Asia / Australasia.

Only 91 animals remained amongst the ruins of wartime Berlin Zoo by 1945 from an old German / US archive press photo (World War Zoo gardens collection at Newquay Zoo)

Dr. Miklos Persenyi, Director General at Budapest Zoo in Hungary showed some beautiful slides of how the once war ravaged zoo in Hungary has been restored, even the 1960s buildings are being ‘restored’ to match the striking Hungarian Art Nouveau architecture of the early 20th Century. Miklos joked that he is employed by the Budapest Tourist Bureau, as the zoo, botanic garden and ‘cultural centre’ that it has become looks well worth a visit. After my short presentation on wartime zoos which mentioned Berlin Zoo being left with 91 animals after air raids and street fighting, Miklos quietly capped this with his story of the 15 animals left alive at Budapest zoo after the freezing winter months of 1944 when the Zoo and city of Budapest became a besieged town and battlefield between the Germans and the Russians. Amazingly, whilst the local people eat anything they could to survive, four or five of these surviving animals were Hippopotami (or Hippopotamuses). These plant eaters survived in the warm waters of the thermal springs there, alongside a handful of ‘singing birds’. The people of Budapest rebuilt their zoo after the war, whilst bombsites of local buildings and churches near the zoo were unofficially commandeered to grow crops for people and animals  http://www.zoobudapest.com/english Miklos has been involved in the writing of an interesting and beautifully illustrated history of Budapest Zoo, with a version in English well worth tracking down.

This comment by Miklos about the last fifteen animals left in Budapest Zoo and the efforts to rebuild it by gave some important human detail to the broad sweep of zoo history, of different groups and associations which eventually became the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) in a reunified Europe after the Berlin Wall and collapse of Communism / end of the Cold War c. 1989  Equally moving was the long slow progression to today’s World Association of Zoos and Aquariums from its late Victorian beginning in Germany, through wartime disruptions, revolutions  to today’s worldwide organisation “United for Conservation” at last! It was long time coming.

One of the Symposium concerns was the lack of original zoo history research being done into the past life of zoos, as often what we read is simply a regurgitation of the same old sources. The published proceedings (available through Chester Zoo’s marketing department) are a good example of this new research.

Newquay Zoo’s wartime roaming ‘gnome gaurd-ener’ in front of some original wartime concrete pillars with a historic past, Chester Zoo May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Chester Zoo the conference host is home itself to an interesting wartime story. As part of my World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo, I have been researching what happened in wartime zoos, with an eye to what lessons we can learn from surviving our wartime past for the management of zoos through future challenges. This work is often hamstrung by the lack of (accessible) archives in many zoos. Not so Chester Zoo which has an excellent and accessible archive, partly scanned and the Chester Zoo News (1930s-1980s) available to buy on CD-Rom from their library!

These magazines must have refreshed memories and dates with lots of detail in June Mottershead’s vividly remembered account Reared in Chester Zoo (written with Janice Madden, Ark Books, 2009) of growing up at Chester Zoo, helping out as it was built by her father and as it struggled to survived through the slump and wartime shortages of the 1930s and 1940s to her marriage to Keeper Fred Williams.

Chester Zoo history timeline banners, Chester Zoo, 2011

This story of George Mottershead and family is well told in banner panels for each decade of the zoo’s 80 years, over near the ‘new’ 1950s Aquarium and the modern Cedar House which houses the library and archive.

My guide for that day in 2011, the then Head of Discovery and Learning archivist Stephen McKeown told me that the concrete pillars of the aquarium were hand-cast by June and Fred, often working into the night by lamplight. So like George Mottershead, they literally did build their zoo by hand. Sadly the original Chester Zoo Aquarist, Yorkshireman Peter Falwasser died of wounds on active service in North Africa, 1942. Before his death, Peter wrote excitedly to Chester Zoo colleagues of all the wildlife and especially fish he was seeing in the Middle East and wondered how to get them back to Chester Zoo. So this new aquarium  in the 1950s was maybe a quiet sort of memorial to ‘gentle’ Peter Falwasser, as June describes him.

In 2013 I received scans from the Chester Zoo archive of letters from and to Peter Falwassser, which I turned into the following blog post, Last Wartime Letters:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/last-wartime-letters-of-peter-falwasser-chester-zoo-aquarist-1916-1942/

Sometimes research does a little back-flip of name recognition in an unexpected place, a little cross-over between themes. Strangely following another wartime gardening lead into 1940s and 50s garden  books linked to Theo Stephens’ little garden magazine, My Garden, I havecome across  a late 1940s garden article that may well have been written by Peter’s older sister Christine Rosetta ( b. 1905, Cawthorne, Yorkshire). She may have been the  C.R. Falwasser, a gardener and writer,  who wrote the article in My Garden’s Bedside Book (1951?)  called “I Swept the Leaves” mentioning “But when you hire yourself during wartime and become part of a staff …” by the 1950s she pops up in the phone book in horticulture at Alltnacree, Connell, Argyll.  Strange coincidence.  I wonder if she would have got on with the Mottershead family of Market Gardeners, including Grandad Albert, Chester Zoo’s first Head Gardener, who fed the animals and people of Chester Zoo in wartime.

Inside June’s Pavilion, Chester Zoo May 2011

A quick trip downstairs to the public toilets in Oakfield House today takes you to the site of the ‘old’ or first wartime Aquarium and air raid shelters for staff,  based in the cellars and former kitchens of Oakfield House. This listed red brick building was the big house or mansion of the estate that became Chester Zoo in the 1930s. It was in poor condition after serving as a VAD convalescent home for officers in the First World War as many such houses did around Europe. This must have had strong associations for Private George Mottershead, who  apparently spent several years recovering after the war in a wheelchair.

Looking at the 1930s map by George Williams inside June’s book, it is still possible to glimpse a little of the original zoo, especially starting from the red brick house and stables block, used extensively for temporary animal houses in the first decade or so. Lion scratches and a small plaque by the stables archway give a clue to what once happened here, the nucleus of what has today grown to become Chester Zoo.

The roar of big cats can still be heard across the path from the old temporary ‘pen’, the site of George Mottershead’s lion enclosure that he started to hand-build in 1937 but was delayed by wartime, only finished in 1947. Scratch marks in the brickwork of the stable block, reputedly made by lions, are marked by a simple plaque.

A link to the Chester Zoo lions of the wartime past – within roar of the present. Chester Zoo Stables and Courtyard gateway, May 2011

The stables and courtyard of the big house of another era are closed to the public but very visible from public walkways, the stables now house the works depot and offices.

History in the Chester area is never far away – usually just inches under your feet. The Romans had a garrison town (Deva) here, into whose near-complete buried amphitheatre in town were dug the air-raid shelters for June’s school. Behind Oakfield House, recreated Roman Gardens and new glasshouses now lie where food was once grown in the kitchen gardens and conservatory area by June’s  ‘ Grandfather’ Albert, George Mottershead’s father.

This glasshouse like those in many zoos was a victim of wartime shrapnel, in this case probably anti-aircraft or ack-ack ‘flak’ from nearby AA guns firing at enemy raiders heading for the towns and ports of the Northwest. Friendly fire like this also killed a Coypu, one of the only direct wartime casualties amongst the animals from enemy action (many other zoo animals like penguins slowly declined from wartime substitute feeding). Here in these vanished glasshouses and kitchen gardens, food was once grown for the mansion and for the early zoo. The Mottersheads were nurserymen and market gardeners, originally in the Sale area. ‘Grandad’ Mottershead working well into old age and through wartime to provide food for his son’s zoo animals.

Three of June’s Mottershead uncles and step-uncles from this gardening family were killed in the First World War, two others on her mother’s side, whilst her father George was so badly wounded on the Somme that it took him years to teach himself to walk again. Albert and Stanley Mottershead’s  names are on the Sale War Memorial, recently researched by George Cogswell and pictured here. This could so easily have been George Mottershead. no George, no Chester Zoo.

George Mottershead in uniform with wife Elizabeth, World War One, one of mnay family photos in the new June’s Pavilion, Chester Zoo

Family photographs of these friendly ghosts can be found in June’s book but also mounted on the walls of the newly opened June’s Pavilion catering area near Oakfield House, next to the Growzone conservatories for today’s Chester Zoo gardeners. Zoos, like armies, march on their stomachs and good food is very important to the human and other animals at the zoo. It is often the make or break of a zoo visit and probably one of the harder things to get right for everyone. I learnt this lesson on day one of zoo management at Newquay Zoo, the afternoon spent with sleeves rolled up and rubber gloves in the sink partly alongside Pete the Ops Manager washing up and KP-ing in the Newquay Zoo café during an afternoon rush and shortage of café staff. So I understand how important June, her sister Muriel, her mother Elizabeth and Grandmother Lucy like all the women in her family were in feeding zoo staff, evacuees and zoo visitors as well as zoo animals before and during the war. [Note: 2014, This is something that comes across strongly in the BBC series Our Zoo broadcast in Autumn 2014 and I interviews with June Williams.]

It is very fitting to have ‘June’s Pavilion’ as not a museum or a memorial but something practical, and fun – a family eating place with family photographs on the wall. George Mottershead in First World war uniform with Elizabeth and baby Muriel, Grandad Mottershead, June and Fred, all look down, alongside many other of the army of Chester Zoo staff of the past, over another generation of zoo visitors tucking in to food before heading off to look and learn about more animals.

Having read June’s account in hindsight and the detailed newsletters month by month during uncertain times gives you chance to relive the early years, month by month, almost to glimpse through the windows of Oakfield House and spot familiar ghosts on the lawn.

Next to Oakfield House beside the lawn in its own small garden stands a small simple memorial plaque to George Mottershead, erected by the zoo members and staff after he died in 1978. George looks out of the photo back towards the stables and the windows of Oakfield House which must have seen so many stories, from the gentry and hunting at the big house to wounded soldiers of his own war, wartime evacuees in the next war, refugee elephants and their mahouts, a place of family weddings and still a venue for an excellent quiet lunch in the panelled dining room.

After the war, things did not become easier straight away. There was still food rationing and materials for building were in short supply.

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

Britain had to feed itself, the displaced millions of Europeand repair huge numbers of bombed factories, schools and houses around the country. A short walk away from Oakfield House, you can still glimpse one of George’s practical bits of post-war salvage. Fred Williams, June’s husband, as Clerk of Works carried on this salvage tradition.

At the rear of what was once built as the Polar Bear enclosure can be seen some at first rather plain and ugly concrete pillars. Ironically now part of the Europe on the Edge Aviary, these pillars started life for a very different purpose – heavy concrete road blocks and tank traps from the desperate days of improvisation by the Army and Home Guard against invasion by the armies of Hitler’s Germany after softening up by Goering’s eagles of the Luftwaffe.

The round shapes of these concrete blocks can be seen clearly in Frith picture postcards featured in a recent zoo postcards book by  Alan Ashby (www.izes.co.uk). These pillars  are an unlikely memorial to a past generation, though thankfully June is still (2011/2014very much with us, still interested in the zoo they built and the recently opened June’s new Pavilion.

Stephen McKeown spoke in 2011 about further ideas for developing family history on the way to our Chester Zoo members talk at the Russell Allen lecture theatre at Chester zoo (named after Maud Russell Allen, an early council member or benefactor in the 1930s and 1940s). Chester are thinking about developing the guided or self-guided history tour – so watch the Chester Zoo website for details [including on the Our Zoo BBC related events].

BBC clip about June at wartime Chester Zoo: http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_6700000/newsid_6706300/6706315.stm?bw=nb&mp=wm&news=1&bbcws=1

Since 2011, I have been sent by Chester Zoo Archive  the scans of many letters to and from George Mottershead to (the late) ex Cheter Zoo staff member Peter Lowe, who became the first curator and designer of my home zoo, Newquay Zoo, something worth a blog post in future. So George Mottershead surviving the Somme to open his own zoo helped indirectly in the early history of my own zoo at Newquay Zoo.  You can read more about our wartime garden project at Newquay Zoo on our blog, contact me via the comments page or check out our zoo website pages about World War Zoo on www.newquayzoo.org.uk

The new World War Zoo gardens sign at Newquay Zoo, 2011

Of zoo gardens and zombies: why Brad Pitt will (not) be appearing in our World War Z – oo garden at Newquay Zoo

August 21, 2011

Of zoo gardens and zombies: why Brad Pitt will (gnot) be appearing in our World War Z-oo  garden  at Newquay Zoo (but only as a gnome, gnot as a zombie slayer)

Don’t be confused. World War Zoo has  a big budget rival and star cast who have been filming in Cornwall and elsewhere in the last few weeks.

World War Z is a blockbuster zombie movie  with Brad Pitt set in an apocalypic future.

World War Zoo gardens is a small budget recreation of a typical wartime Dig For Victory zoo keepers allotment set in the 1940s with a well travelled star cast of … gnomes and vegetables.  

You could argue that both look at dealing with the threats of an uncertain future …. and the garden looks at sustainable options such as local food.

You could argue that getting the ‘look’ right is important in period gardens and zombie  movies – right old posters, right old tools etc.

As for zombies … this is probably my fellow keepers and zoo staff who have led very early morning zoo tours at 5 am and 7am for ‘wild breakfasts’ . We feel quite half dead if not undead by the end of the day … great fun but thankfully that was the last one this year. Until we do halloween tours (see our Newquay Zoo events page). But for now – Zzzzzz….

As for catching a glimpse of ‘Brad’ at the zoo, one of our jolly bearded gnomes now has  g-name! You can see Brad’s jolly beard on the BBC Radio Cornwall footage below. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-14375711

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-14595801

For lots of jolly garden tips, check out the August job lists: http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/todo_now/index.php and http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardening/calendar/August 

http://www.growyourownclub.co.uk

After writing our wartime zoo gardens book, we could write ‘Zombie Gardening’ … you heard it here first. I can see it now on the bookshelves. it makes creepy scarecrows look almost tame.

No time to be bored? Wartime childhoods, the long summer holidays, gnomes, wartime children’s books and gardens: Boy’s Own Paper stuff! from the wartime garden update August 2011

August 8, 2011

Bumper August holiday edition of the blog: The World War Zoo garden at Newquay Zoo celebrates its second  anniversary  on August 31st 2011. Packed with extra reading and some fun things to do!

 

Wartime holiday reading – the dramatic front cover (The Altmark story) of Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 Price 6d (Image from the World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

I’ve been reading again for the first time since childhood Robert Westall’s The Machine Gunners, set in the same area where he grew up. This has been really useful background for help in editing a 1941 diary of a teenage girl from Tynemouth which I’m working on in evenings at the moment (deciphering the spidery handwriting etc.) and typing this up for schools publications / general readership.  There is more on the Tyneside area at war in www.ne-diary.bpears.org.uk set up by Brian Peers and Roy Ripley and more on Robert Westall at www.robertwestall.com Robert Westall’s work is featured in the excellent new exhibition on wartime children’s stories at Imperial War Museum London http://wartime.iwm.org.uk/ with lots of events in the August holidays. Once Upon A Wartime: Classic War Stories for Children runs from 11 February to 30 October 2011 at Imperial War Museum London.

We’ve updated last August’s bumper post as we’ve had lots of comments and contacts about it. So here goes …

August, our second garden anniversary amid school holidays with Newquay Zoo www.newquayzoo.org.uk and busy local Cornish beaches, full of children and their families enjoying sunshine, picnics, animal feeding talks and each other’s company (along with the odd temper tantrum and family row). Many stop to look at the fresh veg, flowers and busy bees of the World War Zoo garden, soon to be celebrating its second anniversary at the end of August 2011. Sadly the cares of the office and family back home are never far away, judged by awkward mobile phone conversations by fraught vistors back home to the office. Was life simpler and easier in the days before mobile phones? 

 Holidays in wartime were increasingly more of a ‘staycation’ variety, with ‘Is Your Journey Really Necessary?’ posters and petrol rationing, wired off and mined beaches with troops tensely awaiting invasion and Home Guards watching the shoreline from pillboxes, rather than today’s RNLI lifeguards. 

Spot the pillbox on your Cornish summer holiday. Without camouflage now but still blends in well! Protecting the harbour at Porthleven in Cornwall still, 2010, 70 years on from construction at the height of invasion fears. (Image: World war Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

Many of the older generation still loyally return to Cornwall where they were brought as children on family holidays or as evacuees. Newquay has recently seen another anniversary trip by staff and boys of Gresham’s School, 70 years on from the school, like Benenden Girls School, moving from the battlefields of the South Coast to Newquay and Cornwall. The holiday period of this time is vividly captured in the late Bettye Grey’s reprinted memoir of Newquay life, “Oh Get On!”

Fabulous adverts for childhood toys and boys’ careers, August 1940 Boy’s Own Paper (Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

Already in early August there must be children moaning “I’m bored!” to parents. What would a wartime school child do in their extended holidays, either in their evacuation centres or  increasingly at home returned from  evacuation billets when not much was happening in the ‘Phoney war’ and often with  no schools to go to?

 In a battered and yellowing copy of the Boy’s Own Paper for August 1940 in the Newquay Zoo World War Zoo gardens wartime life archive can be found the following rousing instructions from the Editor for young men (and their sisters):

 “Be British [quoted as the last words of Captain Smith of the Titanic] and summon up your nerve and heart and sinew to carry on with your job – your harvesting, your waste-paper-collecting, the repairing of the school air raid shelters, black out blinds, fire service, first aid.”

“Write home often, and tell those anxious people how jolly all right you are; and let your whole being throb with the almighty unconquerable challenge –“Let them come!” Brace your muscles every time you think of it, let it resound from your spade when you give an extra hefty jab into the earth of the school garden plot. Let your nostrils dilate, your eyes kindle with a fierce gleam as, with fists clenched, you surge out that mighty challenge between set teeth. Go to it, lads!”  (Editorial, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940)

 Never has gardening been so breathlessly described in such “ripping” terms. Another article begins:

 “All of you who have a garden have, I know, been digging for victory, and now your crops are up you can see what can be done by hard work, and penny packets of seed. Every potato, parsnip, carrot, beetroot, every row of peas or beans, every lettuce or tomato on your plot of ground is going to help us win through, and what is more, it is your very own contribution to victory. Having dug for victory, I am now going to talk t you about feeding for victory. I don’t mean by this that you should sit down and eat up all your crops. I mean feeding livestock.”

“Why not keep one or two rabbits, a few chickens or half a dozen bantams? … and some have a large enough garden, perhaps to keep a pig, or there may be adjacent to the garden a rough piece of meadow or waste land to poor to grow crops but where a goat could pick up a living and provide you with milk … How ripping, too, if there was also honey for tea from your own bees … doubly welcomed now we are rationed with sugar …” (“Feeding For Victory”, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940).

Gardening for Boys – Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940 (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

Followed by W. E. Shewell-Cooper’s Garden and Allotment What You Can Do series, August’s article  being ‘How To Get Good Garden Crops’: 

“August is a harvesting month. It isn’t as big a harvesting month as September, of course, but there is lots of harvesting work to do. Take the French beans and runner beans, for instance …” 

Not many years ago, there was a brief nostalgia  flourish of the “Dangerous Book for Boys” genre and not-so-dangerous companion book for girls. Many journalists and childhood experts  lamented the modern safety-obsessed, neglectful or over parenting of the ‘play safe, play at home, computer and text obsessed, short attention spanned, foul-mouthed, under-parented, disrespectful, drunk, promiscuous, overweight and more miserable generation’ of 21st century children and teenagers in Britain than anywhere else in the developed world.  Many in Newquay have  been fighting back recently against  adverse publicity  regarding this generation on holiday without parents for the first time.   

My friend Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, Detoxing Childhood, and 21st Century Boys (all by Orion, see www.suepalmer.co.uk ) would no doubt approve of the vigorous and earnest pursuits suggested or sold to Boy’s Own Paper readers in the August 1940 edition. Recently in July 2011 Diarylea have published a report on rethinking childhood by Tim Gill http://rethinkingchildhood.com/2011/07/21/dairylea/

There are plenty of activity ideas “for the growing boy” in the Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 (B.O.P Motto: Quicquid Agunt pueri nostri farrago libelli, or “Whatever boys do makes up the mixture of our little book”)  for boy craft of days gone by. Amongst the rousing tales of daring-do and technical articles on “Submarines: what they are like and how they are operated” (at a time of rationing and increased Merchant shipping loss to Nazi U-boats) are some fascinating adverts.

More activity ideas and “knowledge for the growing boy”, adverts page, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940 (Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

What boy could be bored, tempted by naval careers or radio officer training colleges (“A career of national importance in wartime with an assured future in peace-time”), Skywaymen of the BOP Flying League and their aircraft recognition card games, Cold Ovaltine “the best summer drink”, Brylcreem and discreet booklets on “Sex Problems … if you are puzzled about the secrets of birth” in “Knowledge for the Growing Boy” (6d, post free.)

What does the holiday weather matter as wartime boy when there is always the latest model anti-tank gun or make-it-yourself ship or plane models, photographic chemicals, stamp collecting advice care of Stanley Gibbons (in the centenary year of the Penny Black and Penny Post 6th May 1840), cricketing tips, pen pals seeking fellow “aviation enthusiast” or “cricket enthusiast”, explosive chemistry experiments, canoeing or cycling adventures (with blackout shielded headlamps, naturally). There were of course for some, visits to the local zoo, if it had reopened as a morale booster and a touch of normal pre-war life. 

Battle of Britain in your hands for the growing wartime boy! Frog kits were the forerunner of postwar Airfix kits, and taught valuable craft skills and aircraft recognition – friend or foe – for young and old alike! (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo.)
Cold Ovaltine! The ultimate summer drink, showing lots of busy boy and tomboy sporting activities to fill the holidays, as advertised in August 1940, Boy’s Own Paper (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

 There was also the salvage of aluminium kitchen goods to collect and sort out, as part of COGS (Children on Government Salvage), during the July and August 1940 appeal by Lord Beaverbrook for saucepans for Spitfires! This campaign features comically in William at War, one of the Just William books reprinted in the 2009 “Still Naughty at Ninety” anniversary of Richmal Crompton’s boy wonder. Find more in the  www.panmacmillan.com  the A- Z author list.  

Rainy summer’s day inside ? You could design or update a wartime poster for the New Home Front campaign www.newhomefront.orgclosing date September 2011 (see previous posts).

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

The life of a 1940s boy (or tomboy girl) seems exhausting and busy by modern standards! Amongst many memoirs and histories of wartime children, Mike Brown has written a fabulous short Shire Library Book on Wartime Childhood www.shirebooks.co.uk which illustrates the varied activities, challenges and opportunities of my parent’s childhood. Two of our handmade wartime toys – a Spitfire and a wooden sliding puzzle – from the Newquay Zoo wartime life collection can be found on the BBC www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld

 If you want to recapture some of this indoor childhood activity, Airfix are very proudly advertising their kits again through http://www.airfix.com/  in the pages of BBC History Magazine http://www.bbchistorymagazine.com/  including an anniversary  Battle of Britain range and RAF airfield (just like the one my granddad served on) with proceeds to veterans’ charities. The Airfix Club flies again for a whole new generation of paint-splattered boys and girls!

Setting up our World War Zoo display in the Grow Your Own allotment section of Trelawney Garden Centre, August 2010
Wartime garden display on right, minibeasts being unpacked on the left.The lavender and Buddleia were alive with bees throughout! (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

So “Go To IT!” down your local garden centre! Gardening was also part of this manly (boyish or tomboyish) existence, amongst the columns of nature notes such as “The Wonders of Crab Life” by H. Chapman Pincher BSc, (surely not the controversial Spycatcher writer of later years?) – and “Through the Hedge and over the Downs” by ‘Hedgerow’. We saw lots of native wildlife such as bees, birds and dragonflies flitting and buzzing around Trelawney Garden Centre and its lakes (with rumours of kingfishers) last August, amid many chats about our live insects, sloughed spider moults, wasp nest sections or dried specimens of Death’s Head Hawk moth.  ‘Hedgerow’ notes topically for August 1940 “What to look out for this month: Hawk moth larvae; Privet Hawk on Privet: Eyed Hawk on willow, Lime Hawk on lime or elm, Elephant Hawk on Willow Herb.  Dunlin or Ox birds by the seashore.  Corn Buntings and yellowhammers by the Cornfields. Butcher Birds’ larders in the hedges. Teazles in Bloom. Wasps’ nests.” A refreshing sight for the sore limbs of many a Land Girl or Victory harvest schoolchild working in the August fields, but also sign of how Britain’s wildlife has changed in 70 years, If you haven’t signed it yet, sign up via www.signtheletter.org.uk   to the RSPB’s Letter to The Future campaign www.rspb.org.uk

L.R. Brightwell’s cheerful nature notes illustrations to Hedgerow’s gnomes and gardens August 1940 column for the Boy’s Own Paper. (Image: Newquay Zoo, World War Zoo collection)

This last Boy’s Own Paper article is quirkily illustrated by L.R. Brightwell, cartoonist and illustrator of many zoo and nature books (see our archive blog entries on his Story of London Zoo, August 2009). Our partner college Cornwall College Newquay www.cornwall.ac.uk/newquay , quiet without hundreds of degree students for a few weeks, has some original Brightwell paintings. There are several more in the care of  the retired College manager and author Dr. Mike Kent, no doubt vigorously rambling  around the Cornish countryside and coast path collecting materials for his modern hedgerow notes books about Cornwall http://www.alisonhodge.co.uk/ShowDetails.asp?id=125 We were interested to note and already tracking down in detective mode the mention of ‘Next Month! Look out for … Wartime and The Zoos by Sydney Moorhouse FRGS, illustrated by L.R. Brightwell, FZS” promised for Boy’s Own Paper, September 1940. When we track a copy  down, we’ll share it with you on this blog.

“Children’s Gardens” by Edwin L. Howard (the Studio Publications, 2s. 6d.) is favourably reviewed by ‘Hedgerow’ in Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940,  who notes amongst bird and water garden designs that “I expect you boys will like the Zoo Garden best, but your sisters will prefer the Enchanted Flower Garden.” A second hand book to look out for, predating many recent books and seed company’s ranges (such as www.mr-fothergills.co.uk or  http://www.suttons.co.uk/grow_your_own.htm for children’s gardening. Suttons have agreat gardening blog too:  http://www.growyourownclub.co.uk 

Many of these colourful cartoon packets, much like the Doctor Carrot, Squander Bug  and Potato Pete (see below picture) wartime cartoon figures of “eat more veg”, were excitedly bought by children and parents at Trelawney Garden Centre to help pass the holiday time, many proudly telling me about what they were growing at home or at school. Grow It! Magazine had a good article on children’s gardens by Angela Youngman in the July 2010 issue http://www.growitmag.com , whilst the Eden Project books for inspiring child gardeners by Jo Readman are also full of ideas www.edenproject.com

For lots of jolly garden tips, check out the August job lists: http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/todo_now/index.php and http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardening/calendar/August 

http://www.growyourownclub.co.uk

Garden Organic’s website http://mastergardeners.org.uk/2011/08/03/august-holiday-sowing-tips/

Gnome Guard on parade from The World War Zoo gardens collection at Trelawney Garden Centre, July / August 2010

Our khaki clad Gnome Guard didn’t holiday at home this year. He  travelled in 2010 /11 out to many displays such as Trelawney Garden Centre, but then vanished by unknown hand off to Paignton Zoo, London Zoo, Bioparc Valencia in Spain sending postcards gn-home back to the zoo. He was back in time for a conference on zoo history  at Chester Zoo in May 2011 (see May blog post 2011).  He’s stayed put (so far!) since as part of our wartime garden display.  “So far our Gnome Guard member of the LDV, introduced to the World War Zoo gardens to mark the July 1940 renaming of the Home Guard, has not been stolen by gnome liberators. Yet.” we wrote last August … we spoke too soon!

Gnome guard on parade. Gnome Guard on parade from The World War Zoo gardens collection at Trelawney Garden Centre, July / August 2010

But before anyone questions his willingness to serve or wartime authenticity, gnomes bizarrely feature in the Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 nature notes by ‘Hedgerow’ on fungi, at the height of the Battle of Britain when the Editor worries not only about increasing  paper rationing but about the threatened invasion “By the time you read this that foul fiend Apollyon may have struck at Britain, our land”). The columnist ‘Hedgerow’ whimsically notes: “One of the most handsome and decorative is the Scarlet Fly Agaric. This is copied by those who make garden ornaments and sold with gnomes to furnish a miniature wood or rockery. In my wood they grow freely. As I have a real wood I have no need for china gnomes, for they say there real gnomes in the woods and that they hold their meetings around the little red tables of the Scarlet Fly Agarics. I have never seen them, but as I write my nature notes under the light of an oil lamp in my little house in the wood  I often wonder whether they are playing around outside or spying to see if I am properly blacked out.”   (Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 nature notes)

So hopefully, during the summer holidays, you might like to paint your own china gnome, if you don’t have your own real wood and fungi. Wherever you are you could grow one thing, even if it’s in a tiny pot, as part of Garden Organic’s www.onepotpledge.org 2010. (Apparently if I encourage several others to sign up, I earn my very own Gardening Guru membership card or badge. How Boy’s Own Paper is that!) More growing advice can be found on the http://www.rhs.org.uk/ and www.bbc.co.uk/digin  BBC Dig In campaign pages.

Hopefully there were  lots of bumper holiday ideas on our blog to keep the whole family busy this August (or winter!) Off to try some Cold Ovaltine! 

“Hooray We passed our 6000th page view today on 8th August 2010!” We are now up to 20,000 plus readers in the last two years, and many hundreds of thousnads who have visited the zoo and seen the garden for real since 2009. They also pinch the strawberries, and then tell me later how nice they tasted … 

For all enquiries or comments re. World War Zoo gardens project, contact us via the comments page below.

If stuck inside, 21st century child style, you might like to check out our past blog entries, look at the macaque monkey webcam on www.newquayzoo.org.uk

Hope you enjoyed appy National Allotments Week in August http://www.nsalg.org.uk

September we’re off to talk to local Garden Societies, starting with Goonhavern Garden Society on the 21st September, then to Twycross Zoo in November 2011 for the big BIAZA ACE meeting … Have (wartime) gnome and garden, will travel!

“Zoo Do You Think You Are (Kidding Mr Hitler)?” Tracking down family history and wartime concrete at Chester Zoo

June 12, 2011

Tracking down wartime concrete in zoos … an intriguing bit of Chester Zoo’s history, a vanished zoo in Brighton and four wartime hippos inBudapest.

Mr. Mottershead, founder of Chester Zoo - memorial plaque near Oakfield House, Chester Zoo (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

We weren’t sure whether to called this post Zoo Do You Think You Are? (after the BBC TV Family history series), thanks to a quick quip from Richard Gibson at Chester Zoo or maybe  Zoo Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler? (to the theme tune of Dad’s Army) in view of the wartime concrete, Home Guard and Gnome Guard-ener bit at the end. Decide for yourself! 

Tracking down wartime concrete in zoos …  an intriguing bit of Chester Zoo’s history, a vanished zoo in Brighton and four wartime hippos inBudapest.

Family history is big business now on the internet and on television. Looking back at baby photos past for a glimpse of a familiar adult expression today or looking at your children today for a fleeting recognition of family faces, it’s something we all do in time. Like gardening, it’s probably age related, primal and territorial. My family, my birth place, my tribe. So why should it be any different for zoos to look back at where they came from? Can we catch a glimpse of the future from a look at their past?

Chester Zoo history symposium 20 May 2011 from the SHNH website

What are zoos for? How should zoos work together? Why should zoos keep an archive of past events and what should they do with this material? These were some of the many questions raised by the recent Symposium on Zoo history / Zoo future hosted at Chester Zoo “From Royal Menageries to Biodiversity Conservation”http://www.chesterzoo.org/ and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Zoo and  a joint celebration of the work of several societies together. The Bartlett Society (www.zoohistory.co.uk), World Association of Zoos and Aquariums   (WAZA) www.waza.org , Linnaean Society and celebrating its 75th birthday, the Society for the History of Natural History (SHNH). It reflected the World of Zoos and Aquariums as it was attended by delegates from Britain, Ireland, Europe, North America and South East Asia / Australasia. http://www.shnh.org.uk/welcome/news-module-test-page/read-story/article/report-on-the-meeting-from-royal-gifts-to-biodiversity-conservation-the-history-and-development-of.html?tx_ttnews[backPid]=23&cHash=7d7c748eec

 Proceedings or copies of these talks are in preparation. Meanwhile, the list of talks and delegates can be seen for  while at http://www.shnh.org.uk/meetings/future-meetings/shnh-spring-meeting-and-agm.html

Only 91 animals remained amongst the ruins of wartime Berlin Zoo by 1945 from an old German / US archive press photo (World War Zoo gardens collection at Newquay Zoo)

Dr. Miklos Persenyi, Director General at Budapest Zoo in Hungary showed some beautiful slides of how the once war ravaged zoo in Hungary has been restored, even the 1960s buildings are being ‘restored’ to match the striking Hungarian Art Nouveau architecture of the early 20th Century. Miklos joked that he is employed by the Budapest Tourist Bureau, as the zoo, botanic garden and ‘cultural centre’ that it has become looks well worth a visit. After my short presentation on wartime zoos which mentioned Berlin Zoo being left with 91 animals after air raids and street fighting, Miklos quietly capped this with his story of the 15 animals left alive at Budapest zoo after the freezing winter months of 1944 when the Zoo and city of Budapest became a besieged town and battlefield between the Germans and the Russians. Amazingly, whilst the local people eat anything they could to survive, four or five of these surviving animals were Hippopotami (or Hippopotamuses). These plant eaters survived in the warm waters of the thermal springs there, alongside a handful of ‘singing birds’. The people ofBudapest rebuilt their zoo after the war, whilst bombsites of local buildings and churches near the zoo were unofficially commandeered to grow crops for people and animals  http://www.zoobudapest.com/english

 This comment by Miklos gave a little human detail to the broad sweep of zoo history, of different groups and associations which eventually became the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) in a reunified Europe after the Berlin Wall and collapse of Communism / end of the Cold War c. 1989  Equally moving was the long slow progression to today’s World Association of Zoos and Aquariums from its late Victorian beginning in Germany, through wartime disruptions, revolutions  to today’s worldwide organisation “United for Conservation” at last! Hoorah! It was long time coming.  

One of the Symposium concerns was the lack of original zoo history research being done into the past life of zoos, as often what we read is simply a regurgitation of the same old sources. There were many fine presentations which will be available in due course in the Symposium Proceedings, and some ‘Eureka’ moments. (or “Mary Jane Hawkins!” moments as they are strangely called in the film of Robert Harris’ Enigma).  One of these slowly managed revelations was Dr. Graham Rowe’s talk on his research into the very short life in months of the failed Brighton Zoological Gardens in the 1830s. Did it ever happen except on paper? Graham led us through newspaper clues, paintings of early Cricket, faded scans and enlargements of ancient prints, to reveal at the end his starting point – a pair of ornamental gate pillars adorned with lions in a wall in a street in the Park Crescent back areas of  Brighton, near several cricket named pubs. Proof that the short-lived Brighton Zoo had really had existed for few months, rather than being a plan on paper. Excellent detective work and a story well told. Mary Jane Hawkins! Graham pointed out that if ‘Brighton Zoo’ had survived, it would likely have been flattened by Luftwaffe bombing that hit other listed buildings in the area.

Newquay Zoo's wartime roaming 'gnome gaurd-ener' in front of some original wartime concrete pillars with a historic past, Chester Zoo May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

If being intrigued by one lump of stone was enough, Chester Zoo our host was home to another interesting story. As part of my World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo, I have been researching what happened in wartime zoos, with an eye to what lessons we can learn from surviving our wartime past for the management of zoos through future challenges. This work is often hamstrung by the lack of (accessible) archives in many zoos. Not so Chester Zoo which has an excellent and accessible archive, partly scanned and the Chester Zoo News (1930s-1980s) available to buy on CD-Rom!

These magazines must have refreshed memories and dates with lots of detail in June Mottershead’s vividly remembered account Reared in Chester Zoo (written with Janice Madden, Ark Books, 2009) of growing up at Chester Zoo, helping out as it was built by her father and as it struggled to survived through the slump and wartime shortages of the 1930s and 1940s to her marriage to Keeper Fred Williams.

Chester Zoo history timeline banners, Chester Zoo, 2011

This story of George Mottershead and family is well told in banner panels for each decade of the zoo’s 80 years, over near the ‘new’ 1950s Aquarium and the modern Cedar House which houses the library and archive.

My guide for the day, Head of Discovery and Learning archivist Stephen McKeown told me that the concrete pillars of the aquarium were hand-cast by June and Fred, often working into the night by lamplight. So like George Mottershead, they literally did build their zoo by hand. Sdaly the original Chester Zoo Aquarist, Yorkshireman Peter Falwasser died of wounds on active service in North Africa, 1942. Before his death, Peter wrote excitedly to Chester Zoo colleagues of all the wildlife and especially fish he was seeing in the Middle East and wondered how to get them back to Chester Zoo. So this new aquarium  in the 1950s was maybe a quite sort of memorial to ‘gentle’ Peter Falwasser, as June describes him.

Inside June's Pavilion, Chester Zoo May 2011

A quick trip downstairs to the public toilets in Oakfield House today takes you to the site of the ‘old’ or first wartime Aquarium and air raid shelters for staff,  based in the cellars of Oakfield House. This listed red brick building was the big house or mansion of the estate that became Chester Zoo in the 1930s after serving for a short while as a VAD convalescent home for officers in the First World War as many such houses did around Europe. This must have had strong associations for Private George Mottershead, who  apparently spent several years recovering after the war in a wheelchair.

Looking at the 1930s map by George Williams inside June’s book, it is still possible to glimpse a little of the original zoo, especially starting from the red brick house and stables block, used extensively for temporary animal houses in the first decade or so. Lion scratches and a small plaque by the stables archway give a clue to what once happened here, the nucleus of what has today grown to become Chester Zoo.

The roar of big cats can still be heard across the path from the old temporary ‘pen’, the site of George Mottershead’s lion enclosure that he started to hand-build in 1937 but was delayed by wartime, only finished in 1947.

A link to the Chester Zoo lions of the wartime past - within roar of the present. Chester Zoo Satbles and Courtyard gateway, May 2011

The stables and courtyard of the big house of another era are closed to the public but very visible from public walkways, the stables now house the works depot and offices.

History in the Chester area is never far away – usually just inches under your feet. The Romans had a garrison town (Deva) here, into whose near-complete buried amphitheatre in town were dug the air-raid shelters for June’s school. Behind Oakfield House, RomanGardensand glasshouses now lie where food was once grown in the kitchen gardens and conservatory area.

This glasshouse like those in many zoos was a victim of wartime shrapnel, in this case probably anti-aircraft or ack-ack ‘flak’ from nearby AA guns. Friendly fire like this also killed a Coypu, one of the only direct wartime casualties amongst the animals from enemy action (many other zoo animals like penguins slowly declined from wartime substitute feeding). Here in these vanished glasshouses and kitchen gardens, food was once grown for the mansion and for the early zoo. The Mottersheads were nurserymen and market gardeners, June’s ‘Grandad’ Mottershead working well into old age and wartime to provide food for his son’s zoo animals. Three of June’s Mottershead uncles and step-uncles from this gardening family were killed in the First World War, two others on her mother’s side, whilst her father George was badly wounded on theSomme. 

George Mottershead in uniform with wife Elizabeth, World War One, one of mnay family photos in the new June's Pavilion, Chester Zoo

Family photographs of these friendly ghosts can be found in June’s book but also mounted on the walls of the newly opened June’s Pavilion catering area near Oakfield House, next to the Growzone conservatories for today’s Chester Zoo gardeners. Zoos, like armies, march on their stomachs and good food is very important to the human and other animals at the zoo. It is often the make or break of a zoo visit and probably one of the harder things to get right for everyone.

 I learnt this lesson on day one of zoo management, spent with sleeves rolled up and rubber gloves in the sink partly alongside Pete the Ops Manager washing up and KP-ing in the Newquay Zoo café during an afternoon rush and shortage of café staff. So I understand how important June, her sister Muriel, her mother Elizabeth like all the women in her family were in feeding zoo staff, evacuees and zoo visitors as well as zoo animals before and during the war.

It is very fitting to have ‘June’s Pavilion’ as not a museum or a memorial but something practical, and fun – a family eating place with family photographs on the wall. George Mottershead in First World war uniform with Elizabeth and baby Muriel, Grandad Mottershead, June and Fred, all look down, alongside many other of the army of Chester Zoo staff of the past, over another generation of zoo visitors tucking in to food before heading off to look and learn about more animals.

Having read June’s account in hindsight and the detailed newsletters month by month during uncertain times gives you chance to relive the early years, almost to glimpse through the windows of Oakfield House and spot familiar ghosts on the lawn. 

Next to Oakfield House beside the lawn in its own small garden stands a small simple memorial plaque to George Mottershead, erected by the zoo members and staff after he died in 1978. George looks out of the photo back towards the stables and the windows of Oakfield House which must have seen so many stories, from the gentry and hunting at the big house to wounded soldiers of his own war, wartime evacuees in the next war, refugee elephants and their mahouts, a place of family weddings and still a venue for an excellent quiet lunch in the panelled dining room.

After the war, things did not become easier straight away. There was still food rationing and materials for building were in short supply.Britain

Round the back of the Europe on the Edge aviary, once the 1940s polar bear enclosure can be seen wartime surplus concrete tank traps built into pillars, a clever bit of wartime / austerity salvage, Chester Zoo, May 2011 (Image: World War Zoo gardens project)

had to feed itself, the displaced millions of Europeand repair huge numbers of bombed factories, schools and houses around the country. A short walk away from Oakfield House, you can still glimpse one of George’s practical bits of post-war salvage. Fred Williams, June’s husband, as Clerk of Works carried on this salvage tradition.

 At the rear of what was once built as the Polar Bear enclosure can be seen some at first rather plain and ugly concrete pillars. Ironically now part of the Europe on the Edge Aviary, these pillars started life for a very different purpose – heavy concrete road blocks and tank traps from the desperate days of improvisation against invasion by the armies of Hitler’sGermany after softening up by Goering’s eagles of the Luftwaffe.

 The round shapes of these can be seen clearly in Frith picture postcards featured in a recent zoo postcards book by  Alan Ashby (www.izes.co.uk) . These pillars  are an unlikely memorial to a past generation, though thankfully Fred and June are still very much with us, still interested in the zoo they built and recently opened June’s new Pavilion. 

Stephen McKeown spoke about furtehr ideas for developing family history on the way to our Chester Zoo members talk at the Russell Allen lecture theatre at Chester zoo (named after Maud Russell Allen, an early council member or benefactor in the 1930s and 1940s). They are thinking about the occasional guided or self-guided history tour – so watch the Chester Zoo website for details.

BBC clip about June at wartime Chester Zoo: http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_6700000/newsid_6706300/6706315.stm?bw=nb&mp=wm&news=1&bbcws=1

More pictures of our World War Zoo gardens at Newquay Zoo next week. Contact me via the comments page or check out our zoo website pages about world war zoo on www.newquayzoo.org.uk 

The new World War Zoo gardens sign at Newquay Zoo, 2011

Of Gerald Durrell, wartime gnomes and gardens (and air raid shelters) in zoos … Spain and London latest

March 15, 2011

Our 'missing' wartime gnome sends another postcard home ... from the former air raid shelter tunnels at London Zoo.

Taking shelter at London Zoo September 1939, a sandbagged tunnel under the road (Zoo and Animal magazine, November 1939)

 

Our missing Gnome Guard-ener  from our recreation of a 1940s wartime zoo gardens project sends a message home. ‘Bert’ mysteriously disappeared over a month ago and reappeared first at Paignton Zoo, then has sent another card back from a wartime site at London Zoo:

They used this tunnel as an air raid shelter during World War 2. Unfortunately there wouldn’t have been this bright light then. It would have been cold dark and scary. Just looking at it makes me feel small! Love from your Gnome Guard!”

In our wartime collection of photos, you can see one end of the tunnel sandbagged, a tunnel usually used for moving pedestrians and elephants (which were evacuated to Whipsnade).  In many zoos, empty animal enclosures (London, Bristol, Edinburgh), slit trenches (Whipsnade),  underground aquariums  (Chester) and visiting Birmingham Botanic Gardens last week, underneath their bandstand! Evacuee Peter Pollard was present at Chessington Zoo when the zoo air raid shelters took a direct hit with many casualties – he’s interviewed on BBC Radio Cornwall (see website link on our blog roll).   

In the peace of Newquay Zoo, we’ve been busy fencing and smartening up our wartime garden at Newquay Zoo in advance of an expected to be busier than normal  weekend this weekend, 19 and 20th March 2011, for  our Locals weekend – £2 entry (with proof of Cornish address) – see our website www.newquayzoo.org.uk for details.

Hopefully our wartime Gnome Guard-ener will have returned in the next few months for May is proving busy – a talk at Chester Zoo about wartime zoos for members on Saturday 21st May and  a busy May half term week of activities  at Newquay Zoo celebrating both BIAZA’s Love Your Zoo campaign and our Newquay Zoo wartime garden weekend (May 28 – June 5th 2011 http://www.biaza.org.uk 

LATEST POSTCARD RECEIVED 23 March 2011

Have gnome, will travel ... Newquay Zoo's missing wartime Gnome Guard-ener makes it out from Cornwall to Devon and London to Spain! Bioparc Valencia,  March 2011

Have gnome, will travel ... Newquay Zoo's missing wartime Gnome Guard-ener makes it out from Cornwall to Devon and London to Spain! Bioparc Valencia, March 2011

Our roaming gnome has sent a postcard back from Spain – Bioparc Valencia hosted the EZE European Zoo Educators meeting recently, with several British zoo education staff attending. This is probably how Bert got there.

Unusual Bristih visitors in Spain are nothing new. Many unusual British volunteers fought against the ‘fascist’ forces in Spain in 1936, including writer Laurie Lee or observed the fighting  like journalist George Orwell.   

The memory of this civil war time and Franco era is still raw in Spain, as described in Giles Tremletts’ excellent book Ghosts of Spain.  We haven’t yet researched what happened to zoos such as Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish Civil War. The bombing of Guernica (famously pictured by Pablo Picasso)  gave British zoo staff planning for the next war a good idea of what to expect from aerial attack.

Whildst this was going on in late 1930s in Spain, not far away the young Gerald Durrell was exploring the animal rich nooks and crannies of the Mediteranean island of Corfu, famously described in My Family and Other Animals.

They also serve, who only sit and read ... Looking a bit like Gerald Durrell, 'Gerald' our replacement wartime Gnome Guard-ener (until the original one returns from his travels, pictured in The Cornish Guardian miniature copy). World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo, March 2011

Soon after his return to wartime Britain, Durrell’s time at Whipsnade Zoo in 1945 as a student keeper are described in his other early books. Two mysterious gnomes arrived last week  in our lovely refenced, repaved garden (all work done by zoo builder John Murrell and Mike his garden volunteer). We have a stop-gap Gnome Guard-ener in place until Bert returns, which we have christened “Gerald”.  A slightly more expensive bronze statue of Gerald Durrell can be found at Jersey Zoo.With his cartoonist’s great sense of  humour and his love of travel, we’re sure Gerald would approve of the whole gnome escap-ade, our  wartime garden and its animal enrichment work, not disimilar to the poly tunnel market gardens at Jersey Zoo and now Paignton Zoo.

AWOL Wartime Gnome Guard-ener’s tour of duty makes it from Newquay Zoo to London Zoo’s war memorial … “lest we forget”

March 3, 2011

Our wartime Gnome Guard-ener pays his respects at London Zoo's staff war memorial, March 2011

Our missing gnome from the World War Zoo wartime gardens project at Newquay Zoo has turned up somewhere else  … and sent a postcard home from London Zoo.

A postcard has arrived at Newquay Zoo, picturing our gnome visiting London Zoo with a message from him on his travels. It reads: “It’s really good to see this after hearing so much about the London Zoo staff who died during the war. Lest We Forget …”

We covered some of the poignant stories of ZSL London Zoo staff lost on active service in both world wars in our November and December 201o blog posts. 12 staff were lost in WW1, 5 more in WW2.

We’ve no idea where he will turn up next … but his photo is in the Cornish Guardian this week detailing his last trip, to our collegues at VertiCrop in Paignton Zoo. Meanwhile we are building a new fence around our wartime allotment – supposedly to keep out straying feet and our animals out from nibbling the food before its grown. But it might keep gnomes in place on duty. Maybe he’s avoiding hard Dig for Victory work, as there’s new sandbags to fill.

Let’s hope he’s gn-home by May in time for our BIAZA Love Your Zoo and wartime week in half term and our  trip to Chester Zoo in May 2011 to talk about wartime zoos.

More about the World War Zoo project on www.newquayzoo.org.uk news sections.

One of our Gnome Guards is missing from Newquay Zoo …

February 21, 2011

Our Gnome Guard has gone missing and off on his travels ... here he is at Paignton Zoo's VertiCrop house , proudly wearing his LDV arm band.

Our Gnome Guard from the World War Zoo gardens project has disappeared from Newquay Zoo www.newquayzoo.org.uk last weekend …

and mysteriously appeared at Paignton Zoo ‘s VertiCrop house http://www.paigntonzoo.org.uk/botanical/verticrop.php

from where he sent this postcard! All very mysterious …

One wartime Paignton Zoo site where Newquay Zoo's wartime Gnome Guard may explore - Clennon Gorge quarries, possible site for US troops GI cookhouse / campsite before D-Day June 1944, cleaned up after the war to become a now peaceful nature reserve at Paignton Zoo. (Nov. 2010)

It’s not a bad spot to visit, the 21st century update of our 1940s grow your own ‘dig for victory’ zoo keepers’ allotment producing fresh food for our zoo animals .

I saw VertiCrop in November, when visting looking at Paignton Zoo’s wartime past. Suitably for a wartime re-enactor (gnome), Paignton Zoo was operational during World War Two, and you can read more about its past in our archive of blog posts in 2010.

Undercover allotment of the future ... VertiCrop at Paignton Zoo pictured on our recent BIAZA zoo conference visit, November 2010, whilst looking for hints of the wartime Paignton Zoo

 

Who knows where he will turn up next?

 

Who knows when he will return?

(Who ever helped him travel, please return him at some point – there’s digging to be done).

Fresh faced, a white bearded Grandad's Army protects the crops at Newquay Zoo's wartime garden, summer 2010.

Without our gnome gardener / guard-ener’s help, we put our wartime variety of spuds in yesterday (Sharpe’s Express) and some of our saved broad bean seeds from last year’s crop. The rest of the broad beans proved great fresh ‘podding’  enrichment for our critically endangered ‘Yaki’ Sulawesi macaque monkeys last summer. We’ve sown some more broad beans and other things for them this year, a special year for the macaques with the launch of the Selamatkan Yaki campaign (‘save the macaques’ in the local Sulawesi /Bahasan Indonesian language) by Paignton & Newquay Zoo (part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust) see our website www.newquayzoo.org.uk/conservation pages.   

LDV Gnome guard in his usual allotment spot in our wartime 'Dig For Victory' garden Summer at Newquay Zoo, 2010

Our Gnome Guard on his planned travels, appearing in our wartime display at Trelawney Garden Centre's wildlife gardening weekend, August 2010

If you look back through our blog posts in summer 2010 you’ll find more about our Gnome Guard, named after the LDV or Home Guard in World War 2. You’ll also find links to Twigs Way the garden writer and her superb little Shire Library series book on Garden Gnomes (There’s a great little Shire book by her on Allotments and a new book on wartime gardening by Twigs Way and Mike Brown (Sabrestorm)  http://twigsway.com/

Hopefully our Gnome Guard will be back by the May half term for our wartime displays as prt of our Wartime Zoo gardens week running alongside the BIAZA ‘Love Your Zoo’ campaign http://www.biaza.org.uk ( May 28 to June 5th 2011).

For more information about World War Zoo, visit http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk/news/world-war-zoo.htm

Rare 'Yaki' Sulawesi Macaque monkey at Newquay Zoo enjoying fresh broad bean pods, summer 2010. (Picture: Jackie Noble, Newquay Zoo)

Hopefully, our missing Gnome Guard will be back from his travels soon. If he turns up next at our other sister zoo, Living Coasts www.livingcoasts.org.uk  I will suspect an ‘inside job’ in his disappearance  …

After all, wherever you wander, there’s g-no place like gnome …


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