The last crops in our World War Zoo wartime keepers’ garden at Newquay Zoo are being gathered in for the year, at a time of Harvest Festivals around the country.
Posts Tagged ‘dig for victory garden’
18 September is the 70th anniversary of the sudden death in 1945 of BBC radio celebrity Dig for Victory gardener Mr Cecil Henry Middleton.
First TV gardening programme?
Mr Middleton, 21 November 1936 – Middleton was an early pioneer of TV gardening before WW2, but sadly he died before the BBC gardening resumed on television.
Recently many of his simple and readable garden guides and radio talks have been reprinted for a whole new generation.
We have previously covered some of his garden advice – look through our blogposts earlier this year.
Life, Work and Tributes
There is a very good Wikipedia entry Mr. Middleton for him, covering his life and published works.
There is also delightful Pathe newsreel of his ‘chats over the garden fence’.
This film footage is reused in the 1945 Pathe Newsreel “Passing of an Old Friend” which ends with Mr Middleton walking away up a country lane – becoming his last farewell to his audience – then footage of the flower-bedecked funeral procession of Mr Middleton moving away from St. Mathews Church, Surbiton.
An animated cartoon Mr Middleton on Pathe Newsreel talks compost in wartime.
A comic 1938 gardening song “Mr Middleton Says it’s Right” by trio Vine, More and Nevard on Pathetone Pathe newsreel. Proof of his celebrity …
In 2012 an interesting Mr Middleton inspired modern gardening blog began with lots of links to his surviving media archive.
His memorial gates erected in 1955 at his original BBC plot at Langham Gardens are now outside the BBC written archives at Caversham.
A floral tribute (now lost?) was a dark red Hybrid Tea Rose named after him, Registration name ‘C.H. Middleton’ was bred by Benjamin R. Cant & Sons (United Kingdom, 1939). This Hybrid Tea Rose was described as “Crimson. Strong fragrance. Large, very double, high-centered bloom form. Blooms in flushes throughout the season.”
“Hasten slowly”: Mr. Middleton, fondly remembered.
He was and is the inspiration to our wartime garden:
And our own attempt at being Mr. Middleton, albeit in modern podcast form in 2010: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/from-bean-pods-to-podcasts-the-first-world-war-zoo-gardens-blog-podcast/
Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Garden project, Newquay Zoo
We have had some great positive responses from people who’d seen our photos from the World War Zoo Gardens Wartime allotment at Newquay Zoo.
Here as promised are some more photos, including more flowers for a bit of wartime colour.
Flowers in a wartime garden?
18th September 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the sudden death in 1945 of Mr. Middleton the celebrity wartime garden broadcaster and writer.
One of my favourite quotes from him is extra poignant in that sadly Mr Middleton never lived to fulfil or see this postwar return to flowering gardens:
In happier days we talked of rock gardens, herbaceous borders and verdant lawns; but with the advent of war and its grim demands, these pleasant features rapidly receded into the background to make way for the all important food crop … Presumably most of my old friends still listen when I hold forth on Leeks, Lettuces and Leatherjackets, instead of Lilac, Lilies and Lavender … These are critical times, but we shall get through them, and the harder we dig for victory, the sooner will the roses be with us again …
Quoted on the back of Duff Hart-Davis’ new book Our Land At War: A Portrait of Rural Britain 1939-45 (William Collins, 2015) – review forthcoming on this blog soon.
“Money spent on flowers, in moderation, is never wasted”
quoted in C. H. Middleton, Your Garden in Wartime, 1941 (p. 26, reprinted Aurum Press, 2010)
“For the moment potatoes, onions, carrots and so on must receive our full attention: but we may look forward to the time when this nightmare will end, as end it must – and the morning will break with all our favourite flowers to greet us once more, and, who knows perhaps my next volume of talks will be of roses, mignonette, daffodils and lilies.” C.H.M, June 1941
C. H. Middleton, Your Garden in Wartime, 1941 (p. 5, reprinted Aurum Press, 2010)
More pictures of colourful and often edible flowers in the World War Zoo Garden, Newquay Zoo, August 2015.
The alternate baking and soaking weather this August has really brought out the strong colours in this veg such as this Ruby / Rhubarb Chard.
Proof of good eating! One of the Globe artichokes picked with our Junior Keepers this week at Newquay Zoo and thrown into the rare ‘Yaki’ Sulawesi Macaque Monkeys becomes enrichment – unusual food, plaything, must-have toy …
This is food for our animals so fresh it travels food metres, not miles, and is still almost growing when eaten, foods seconds or minutes from allotment ground to animal gourmets.
We hope Mr Middleton would approve of our edible garden with flowers and vegetables, even though not everything has gone well this year.
The harvest of a Macaque and Capuchin monkey favourite – broad beans in fresh pods and on the stem / haulm – has been very poor this year. They were saved seed and seemed to show no better progress on the Growmore fertiliser side of the plot than the organic green manure side. These will soon be harvested, the haulms dug in and planting for next spring begun.
Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo World War Zoo Gardens project August 2015
August 2015 – our first memorial Poppy finally flowers after two years of seeds!
This is particularly poignant as 2015 is the anniversary of the writing of John MacCrae’s famous WW1 Poppy poem In Flanders Fields.
The Wartime zookeepers’s garden allotment at Newquay Zoo is coming into ‘Bloom’, thankfully around the time that Britain / SW / Newquay in Bloom judges visited the zoo and Newquay itself recently.
It has been a year for poppies – not all of them real, such as the silk poppies from our Red White and Blue VE day 70th anniversary …
to the famous, unexpectedly popular and very moving ceramic poppies at The Tower Of London in Autumn 2014.
Many of the blooms are on edible or scented plants, such as these Thyme herbs for animal scent enrichment at Newquay Zoo, great for enriching carnivore and big cat enclosures.
Fantastically fiery colour and taste of nasturtium flowers and leaves
Edible white borage flowers
More dark red ‘Empress of India’ Edible Nasturtiums and some surprising Garlic seed heads, much loved by bees and macaque monkeys –
It is BIAZA Big Bug Bonanza week this week (3 to 9 August 2015) in UK in zoos, celebrating insectsand invertebrates; these edible flowers and garden plants are usually alive with insects.
A disappointing (too dry?) year for Broad Beans, whose simple flowers and smell I love. Many of these beans were saved seed from previous years.
However it’s been better for colourful Swiss or rainbow chard, often mistaken by visitors for young Rhubarb:
Finally another fantastic small crop of Globe Artichokes, again much loved by our Sulawesi Macaque monkeys. This is their fifth year growing. I tried these for the first time myself this year and wasn’t overwhelmed by them but the monkeys love them.
Back to my first real Poppy – a flower of remembrance – posted today 6th August 2015 on the 70th anniversary of the first atomic bomb at Hiroshima.
Remembering the many lives lost, changed and saved by this event.
Our poor soil is getting tired, entering our 7th growing season in the World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo, just as it would have been for gardeners entering the 1945 growing season.
The first year or two in 2009/10, our Lion House lawn turned wartime allotment must have had a certain amount of stored natural goodness, being cultivated for the first time, along with good helpings of zoo bedding and zoo manure well rotted down.
The last two autumn / winters of 2013/14 we’ve given it an organic boost with green manures of mustard and clover grown and dug in before flowering. Like Heligan, we have used the traditional seaside remedies of using seaweed solutions or mulched sea weed dug and rotted down.
Since 2009 we’ve been keeping it ‘semi-organic’, as our garden produce is not just for show but practically for our zoo animals. I have to be wary of chemicals and pesticides that would have been the quick fix for soil and pest problems in WW2.
It’s International Year of the Soil in 2015 (IYS) and December the 5th is now an annual World Soil Day, focussing on the growing challenge of feeding a growing world’s population with a potentially finite resource of soil. Much the same food security challenge faced farmers and food ministers in the wartime and post-war wrecked economy after World War 2.
In future blogposts I will look at the organic and hydroponic movement that arose out of wartime and post-war food production and intensification of farming. Few realised in the desperate state of wartime a nd positive view that ‘Science’ would solve all post-war problems until the slow discovery that some ‘miracle’ or quick-fix wartime pesticides like DDT would lead to the ‘Silent Spring’ of pollution in the 1950s and 1960s, as Rachel Carson christened the disastrous impact on wildlife and human health. But for now, I shall look at and try out the wartime solution of a simple and still much-loved chemical fertiliser.
Update 15 March 2015: As compromise and inspired by 1970s dandruff adverts, I will feed one half of the allotment National Growmore chemical fertiliser, the other half of the plot I will the leave as organic green manure fuelled or maybe Organic Blood Fish and Bone as an experiment.
This year for the first time, I’ll be using ‘Artificials’, taking my wartime gardening advice from the Ministry of Agriculture leaflets for 1945. We have acquired many of these Ministry of Ag original leaflets for our archive but for muddy garden use and display we use a recent reprint.
These have been reprinted recently as Allotment and Garden Guide: A Monthly Guide to Better Wartime Gardening published by Sabrestorm (www.sabrestorm.com) in 2009 edited by Garden historian Twigs Way. It describes Growmore in January 1945 as:
A SOUND GOVERNMENT FERTILISER
“To meet the needs of gardeners the Government arranged for the supply of a good standard fertiliser at a reasonable price. It is called “National Growmore Fertilser” and contains the three important plant foods – the analysis being 7 % N. (Nitrogen), 7 % Phosphate and 7 % Potash …”
“On most soils 42 lb of National Growmore Fertiliser should be sufficient for a 10 Rod Plot (300 square yards). A few days before sowing or planting, scatter 1 lb. evenly over 10 square yards and rake in.”
“To give this general dressing to a 10-Rod allotment will take 30 lbs. this will leave 12 lbs for giving an extra dressing for potatoes, winter green crops and spring cabbages. 4.5 lbs should be reserved for potatoes and should be applied at planting time. 5.5 lbs should be kept for applying during August to the autumn and winter green crops when they are making active growth. The remaining 2 lbs should be used during March as top dressing for Spring cabbage.”
The January 1945 leaflet goes on to suggest bulk buying if you can organise enough people to spilt the volumes ordered. This reminds me of childhood trips with my Dad to the local allotment society ‘potting shed’ on a Sunday to buy his share of the bulk bought fertiliser, seeds and such. With no car, we must have carried it or wheelbarrowed it home. The smell of such places is quite evocative, dusty, fish, blood and bone, quite different from a modern garden centre.
“You will be able to get National Growmore Fertiliser from most sundries merchants. Allotment Societies and similar bodies, which have hitherto bought their fertilisers in bulk, are able to buy National Growmore Fertiliser in bulk at reduced prices.”
“On some allotments or in some gardens it may be necessary to give an additional top dreessing of a nitrogenous fertiliser (such as Sulphate of Ammonia) to any growing crops, applying it at the rate of about 1 lb per 10 square yards.” (January 1945 Min of Ag leaflet p. 3-4)
Sundries merchants, hitherto – they just don’t write paragraphs like that anymore. As vanished as the evocative small of the local allotment society potting shed shop? Thankfully National Growmore Fertiliser is still alive and well available from most garden centres from several manufacturers such as J. Arthur Bowers and Vitax still made “to original ‘dig for victory’ formula” – http://www.vitax.co.uk/home-garden/vitax-growmore/
It also appears again on the REMINDERS monthly page for January 1945 Get Your Fertilisers Now. “Make sure of your fertilisers now, so that you have them at hand when needed”
So important was Growmore to tired wartime soil and tired wartime gardeners that it was mentioned again in the February 1945 Allotment and Garden Guide Vol 1 No. 2. The end of the war was in sight after hard fighting but still the need to grow postwar crops meant that these leaflets carried on being published well past the end of the war in August 1945. Dig for Victory became Dig for Plenty, as rationing carried on for almost another ten years until 1954. Crop Rotation, compost, all these were important reminders to the winter gardener: “But before you get down to planning, have you yet got or ordered what you will need when you start outdoor operations? These are the items : SEEDS * SEED POTATOES * FERTILISERS *”
A page or two later it has another reminder: “Have you got your NATIONAL GROWMORE FERTILISER? you will need it for dressing your land before sowing and planting. it contains the three essential plant foods in balanced proportions …”
It crops up again in the Jobs Reminders, in March 1945: “Feed Spring cabbage … Lettuces and Spinach … but keep the fertiliser off the leaves” and then onwards month by month in the Reminders. By July 1945, the war in Europe and VE day was over but things were still uncertain in the Far East. Reminders continued to gardeners to plant and sow to bridge the hungry gap next Spring 1946.
What is National Growmore Fertiliser?
National Growmore is an inorganic or chemical fertiliser, broadly similar in its 7% each of Potash, Nitrogen and Phosphoric acid balance of nutrients (NPK 7:7:7) to more traditional organic fertilisers like Blood, Fish and Bone.
Before the war, nitrogenous fertilisers had existed in large numbers since Victorian times thanks to Chemists like Leibig and Humphry Davy. Prewar it would have been manufactured or sold by seed companies such as Sutton’s who offered a range of fertilisers:
- Icthelmic Guano (sea bird poo, the reason some of our sea birds like the endangered Humboldt Penguins at Newquay Zoo became rarer when their Peruvian beach nest sites were mined or dug back to useless bare rock )
- Poultmure, treated chicken manure, although no longer sold by Sutton’s or by this name is still available in garden centres.
- Garotta, still made under this name by several companies to speed or encourage compost breakdown.
When war broke out many of our European supplies of chemicals and chemical fertilisers such as (Sulphate of ) Potash became unobtainable, fell into enemy hands or found other competing wartime uses. Since the 1860s much of the Potash came from German or Prussian mining towns like Stassfurt. Changing times meant fewer horses meant less available farmyard manure. Meanwhile a nation of gardeners was being mobilised to replace the same food supplies that had vanished into enemy hands and that (like today) we had become dependant on from foreign imports. A simple, easy to apply and multipurpose fertiliser at low cost and widespread availability was required. National Growmore Fertiliser was the answer!
Growmore appears to have got its simple name from an early version of the Dig For Victory campaign name and its popular Grow More food leaflets. Eventually the campaign name changed to the more familiar Dig For Victory, its little gardener man logo replaced by the famous foot on spade and postwar Dig for Plenty campaigns. Growmore remains the same name and composition to this day.
“Specifically Prepared to Produce Maximum Crops Of Vegetables”
Researching the introduction of Growmore, the National Archives files for the Ministry of Agriculture MAF 51/24 suggest a start date of 1942 “National Growmore Fertiliser, a general purpose compound fertiliser”.
Looking at selections of historic newspaper archives through family history websites such as Find My Past as a very rough sample reveals 7 mentions of National Growmore for that year, mostly in the later part of 1942, whereas there are 166 for 1943 and so on.
The Ministry of Agriculture had made great use of the well-known garden writer Roy Hay (20 August 1910 – 21 October 1989) from 1940 onwards as part of its Dig for Victory campaign. In late 1942 he was used to introduce National Growmore Fertiliser in his syndicated garden columns “Garden Hints”. Announcements appeared in many different papers ranging from the Gloucester Journal on November 11 1942, Sussex Agricultural Express on 13 November 1942 to the Essex Newsman of the same week. Much of the copy Roy Hay provided and packaged in his garden columns was reproduced or recycled in the 1945 Allotment Guide:
A Standard Fertiliser
“At last gardeners and allotment holders can buy a standard fertiliser … to sold at prices not exceeding … 1 Cwt 25 shilings .. and authorised manufacturers will be permitted to put it on the market under this name. Many fertiliser manufacturers have already done so.”
There are a range of adverts from local newspapers that back this claim up of regulated prices “not exceeding”, such as this one from the Western Morning News 22 May 1943:
Fison’s National Growmore fertiliser for all vegetable Crops. Orders dealt with in strict rotation.Directions in Every Bag. 7 lbs 2/9 (2 shillings, 9d) 14 lbs 4/6, 28 lbs 7/6, 56 lbs 13/6 and 1 Cwt 25 shillings Carriage paid home. It’s FISON”S for FERTILISERS. From seedsmen or direct from Fison’s Ltd Gardens Dept, Harvest House, Ipswich. Pioneers of Granular fertilisers.
A similar advert in the Yorkshire Post of 30 march 1943 boasts the royal credentials or patronage of another authorised maunfacturer:
By appointment to HM King George VI
NATIONAL GROWMORE FERTILISER
The “Humber” Brand is manufactured by the makers of the famous “Eclipse” Compound Fish Manure. both of these aids to better gardening are packed in bags of 7 lbs, 28 lbs, 56 lbs, and 112 lbs, and supplies are available from your seedsman. Note – Special terms are offered to Allotment Societies buying in bulk. Licensed manufacturers, the Humber Fishing and Fish manure Co. Ltd, Winchester Chambers, Stoneferry, Hull.
Whereas in the Lincolnshire Echo, 14 January 1944 Barkers and Lee Smith Ltd of Lincoln urge people to “Book your order now for spring delivery. Up to 3 cwt delivered tp premises at 25 shillings per cwt. No permit required.” Similarly a sense of urgency is found in this Cornishman advert of 1st July 1943:
BUMPER CROPS can still be obtained from your GARDEN if you use NATIONAL GROWMORE FERTILISER NOW. You can purchase up to 3 Cwts free of permit from stocks at T.F. Hosking and Co., Marazion and Helston.
National Growmore made it into the regular Ministry of Agriculture adverts on
Wartime Gardening No. 22: SOWING TIME IS HERE
“If you’ve broken down rough ground till it is fine and level, and raked in National Growmore Fertiliser. take a last look at your cropping scheme. If you,ve allowed less than one-third of your space for growing winter greens, send at once for Dig For Victory Leaflet No 1 which shows you how to correct this serious mistake. You must make sure of enough winter gardens for next season. write to the Ministry of Agriculture, Hotel Lindum, St Annes On Sea, Lancashire.”
This address and the Hotel Berri Court Lytham St Annes seem to be the regular correspondence address for obtaining leaflets from the Ministry of agriculture which had dispersed or evacuated like many wartime ministries and organisations such as the BBC to a safer ‘rural’ address or requisitioned seaside hotels.
Roy Hay even suggests National Growmore Fertiliser for Christmas 1942 in his column headed “Tool Gifts for Gardeners” in the Essex Newsman 19 December 1942:
“A good present would be a bag of the new National Growmore Fertiliser – it has the advantage that you can buy quantities varying from a 7 lb bag at 2s, 9d to 1 Cwt at 25 shillings.”
Interestingly, the work of promoting National Growmore switched to Tom Hay, Roy’s retired gardener father in early 1943:
“They are fortunate who have a compost heap and for those less fortunate, the new National Growmore fertiliser…” writes Tom Hay in the 18/2/43 edition of the North Devon Journal and Herald
Tom Hay Plans Your Victory Garden
“Roy Hay the national broadcasting gardening expert, whose articles in the Journal-Herald from time to time have been much appreciated by readers, has gone overseas on important work. Contrary to the Biblical story the mantle of Elisha has fallen in Elijah; in other words Mr Hay’s father Mr Tom Hay CVO, VMH, ex-superintendent of Royal Parks contributes this article:
“At no season is the great advantage of a carefully planned cropping system more evident than at present…”
and so Tom Hay goes on to talk about Crop Rotation, a major feature of the Dig for Victory campaign.
Exploring Roy Hay’s biography on Wikipedia reveals why he handed over many of his press columns and radio broadcasts on the BBC “Radio Allotment” to his father. He had been recruited as a Horticultural Officer to the besieged George Cross winning island of Malta to oversee its food production. He resumed his broadcasting career postwar with Fred Streeter on “Home Grown”, a Sunday forerunner of BBC Radio Gardener’s Question Time.
Roy Hay went on to found the Britain in Bloom movement in 1963, inspired by one in De Gaulle’s France. So another influence on the Newquay Zoo wartime garden which has featured as part of the zoo and Newquay’s efforts in these ‘Bloom’ competitions.
As well as posters and radio allotments, newsreel films were well used to encourage reluctant diggers – you can see this in a lovely short 6 minute Dig For Victory MOI film with Roy Hay the radio allotment gardener http://www.thebigworld.co.uk/howtodigforvictory.htm.
Other garden writers like George H. Copley (N.D. Hort) in “Your Wartime Food Garden” in the Lancashire Daily 26 May 1943 mention National Growmore Fertiliser in relation to fruit trees, advice later recycled again in the 1945 Allotment Guide.
For more on Fertilisers today check the RHS website https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=451
Enjoy the coming gardening season, as March begins a busy period of sowing in the garden.
Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo
There is an excellent section on wartime allotments in the new City Library of Birmingham, where I recently researched for information on the Birmingham Botanic Garden archives.
February and March gardening advice from Mr Middleton from the “Sow and Reap” 1943 calendar in our World War Zoo Gardens collection at Newquay Zoo. Happy Gardening!
Some bird-friendly advice about pest control.
Time to order your seeds now! Soon time to get sowing.
Spinach, lettuce, broccoli, carrots – sow!
We’ll finish March with Mr Middleton’s late March advice, as he was a man who knew his onions …
You can read more about Mr. Middleton and his January 1943 advice in our previous post.
All calendar words Mr Middleton’s own. Source Credit: Sow and Reap 1943 Calendar by Mr Middleton, from the World War Zoo Gardens collection, Newquay Zoo.
Mr Middleton’s gardening calender “Sow and Reap” 1943 (images from my collection).
This calender is put together from a mix of Mr. Middleton’s gardening advice from other sources and publications, recycled by an obviously busy Mr. Middleton. We will post the relevant section month by month throughout 2015, another useful guide for our wartime allotment project.
Wartime rationing 75 years on and Mr Middleton’s wartime gardening advice
2015 marks the 75th anniversary of rationing being introduced on 8th January 1940 and the 70th anniversary of Mr Middleton’s death on 19th September 1945.
How time flies! We marked this rationing date on the 70th anniversary in 2010, several years into the World War Zoo Gardens project, alongside the Imperial War Museum – see the legacy site for http://food.iwm.org.uk 2010 Ministry of Food Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, marking 70 years since rationing was introduced.
2015 is also sadly the 70th anniversary of the death of Cecil Henry Middleton (b. 22 February 1886) on 18 September 1945.
On the Ministry of Food IWM site, there is also some great December 1945 gardening advice pages from this wartime celebrity gardener Mr. Middleton. The whole 1945 leaflet set has been reprinted recently as a book edited by Twigs Way (Sabrestorm Press, 2009). We will feature more about Mr. Middleton throughout 2015. As well as Pathe Newsreel footage of Mr. Middleton, there is an interesting Mr Middleton blog.
It’s a quiet time in the World War Zoo Garden allotment at Newquay Zoo, a time to plan rather than to plant and sow. “Hasten slowly”, my favourite gardening advice from Mr. Middleton.
Happy gardening! Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.
This “War and Peace Christmas Pudding” was made in Canada during the First World War. The recipe was published in the Second World War by the Ministry of Food Government “Food Facts” in newspapers and radio programmes as part of the “Kitchen Front” campaign in Britain. According to some, it makes a good wartime Christmas pudding. We decided at Newquay Zoo to put it to the staff taste test as part of our World War Zoo Gardens project.
War and Peace Christmas Pudding Recipe WW1 / WW2
225 grams (8 ounces / oz) flour
225 g (8 oz) breadcrumbs
100 g (4 oz) suet
100 g (4 oz) dried fruit
5 ml (1 teaspoon / tsp) mixed spice
225g (8 oz) grated raw potato
225g (8 oz) grated raw carrot
5 ml (1 tsp) bicarbonate of soda
Mix all the ingredients together and turn into a well-greased pudding bowl.
The bowl should not be more than two thirds full.
Boil or steam for at least 2 hours.
Imperial ounce measurements have been updated to equivalent grams.
Source: “Food Facts” Ministry of Food, Britain 1939-45
Setting it alight, as is traditional with a Christmas pudding, would require some alcohol or spirits, increasingly scarce in wartime. Custard would have been rare too, though Bird’s Custard Powder (replacing eggs in the recipe since 1837, very useful in wartime) and other companies continued to advertise throughout the war.
Taste testing the War and Peace Christmas Pudding
In pursuit of our World War Zoo Gardens project activities, Newquay Zoo’s fabulous café team, headed up by ex-military chef Jeremy, have cooked up a trial one of these puddings to test out on Newquay Zoo staff. Apparently the test one that we served up to zoo staff was only a quarter of the recipe ingredients.
Zoo staff reaction was mixed. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so honest about the ingredients. Some of the cafe team politely said that they’d eat it again. Many reckoned it needed custard or a good soaking in spirits (we couldn’t set it alight), whilst others thought it ‘not very sweet’ and it made them appreciate a luxurious modern Christmas pudding.
Some keepers wondered whether any of the animals would eat it? Since the famous zoo ‘banana ban’ for monkeys of 2014 at Paignton, Newquay and other zoos, we have become increasingly used in our zoo animal diet sheets to replacing rich sugary exotic fruit (selectively bred and grown for human palates) with more ‘sweet’ vegetables, albeit mixing the wartime standby sweeteners of carrot, parsnip with other more modern imports like sweet potato. I’m sure this substitution was also how wartime zoos scraped by feeding their animals without imports of exotic fruits.
I was surprised how close the War and Peace Christmas Pudding was to one of the few wartime dishes that was popularly reckoned to have survived wartime into the postwar British menu – carrot cake.
Thanks to all the Newquay Zoo cafe team and brave zoo volunteers for this interesting taste lesson about rationing!
Feed the Birds: The Final Taste Test – or Food Waste?
Being rich in suet and a bit crumbly, I tested the final scraps of wartime Christmas pudding on the bird table. Bullfinches, robins, blackbirds, sparrows, crows and pigeons all quickly came down for a crumb or morsel as it turns colder; they weren’t fussy about the strange ingredients in the recipe.
Wasting food like this on the bird table or on pet animals was of course illegal in wartime and liable to prosecution as pointed out in the Imperial War Museum Dig For Victory pdf and the excellent Cooksinfo.com website points out about British Wartime Food.
Wartime rationing and gardening
2015 marks the 75th anniversary of rationing being introduced on 8th January 1940 and the 70th anniversary of Mr Middleton’s death on 19th September 1945.
How time flies – we marked this on the 70th anniversary in 2010, several years into the World War Zoo Gardens project, alongside the Imperial War Museum.
At the legacy site for http://food.iwm.org.uk 2010 Ministry of Food Exhibition at the Imperial War Musuem, marking 70 years since rationing was introduced, there is an interesting recipe for ‘plum and russet apple mincemeat‘ at http://food.iwm.org.uk/?p=1045
There is also some great December 1945 gardening advice pages from wartime celebrity gardener Mr. Middleton http://food.iwm.org.uk/?p=1057&album=18&gallery=18 The whole 1945 leaflet set has been reprinted recently as a book edited by Twigs Way (Sabrestorm Press. 2009). We will feature more about him in 2015. There is an interesting Mr Middleton blog to look at meanwhile.
An alternative Christmas pud recipe can be found on the interesting Eat For Victory website and blog .
More simple wartime rationing recipes (pdfs) can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/schools/teachers/heroes
You can find another wartime recipe that we use with visiting schools doing our wartime zoo workshops ; if its quiet enough in the café we knock up a batch of savoury potato biscuits – see recipe below.
A Fruitful Happy Christmas and a Prosperous Gardening New Year from all involved in the World War Zoo Gardens Project at Newquay Zoo!
Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo
That Wartime Savoury Potato Biscuit recipe
cooked up if time for World War Zoo Gardens workshop days
Adapted from original Recipe Potatoes: Ministry of Food wartime leaflet No. 17
Makes about 24 approx 3 inch biscuits
2 ounces margarine
3 ounces plain flour
3 ounces cooked mashed potato
6 tablespoons grated cheese*
1.5 teaspoons table salt
Pinch of cayenne or black pepper
1. Rub margarine into flour
2. Add potato, salt, pepper (and cheese, if using this*)
3. Work to a stiff dough
4. Roll out thinly and cut into shapes – festive shapes for Christmas if wanted!
5. Bake in a moderate oven, 15 to 20 minutes.
* N.B. Leave out cheese if you have dairy allergy, the pepper is enough to make the taste ‘interesting’.
Once again this year we’ve ‘twinned’ our World War Zoo Gardens wartime zoo allotment at Newquay Zoo with a modern one far, far away, thanks to the fabulous gift service of Oxfam Unwrapped (www.oxfam.org.uk/unwrapped)
It’s sometimes quite difficult to choose a meaningful gift for Christmas, especially one that lasts or makes a difference.
The Christmas adverts for 2014 are out and I have overheard much chat around Newquay Zoo about whether people prefer Monty and Mabel the John Lewis “kissing penguins” compared to the charitable chocolate merits of the Sainsbury’s advert recreation of the Christmas Day 1914 Football truce in the trenches 100 years ago.
Our gift shop, website and office at our home base of Newquay Zoo get very busy at this time of year, with people popping in to buy cuddly toys (penguins are it this year – thanks John Lewis!) or phone calls and emails to arrange last minute memberships, animal adoptions (penguins and sloths amongst the Christmas 2014 favourites) and Junior or Adult Keeper Experience sessions (penguin encounters again popular). It’s good to know that this money is going to support animal conservation both at Newquay Zoo and our overseas projects as part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust.
The clever Oxfam Unwrapped E-card service means you can send a gift instantly to someone, even past the last posting date, a period that I’ve experienced as a mad scramble in the Newquay Zoo office to get late orders completed. It’s also good to know that this clever Oxfam Unwrapped gift service helps support Oxfam, a charity born out of wartime famine relief, provide the training, tools and seeds to make a family self-sufficient in troubled countries like Afghanistan.
In a previous Christmas gift blog post I have written about how zoos and botanic gardens amongst other cultural institutions have struggled to survive natural disaster and civil war in many parts of the world not only in wartime but also over the last 20 years.
The Garden Museum in London (www.gardenmuseum.org.uk) had a superb photographic display by Lalage Snow recently about Paradise Lost: Gardens and War to complement its exhibition on Gardens and the First World War; there were sections on Afghanistan, Gaza and many other areas of conflict. There is an excellent video Artraker interview with Lalage Snow about her gardens photography project which has led to her winning an Alan Titchmarsh ’emerging new talent’ Garden Media Guild Award 2014. The Garden Museum exhibition is well worth a visit before it ends on 19 December 2014.
I found the interviews and photos very moving, photos of gardeners, both men and women, cultivating plants in these conflict zones by photojournalist Lalage Snow (http://lalagesnow.photoshelter.com/gallery/War-Gardens/G0000msN.x.IMPX8/) .
One interview in particular by an elderly gardener Ibrahim Jeradeh who maintains a Commonwealth War Graves War Commission cemetery in Gaza struck me as a suitable message (like dogs) ‘for life and not just for Christmas’, so I quickly wrote it down just as The Garden Museum closed for the day:
“I keep this as the best place in Gaza, the cleanest and it’s my responsibility. I’ve worked here since I was 18 and am supposed to have retired but I can’t leave this place. It’s quiet, clean and happy. This is my garden. It isn’t a public garden but people often come to sit and reflect. I make sure the plants at each grave are happy and are well tended, and that the olive trees give shade where needed. 350 graves were destroyed in 2009 but we’ve gradually restored order and peace. War is war, no place is safe.”
“In our country it is a duty to care for both the living and the dead – there are no borders here – so there are Jews, Muslims and Christian graves. This is Palestine. In Islam we don’t usually mark individual graves – it isn’t important. All that matters is that the soul is in Paradise and the people in the graves, they are at peace. No-one can hurt them now.”
“Here in Gaza, it’s a miserable situation. But whatever you can imagine in your head as the best place in the world, it’s Paradise, it’s here in this cemetery.”
quote from Ibrahim Jeradeh, MBE, The British Cemetery, Gaza, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Lalage Snow’s exhibition at the Garden Museum 2014
This quote has been especially poignant to me as a result of my World War Zoo Gardens recent research and talks about lost wartime zoo keepers, botanic gardeners from Kew Gardens like A.J.Meads and even local names from my local village war memorial, men buried in Gaza, Egypt, Gallipoli and other distant cemeteries, beautifully maintained and planted, often against the odds of climate or current conflict, buried amongst comrades but far far away from family and home.
There is more about Ibrahim Jeradeh MBE and the Gaza Cemetery in this 2013 Al-Monitor article: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/05/gaza-english-cemetery-all-faiths.html
There is more about the Gaza Cemetery on the CWGC website and its restoration www.cwgc.org and on the Gaza Cemetery Wikipedia page. Ibrahim Jerada is pictured in an interesting interview by Harriet Sherwood in 2013 for a Guardian article, and an interview with his son, now Head Gardener, Issam Jeradeh.
Christmas 1914 and beyond
By Christmas 1914 many of the men from zoos, botanic gardens, aquariums that we have been tracking throughout this blogpost since 2009 were beginning the journey that would take them to the trenches of the Western front, across the world’s oceans or the deserts of the Middle East. Not all of them would return.
Some of these volunteered to enlist, others were coerced by peer pressure and employers. Former soldiers, sailors and Territorial reservists were quickly embarked. Already by Christmas 1914, some had been killed. On our research journey, we will be following the careers of these men throughout next year and the www.1914.org centenary until 2019. Some volunteers like Herbert Cowley (who we posted about in 2013) were embarking for France on Christmas Eve 1914 just as the truce was beginning in the trenches. Others like Kew and RBGE’s Walter Morland would within months be heading for the beaches of Gallipoli, never to return.
Football, Christmas, Chocolate and Gardening
I’ve had some suitably topical christmas gifts so far, including some Sainsbury’s ‘Christmas Truce’ advert Belgian Chocolate bars. My wartime allotment at Newquay Zoo is by mid-December usually a suitably muddy enough patch to stage a (very tiny) recreation of the Christmas Truce Football match.
Football, Christmas, Chocolate and Gardening are all things that should hopefully help to bring us together or share something in common with our families and others.
It has been interesting to see how different organisations, interests and communities have embraced and engaged with the meaning of the http://www.1914.org First World War centenary, across Britain, Europe and former colonies, from villages and schools to zoos, gardens and sports clubs. The Christmas Truce and football match has been an important part of this connection, whether or not you like the Sainsbury’s advert or indeed football!
There is an interesting micro-site on the CWGC website called Glory Days, which is part of wider ‘Football Remembers’ events.
Some conservation charities I have come across have cleverly sponsored football matches in partner developing countries to bring groups together for the benefit of wildlife education.
Football and gardening: mud, weather, success or failure each season, the state of the pitch / patch, maybe they have more in common than you think!
Like the weather or the ravages of garden pests, home-grown food or memories of Grandad’s allotment, these are all conversations amongst visitors that I overhear whilst working on our wartime allotment plot in the zoo. I’m told that these are properly called “cross-cultural puncture points” across generations and cultures. To me they are also just friendly chats over the “garden fence”, Mr. Middleton style. We will feature more about Mr. Middleton in 2015, the 70th anniversary of this wartime celebrity gardener’s death.
I hope that you enjoy a peaceful Christmas, wherever you are and however you decide to spend it, playing football, eating chocolate, in the garden or at the zoo!
Look out for a wartime Christmas pudding recipe on our next wartime Chrsitmas blogpost in the next few days …
Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo
Happy Birthday! Late August is the 5th anniversary of our World War Zoo Gardens wartime garden project at Newquay Zoo. It’s also our 5 year #Twitterversary for @worldwarzoo1939
Our aim over five years since marking the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of war in 2009 has been very practical to grow small unusual fresh food treats for our animals, but it’s also been about research and living history, recreating the sort of allotment that grew up in zoos, botanic gardens, back gardens, railway sidings, anywhere there was land to grow ‘Dig for Victory’ vegetables to provide self-sufficiency from U-boat blockades of food, when food much as now was mostly imported …
Now we have reached the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 in September 1939, an event somewhat overshadowed by the #WW1 centenary www.1914.org.
With the WW1 centenary we have been looking at what effect resource shortages of food, fuel, staff and building materials had on zoos and botanic gardens in wartime; a summary of blog posts and other WW1 related events can be found here.
There is a great little photo summary of the World War Zoo gardens project here on the BIAZA zoo website from 2011, when Newquay Zoo won its first ever zoo gardens and planting award.
We’ve survived snow and ice, very wet summers, very dry summers, saved seeds, produced podcasts as well as peas, fed monkeys with home-grown artichokes and broad beans, had our gnome guards go wandering across Europe … it’s been a very busy five years!
Over the last few years we have been doing schools workshops based on everyday life in WW2 and what happened in zoos, which you can read about here.
One of the highlights of the past 5 years has been chatting to visitors of all ages (and notably once a group of unclad naturists) ‘over the garden fence’ at Newquay Zoo about everything from memories of food rationing to sustainability, allotments or schools gardens or meeting many people at other events from garden centres, garden societies and 1940s events at places like the National Trust’s Trengwainton Gardens.
This World War Zoo Gardens Blog has now reached over 60,000 visitors worldwide who may never even have visited Newquay Zoo, along with Twitter followers @worldwarzoo1939 as well.
Thinking about food waste, allotment gardening and energy saving have remained as much a part of modern life (especially throughout the recent recession) as it was in the 1940s. Soon we’ll be blogposting about the current EAZA European Zoo Pole to Pole campaign and ‘Pull the Plug’, looking at how people in the 1940s were encouraged to save energy for the war effort, rather than to tackle climate change and protect polar wildlife.
It’s been a great group or team effort from many staff and volunteers at Newquay Zoo to get the allotment site established, maintain it when I was off ill for a year in 2012 (throughout a very wet summer) and fantastic to establish partnerships with a wide range of people from our wartime sister zoo Paignton Zoo to London Zoo, Kew Gardens and many others. Some of these zoo and gardens staff have now retired or moved on, but as Richard one of our previous gardeners in a past zoo newsletter wrote: “Every gardener has added something to the Zoo, developing the gardens over time. It feels like a team project where you are working with people you have never met”.
Scroll back through past blog posts for some of the highlights of our project. Happy reading!
Thanks to everyone for their support, and we look forward to another 5 years of gardening, research and digging around to unearth more fascinating stories of life in wartime zoos and botanic gardens.
Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, August 2014