Posts Tagged ‘enrichment’

A riot of vegetable colour in Newquay Zoo’s wartime garden

May 17, 2016

chard 2016

Just a few photographs to celebrate our World War Zoo wartime garden project here at Newquay Zoo, May 2016, entering its eighth summer.

A 1940s stirrup pump lies hidden amongst the colourful  Chard and Garlic, rusty but  still in fine working order.

The gardener’s  wartime steel helmet hangs on the garden gate, ready to grab in case the air raid siren sounds …

chard stirrup pump 2016

Bright Lights, a collection of colourful Chard overwintered and ready to cut as colourful edible bouquets for enriching our monkey diets. Delicious.

chard artichoke 2016

Another year of Globe Artichokes awaits, another monkey favourite, complete with earwigs.

The strange bird table affair is not mounting for an air raid siren but where we place our portable speakers for the 2.30 Lion  talk a few yards away.

Sparrows dustbathe between the Broad bean rows. The Meerkat section Robin follows the hoe or watering can. Pesky Peacocks nibble emerging shoots.

Rosemary, Curry Plant, Thyme, Mint, Lemon Balm, Nasturtiums,  Leeks and Broad Beans  are all waiting their turn, their moment and their edible or sensory enrichment use.

Dig for Victory, Dig For Plenty and  ‘Hasten slowly’ as Mr Middleton would say. Happy Gardening!

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, 17 May 2016.



Herby Harvest Home at Newquay Zoo for Monkeys

October 19, 2015

Squirrel Monkey exploring scented herb enrichment, Newquay Zoo, October 2015 (Image: Nicole Howarth, Newquay Zoo)

Squirrel Monkey exploring scented herb enrichment, Newquay Zoo, October 2015 (Image: Nicole Howarth, Newquay Zoo)

This weekend I was busy clearing some of the World War Zoo Garden Allotment crops at Newquay Zoo to prepare for the autumn season. I dropped off a pile of fresh herb clippings (Lemon Balm, fresh  Mint)  in our animal food preparation room  for Carnivore and Primate sections to use to scent mark and enrich some of our enclosures.

Primate Keeper Nicole Howarth grabbed a handful of these herbs and dropped some Lemon Balm and fresh Mint bundles off along our Monkey Walk enclosures. You can see one of our Squirrel Monkeys  exploring this new scent and probably bug-hunting through the bundle, harvested minutes before.

Squirrel Monkey exploring scented herb enrichment, Newquay Zoo, October 2015 (Image: Nicole Howarth, Newquay Zoo)

Squirrel Monkey exploring scented herb enrichment, Newquay Zoo, October 2015 (Image: Nicole Howarth, Newquay Zoo)

We’re harvesting the last of the Rainbow or Rhubarb Chard ahead of the first frosts. This colourful bundle was thrown to our Critically endangered group of  Sulawesi Macaque monkeys by this Sunday’s Junior Keeper (who coincidentally had the unusually planty surname of Chard) with a few small Globe  artichoke heads for good measure. A lot of the leaf holes are not snail damage, I discovered, but peacocks! Apparently the Macaque monkeys enjoyed it all with great gusto, sap, leaf and stem!

A colourful bundle of Chard in our 'Victory' Harvest 70 years on, Newquay Zoo, 2015 (Image: Mark Norris)

A colourful bundle of Chard in our ‘Victory’ Harvest 70 years on, Newquay Zoo, 2015 (Image: Mark Norris

Keepers are free to come and raid the allotment as they wish, just letting me know what they’ve taken and which animals benefitted. Keepers  have been known (as I have on odd occasions) to grab some of this fresh  mint  for the odd cup of soothing fresh herbal tea, one keeper swears by Lemon balm tea which I have yet to try.

Primate Keeper Nicole harvesting flowering chives, 2012 (Image: Mark Norris)

Primate Keeper Nicole harvesting flowering chives, 2012 (Image: Mark Norris)

Nicole Howarth gets the whole sustainability thing of the garden, albeit 1940s self-sufficiency in response to gunpoint and jackboot. She has recently finished a pioneering MSc in Zoo Sustainability, focussed on Newquay Zoo, ‘Assessing environmental impacts in zoos to inform sustainable collection planning a case study at Newquay Zoo’ by Nicole Fenton Howarth for an MSc in Zoo Conservation Biology July 2015.

This isn’t the first time that Nicole on our Primate section has used our garden produce. Some herbs and vegetables we harvest in their seed or flowers stage to make them a little more unusual ‘picky’ and tactile enrichment for our animals. Not the kind of things you can easily buy in the shops!

Globe Artichoke in flower silk stage, Newquay Zoo, 2015. Image: Mark Norris

Globe Artichoke in flower silk stage, Newquay Zoo, 2015. Image: Mark Norris

Some of the veggies in flower or colourful chard are so attractive, it’s tempting to leave them a little longer to be admired in flower by visitors. Thistly looking Globe Artichokes sometimes spring into ‘flower’, these ‘flower silks’ prove another interesting challenge to monkey fingers.

On the lawn next to the lion enclosure, bundles of herbs and some garlic seed heads for our monkeys, October 2015 (Image: Mark Norris)

On the lawn next to the lion enclosure, bundles of herbs and some garlic seed heads gathered for our monkeys, Newquay Zoo, October 2015 (Image: Mark Norris)

Garlic flower seed heads for picky Monkey fingers Image:  Mark Norris

Garlic flower seed heads for picky Monkey fingers Image: Mark Norris

Overall it has been a reasonable 2015 growing season with a few failures – broad beans,  peas – probably from dryness or tired soil. At least the garden has added a small amount of colour as well as fresh animal food to Newquay Zoo’s overall gardens this year which we are proud to have seen win a Newquay in Bloom award 2015 for the Leisure Attraction Class following our  2014 win for our ‘Restaurants and Tea Gardens’ area.

The Wesley Trembath cup at Newquay Zoo, Newquay in Bloom 2015. Image: Mark Norris.

The Wesley Trembath cup at Newquay Zoo, Newquay in Bloom 2015. Image: Mark Norris

Black Gold – Compost

The wartime allotment garden is going slowly to bed for the winter. Buckets of rich dark humus from part of our fabulous Newquay Zoo compost heaps have been scattered all over the plot to break down and add texture to our slaty clay soil through the frost season.  The really big bundles of hoofstock bedding straw and green waste go offsite to local farm composting, otherwise Newquay Zoo would be a towering huge compost heap of Dickensian proportions. It’s all a not so  glamorous part of our ISO 14001  green or environmental certification going on in front and behind the scenes at Newquay Zoo.

Surprisingly we did manage to get a perfect balanced  Ph reading (not too acid, not too alkaline) last year through on soil testing of our allotment.

Compost bucket of rich loveliness - weeds in, compost out. Image: Mark Norris.

My battered compost bucket of rich loveliness – weeds in, compost out at Newquay Zoo, 2015. Image: Mark Norris.

Our Powerhouse! Site and Gardens section's Compost heaps behind the scenes and the towering platforms of the Macaque monkey enclosure at Newquay Zoo. I just add buckets of weeds and old veg bits to the mix. Image: Mark Norris.

Our Powerhouse and peacock haunts! Site and Gardens section’s Compost heaps behind the scenes and the towering platforms of the Macaque monkey enclosure at Newquay Zoo. I just add buckets of weeds and old veg bits to the mix. Image: Mark Norris.

Modern Growmore next to the campaign signs of what replaced the National Growmore Campaign, Dig For Victory! World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, January 2015

Modern Growmore next to the campaign signs of what replaced the National Growmore Campaign, Dig For Victory!
World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo, January 2015

One half of the garden  has had its ‘Dandruff shampoo advert’ dressing of wartime National Growmore Fertiliser, the other half is again seeded with autumn mix Green manure (Crimson and Broad Leaf Clover, Rye Grass and White Tilney Mustard). This year’s half and half  ‘Dandruff style challenge’ seemed to show no noticeable difference throughout the 2015 growing season.

Our tiny wartime garden plot emptying out with the Autumn harvest, 2015. Image: Mark Norris

Our tiny wartime garden plot emptying out with the Autumn harvest, 2015. Image: Mark Norris

Not enriching the soil too much is important in the herb patch sections of the garden, but they do tend to merge and get tangled up in each other  in a small garden plot as you can see in how the poppies (first flowering here this year) are flowering and seeding amongst the last of the Chard.

A reminder that in less than a month, it will soon be Poppy day, Armistice or Remembrance Sunday, our garden having a simple memorial function for all the zoo keepers and gardeners lost in both World Wars:

Poppies amongst the Autumn harvest, World War Zoo garden project, Newquay Zoo, 2015. Image: Mark Norris

Poppies amongst the Autumn harvest, World War Zoo garden project, Newquay Zoo, 2015. Image: Mark Norris

Our temporary keepers' memorial plaque, Newquay Zoo, 2015

Our temporary keepers’ memorial plaque, Newquay Zoo, 2015

Sharing plant knowledge with Keepers

In my 2014 ABWAK journal RATEL article for keepers,  I used this garden  as an opportunity to promote to keepers that BIAZA Plant Working Group has compiled a Wikisite listing of animals and plants with reference to various aspects of plant nutrition, enrichment or toxicity for each animal. Any adverse reactions including death in the past have been noted by keepers on this worldwide wiki page / forum.

The BIAZA Plant Working Group has also in the past compiled a database of browse and poisonous plants. This was also mentioned in my article Enrichment, visitor engagement or history your zoo animals can eat? The ongoing role of the Wartime Zoo Keepers’ Garden at Newquay Zoo article for ABWAK journal RATEL 41(1) March 2014, pp  5-9.

Here is the plant list of veg, fruit and herbs grown successfully or not so far since 2009.

Plants list – World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo (2009-15)

  • Allium cepa    – (Spring) Onion
  • Allium sativum – Garlic
  • Allium schoenoprasum – Chives
  • Allium tuberosum – Garlic Chives
  • Allium ampeloprasum    – Leek
  • Anthriscus cerefolium – Chervil
  • Borago officinalis – Borage (blue or white)
  • Beta vulgaris – Beet varieties (rainbow, rhubarb chard)
  • Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla – Perpetual Spinach
  • Brassica oleracea – Kale & cabbage varieties,Savoy & Pak Choi
  • Calendula officinalis – Pot or English Marigold
  • Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus – Globe Artichoke
  • Eruca sativa – (Salad) Rocket
  • Fragaria × ananassa – Strawberry
  • Foeniculum vulgare – Fennel
  • Galium odoratum – Sweet Woodruff
  • Helianthus annuus – Sunflower
  • Lavandula angustifolia   – English Lavender
  • Lactuca sativa    – Lettuce
  • Melissa officinalis – Lemon balm
  • Mentha x piperita – Peppermint
  • Mentha spicata   – Spearmint
  • Nepeta cataria – Catnip / Wild Catmint
  • Petroselinum crispum    – Parsley
  • Pisum sativum   – Pea
  • Rosmarinus officinalis – Rosemary
  • Rubus fruticosus – Bramble or Blackberry
  • Rubus idaeus – Raspberry
  • Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion
  • Teucrium marum – Cat Thyme
  • Tropaeolum majus – Nasturtium
  • Vicia faba – Broad Bean
  • Zea mays – Maize or Sweetcorn

At some point we will update our slightly chaotic 2010 list of heritage 1940s vegetables:

A big thanks to our Keeper and Site / Gardens Teams again this year. Happy Harvesting!

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo.

A Dig For Victory cartoon in my cuttings collection celebrating Harvest Home 1941 from Punch by Thomas Derrick, Punch, Sept 17, 1941.

A Dig For Victory cartoon in my cuttings collection celebrating Harvest Home 1941 from Punch by Thomas Derrick, Punch, Sept 17, 1941.

The Wartime Garden in Bloom 2015

August 6, 2015

Our first memorial poppy, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, July 2015

Our first memorial poppy, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, July 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  …

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo  - blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

VE Day colours in our World War Zoo Gardens at Newquay Zoo – blue and white edible borage flowers with a splash of red from some silk poppies.

Tower Poppies

Tower Poppies – the  famous, unexpectedly popular and very moving ceramic poppies at The Tower Of London in Autumn 2014.

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.

Thyme coming into flower, a good and edible bit of scent enrichment for the animals.


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 –



Alongside queues to see our lively trio of lions, garlic flowers bloom and attract plenty of butterflies, bees and other insects.

Alongside queues to see our lively trio of lions, garlic flowers bloom and attract plenty of butterflies, bees and other insects.

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:



Thyme in flower and colourful Rainbow chard



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.


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 last weekend …

and mysteriously appeared at Paignton Zoo ‘s VertiCrop house

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 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)

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 ( May 28 to June 5th 2011).

For more information about World War Zoo, visit

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  I will suspect an ‘inside job’ in his disappearance  …

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

Potato days are here again … and colour clips of postwar Bristol Zoo Gardens

January 30, 2011

Dig for Victory advert Smallholder Magazine, 1940/41 (World war Zoo gardens collection)

“Potato Pete, Potato Pete, see him walking down the street …”

or at a garden centre or gardens near you.

Look at   for dates and venues.

Set up mostly by Garden Organic, as well as Potato Days, there are some good factsheets on growing potatoes and other veg on their website and regular e-newsletter.   

The period around 30th January 2011 has lots of potato related events going on around the country.

Here at the World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo we are busy chitting a few of the following, and preparing the ground (which was frozen this morning). Such great and often stirringly patriotic names for the humble spud: Sharpe’s Express, Arran Pilot, Home Guard, Duke of York, King Edward. These should be in, earthed up  and doing well in our wartime allotment by the time of our next wartime gardens week May 28th to June 5th 2011 at Newquay Zoo . This May half-term week coincides with the national BIAZA Love Your Zoo week events

Here are a few more wartime varieties, available from major seed suppliers and heritage seed sites that would suit your 1940s allotment.  














If you are stuck indoors  planning your garden, you can catch a glimpse of the amazing postwar footage of Bristol Zoo Gardens from its archive of 175 years work on the Bristol Zoo Youtube channel

including some colour footage of c.1948 elephants, with the famous gardens restored from veg production to flowers, and Army and RAF servicemen in uniform wandering around. There’ll be more about this in Alan Ashby and Tim Brown’s forthcoming book on 175 years of Bristol Zoo, published with the Independent Zoo Enthusiasts Society IZES around  March 2011.

Nice to see a zoo taking good care of its archives as well as its animals!

1941 the grimmest year of the war? Sowing saved seed, solving shorthand clues and editing wartime diaries for the World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo

January 9, 2011

1941 – the grimmest year of the war

 “1941 was the grimmest year of the war for Britain. On land, Allied forces were defeated in every theatre of war in which they were fighting.”

quoted from Juliet Gardiner, the Blitz, (Harper, London, 2010, p. 267)

Seed saving: Saved Broad bean seed from our wartime allotment 2010 and wartime gardening magazines. "Food Production is Vital Vital as the Guns!"

I have spent the quiet winter moments in the wartime zoo garden at Newquay Zoo editing several wartime pocket diaries, as there is not much to do in the winter garden in late December, except  planning next year’s crops and early planting.

I’ve sowed saved seeds from last year’s crops such as the Sutton broad bean noted (a pre-war 1923 Sutton’s seed variety of ‘Exhibition Longpod’ , according to Christopher Stocks in Forgotten Fruits, Windmill press, 2009, one of my Christmas presents). We saved some pods but used the others – as animal food. Last year, spare salad in glut months went to everything from rare tortoises to the zoo cafe and barbecue!

Newquay Zoo’s  animals, especially our rare ‘Yaki’ Sulawesi Macaque monkeys, enjoyed shelling these broad bean pods and eating the entire plants. We will be celebrating a new birth amongst these rare monkeys and our Selamatkan Yaki conservation programme at Newquay Zoo this year (see our Yaki monkey events and webcam on our page on the Newquay Zoo website. Newquay Zoo closes only on Christmas day so no zoo visitors that day, but I was otherwise too busy with family to plant on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. This was probably a traditional escape route of allotment gardeners to avoid relatives and get some peace. 

These beans have been sown undercover in ‘recycled’ cardboard tube planters to get a head start, the date of planting noted in a small pocket diary for garden notes for 2011.

Not all our wartime garden allotment produce was saved for seed last year: rare Yaki Sulawesi macaque monkeys at Newquay Zoo tucking into fresh Broad bean pods (photo: Jackie Noble, Newquay Zoo)

Hopefully keeping such a diary with its tiny daily entry space will give me an insight  into the often anonymous lives of the diary keepers. Sometimes there are clues, inscriptions and addresses mentioned to give in these brief Twitter length entries to give some clue to the writer’s age, gender, work and family life.  

The war was entering its 17th month when Eileen’s pocket diary starts in January 1941. It was to be a grim year for Britain. Eileen worked in the Civil Service in London, possibly for London Transport or the GPO General Post Office but  late in 1942 transferred to the Post Office Savings Bank. Engaged in September 1941, it seems likely that she married young, aged around 20 / 21  – however her diary finishes in December 1942.

January 1941

1 Wed       Was in bed when New Year came.

2 Thur       Went to Commodore with Freddie. Air Raid but very quiet. Beautiful clear night.

5 Sun         2nd Great Fire of London. Blazes all round. Cornwall Hse hit. Hilda will not have to go to work.

6 Mon        Hilda sent home, sending for her when needed.

9 Thur      Hilda starts work again.

10 Fri         Hilda goes to Wren House for the day. More incendiaries & HEs. Dad driving and dodging oil bombs.

Many histories of the Blitz note that mercifully after a short Christmas truce, the weather was bad or cold enough for thirteen nights in January to see no Luftwaffe bombing.

30 Thurs    Work as usual. Told we are to do night duty at office for fire duty. Air Raid Imminents all day.

31 Fri         On duty all night. No raid alerts during evening. Played darts & table tennis till 12pm …

The air raids got worse again throughout March 1941.  This raid (mentioned below) is known in London Blitz terms simply as ‘The Wednesday’ with over 1,180 people killed, especially in the ARP services, and 2230 injured – part of a terrible week including ‘The Saturday’.

March 1941

16 Weds   Worst Blitz of the War. Land Mine at Cranmer Court. 3 bombs in Sydney St. & Womens Hospital. Hit Chelsea Old Church down to ground. Pensioners hit again …

1941 – a year of Blitz, defeat and new allies

Not much is said about the war overseas in Eileen’s diary, which focuses mostly on the Home Front, bombing and life in wartime London. Occasionally friends are reported ‘missing’ on active service.

1941 was a difficult year for Britain and the Allied troops. Overseas in late 1940, Britain and Allied forces had fought successfully against the Italians on land and sea in Greece, Egypt, East and North Africa.  Early in 1941 as the diary begins, Germany begins to reinforce its unsuccessful ally Italy with German troops in Greece, Yugoslavia and North Africa, leading to a series of victories over British and Allied troops which continued into late 1942.

 It was not until Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 that Russia became an ‘ally’, followed late in December 1941 by America, when the USA was bombed by Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7th. Britain and USA declared war on Japan the next day. The USA declared war against Italy & Germany (and vice versa) on the 11th December 1941.  Japan successfully began its invasion of many British, US and Allied colonies and islands in South-east Asia throughout December 1941.     

Eileen’s diary is not all doom and gloom – it is full of an eighteen year old’s social life, family events and everyday jobs. What makes this diary more interesting is the sense of the routine, mundane everyday tasksbirthdays, cinema trips, holidays as an important and familiar “investment in normality became crucial …unlike soldiers in battle, for civilians ordinary life in familiar surroundings went on in the intervals between raids”  according to Juliet Gardiner, the Blitz, (p. 183)

July 1941

7 Mon        Another lovely day. Sin to be at work. Went over the allotment in the evening.

There are many other references throughout Eileen’s diary to food. 1941 was the year when the famous “Dig For Victory” poster appeared with the hobnail booted foot of Mr W.H. McKie of Acton, London (in the area where Eileen lives or  works).

“Dig For Victory” allotments have been  recreated in various forms here at Newquay Zoo, at Trengwainton (National Trust, Penzance, Cornwall) and in preparation at Occombe Farm, near our sister zoo at Paignton in Devon. You can read more about this national campaign in Twigs Way and Mike Brown’s new Dig For Victory book on wartime gardening (2011) or in Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Ministry of Food book to accompany the rationing exhibition that has just closed  at the Imperial War Museum. 1941 saw further restrictions including clothes rationing introduced in June, important enough to be noted in a teenage girl’s diary.

“Food rations were lower in the first months of 1941 than at any other time during the war … meat rationing fell from 2s. 2d in autumn 1940 to 1s, 2d in January 1941 and hardly rose again for the rest of the war, while the cheese allowance plummeted to one ounce per person and jam went ‘on the coupon’ …” quoted from Juliet Gardiner, the Blitz, (Harper, London, 2010, p. 268)

The last weeks in Belfast and Northern Ireland have seen frozen water supply problems. This was common in wartime Britain alongside   low gas pressure from damaged gas mains and a shortage of coal and wood for domestic use and cooking. All this made  everyday  wartime life difficult for many British families.  Juliet Gardiner notes that freezing conditions made life difficult for bombed-out families and firemen in Britain with hoses freezing, most famously pictured on 3rd January 1941 in Bristol. Mercifully after a short Christmas truce, the weather was bad or cold enough for thirteen nights in January to see no Luftwaffe bombing.  Bombing was also shifting to ports like Bristol (3rd January) and Cardiff (2nd January).

So this puts into perspective the recent cold snaps of 2010 that once again destroyed or damaged lots of our early crops in the World War Zoo gardens. Cloche gardening was a relative novelty in the 1940s, leading to one company producing the strangely titled wartime booklet Cloches versus Hitler. We were  thankfully spared the obvious ‘Cloches versus Boches alternative title. It might not have seemed so in 1941, but the cloches were to win. Glass itself was in short supply (as many repairing bombed botanic gardens and zoo enclosures found) with the urgent need to repair wartime damage, although I’m sure wrecked windows were reused to make cold frames by enterprising wartime gardeners.

What next for 2011 and the World War Zoo gardens project at Newquay Zoo?

Patrol diary summary page of the Blitz activities of a London scout group based in Rotherhithe at St. Katherine's church (destroyed in the London Blitz) Copyright: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo

We have a London woman’s 1944 diary of The Little Blitz and life on her allotment, already typed up and being edited to match Eileen’s diary. There are also passages from a young scout patrol leader’s diary of London 1939 – 40, including the Blitz. We’ll then start work on a Merseyside girl’s diary for 1939 – 1943 (which has sections in shorthand to decipher first), to match a Mersey River Pilot’s diary of his pilot-boat work in the Liverpool docks and stormy love affair with a WREN throughout 1943.

Newquay Zoo being built on former wartime farming land, it’s also appropriate that we’re also working on a wartime Farmer’s diary from the Sunderland area from 1944 to 1946 and excerpts from many civilian wartime letters.

We hope to produce a version of each of the diaries for use in the classroom with teaching notes and suggestions, as well as an adult / general reader version.

We look forward to announcing a publication date in future when sections of Eileen’s Blitz diary and also the Little Blitz 1944 diary will be available to buy from the zoo by post, all profits going towards the ongoing wartime garden and schools workshops, amongst our other conservation and education work such as the Gems of The Jungle Aviary and Selamatkan Yaki .

For further details of the wartime garden, publications, schools workshops or  comments, contact us via the Newquay Zoo website.

You can subscribe for further blog posts on this blog page, and also find on Twitter.  

Wishing you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year!

Acorns, Adlertag and Autumn in the Wartime zoo garden and a bit of time off work for a Wartime “Time Safari”

October 25, 2010

Which wartime pill box has the nicest view in Britain? Is it the one nestling amongst the coastal gardens on St Michael's Mount in Cornwall?

Since the anniversary of Eagle Day (Adlertag on 13 August 1940), you cannot fail to have noticed  some of the  commemoration and coverage of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz on British cities 70 years ago. The 15th of September, known as Battle of Britain Day, saw a corresponding rise in readership of our blog, 80 readers on that day alone has taken us well past 8000 + readers. By the 26th October we will have reached 10,000 readers plus, since we started writing about our wartime garden project blog just over a  year ago.

Kite men soaring over wartime pill boxes, above the beach and cafe, Sennen Cove near Lands End, Cornwall, September 2010. One pill box is easy to spot on the cliff top. Can you see the other 'killer' one tucked away further down the cliff? (World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo).

So forgive me, regular readers. It is over 6 weeks since my last confession or blog on the World War zoo garden project at Newquay Zoo. We’ve another bumper blog edition for you. However we know you will have been kept busy in the garden or watching the coverage of the many interesting wartime anniversaries in September and November.

There have been parades, newspaper supplements and interviews, along with the BBC Blitz and Battle of Britain seasons  including the documentary Spitfire Women (about the Air Transport Auxiliary) and a very moving dramatization of Geoff Wellum’s First Light, his coming of age Spitfire memoir. I didn’t realize that Mr. Wellum lives in the local area, pictured in the newspapers with Mullion Cove and parts of Cornwall in the background. I’ve been privileged to meet a few Spitfire pilots in the past, including my former school headmaster D.G.S. Akers, now long retired. We’ve also had the Battle of Britain memorial flight pass over the zoo during penguin feeding time (just after the Eclipse in 1999, I  think). The penguins were quite fascinated by these graceful ladies passing low overhead! I’ve also chatted this month over the wartime garden fence a member of the Spitfire Society, who was visiting the zoo. He was interested in the schools workshops and pack we are preparing for 2011/12;  the Spitfire Society  are looking forward to working with schools and have some sponsorship from Airfix  (Recent ads in the BBC History magazine show that you too can own and fly  the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in miniature, in plastic, on string above your head at home – with proceeds to forces charities, to boot!)

Parts of my leave from the wartime garden and Newquay Zoo took me around the West and South Coast of Cornwall. Having been working on the wartime garden project for almost two years now, it is hard to escape little reminders of wartime life, even  on family days out. Knowing a little more now how real the fear or threat of invasion was in 1940, you catch glimpses of this fear on your travels. A pill box at St. Michael’s Mount, nestling at the base of this amazing National Trust castle, camouflaged amongst the rocks.  A seaside beach at Sennen or Loe Bar or Dawlish still watched over by its little wartime concrete castle. We’ll include in our next few blogs a few more local photographs of the subtle traces or ‘ghostmarks’ of wartime (as Kenneth Helphand calls them in Defiant Gardens).

It has become noticeably Autumn in the wartime garden. Newquay Zoo has been busy with the last of the season holiday makers, mixed in with the arrival of lots of new faces amongst students to study zoology, conservation and animal care from  Cornwall College Newquay and Treviglas Community College.

A late Indian Summer in late September and early October looked promising for the last of the  growing season. Like many  zoo and tourism business staff, we take our well-earned ‘summer break’ as soon as the school holidays are over.  We have all mostly been lucky with the weather, but the garden has suffered in the last few weeks from frost and wet. Warm September and October days with cloudless skies come with a cost.

October frost finished the last of our tomatoes, so close to ripening. World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

The beautiful clear sunny days have been paid for alas with cold, clear, starry nights. That fresh, sharp morning chill (not unpleasant) of the first Autumn weeks of the school term has come at a price. Many of the wartime gardening books acknowledge that growing tomatoes outside in Britain without a greenhouse is always a gamble. We lost to frost again this year!  

Gnome guard (LDV) watching over late strawberry flowers at Newquay Zoo's World War Zoo Wartime garden

Our tomatoes which had showed signs of blight and leaf blotching from some early October rain showers have been finished off by mild frost damage just as they were ripening in the last few days before half term and the strangeness of Halloween preparations. Sunday 24th October saw these tomatoes sadly dug up and added to the compost heap behind the Lion House. Many were annoyingly close to ripening. If this was wartime, this would be a serious setback. Let’s hope our late strawberries don’t go the same way!

Ripening Strawberries on their bed of straw, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

Ripening Strawberries on their bed of straw, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

 Our ‘straw-berries’ are bedded down on handfuls of straw to protect them. Straw has also been used for a slightly more comic or sinister purpose around the zoo over half term. We didn’t grow pumpkins or gourds this year as we don’t have the space in our wartime plot. Next year we might enter a Land girl with pumpkin head into the zoo’s scarecrow festival competition this half term , but this year we’re too busy seed collecting and planting! There are some great scarecrow examples from different zoo sections to look out for and vote for, if you’re visiting Newquay Zoo over the Halloween half term. There are even some wartime animal ghost stories to fing on our halloween trail.

Alternatively, pop in to the National Trust’s Trengwainton  Gardens near Penzance to see their scarecrow festival in their beautifully restored working kitchen gardens. They have a Land girl and Hitler scarecrow on their “dig for victory” garden plot on the Trengwainton  community allotments, run by Paul Bonnington. We look forward to working with Trengwainton and others on the World War Zoo project in future.  

My last day before leave was spent writing my last blog entry, tidying and watering the wartime garden plot and sowing green manure. I sowed some of the last crops of the season to give us winter and Spring veg, wartime varieties of Spring lettuce and cabbage such as Durham, Flower of Spring  and Offenham Early . (The onions are all that is left to plant out now).

Green manure crop, World War Zoo garden, Newquay Zoo, Autumn 2010

On my return from pottering around Cornwall for two weeks with the family, the organised weeds of our green manure mix (clover, mustard and others) were well established as ground cover and weed suppressant. Within another month by mid November, we shall be able to dig this crop into the ground to rot down throughout the month of December. This should boost our fairly poor slaty, stony clay zoo soil ready for fresh planting in the New Year. One of my new students misread the plant label as “Green manure crap” instead of “crop”. In a strange way, he’s not far wrong in what the zoo soil needs. In addition to the green manure, we do get a fair soil boost from our zoo compost heaps, with some animal bedding and hoofstock dung, leaves, grass and plant clippings of our compost heaps. There’s a good quick chirpy little video clip with Chris Collins (the Blue Peter gardener) about green manure on the BBC Dig In Campaign website:  Only days after pulling out the last of the pea and broad bean haulm (stems) did I read wartime Smallholder magazine  advice about digging the steams and roots back in to rot down!

 Our BBC Dig In carrots are topping out nicely, protected from carrot root fly by a thick grassy swathe of chives. The BBC Dig In Dwarf French beans didn’t look too good once the Black Swan had explored them but some seed pods might still be saved for seed next year. Our Australian Black Swan on its free-ranging strolls around the zoo is attracted to the garden’s location at the  Lion House lawn area by the windfall crab apples from nearby trees. Black Swans can now be added to our list of unusual garden pests, alongside peacocks.

Leek seeds and bees, August 2010, World War Zoo gardens Newquay Zoo

 Seed saving, a wartime necessity, has seen a good crop of Broad Beans drying out alongside paper envelopes of sunflower seeds and a small crop of Runner Beans from a trip to Heligan, bought from their surplus heritage veg produce for sale. About a dozen strange Afro-haircut headed leek seed heads are drying slowly on their plants, the last of 2009’s leeks from some spare seedlings from  Tregew farm shop near Flushing, Falmouth. Wartime gardening books have some timely advice on seed saving, as do the Real Seed Company. It’s a subject surprisingly not seen or covered much of late in gardening magazines, despite recession thrift and Alys Fowler’s Thrifty Garden.

Thrift and improvisation were the watchword of many a wartime gardener and wartime zoo keeper. The hard frost and snow earlier this year has bought on a bumper crop of acorns from the oaks overshadowing my home garden and kind neighbours leave basketfuls on my doorstep. Before you send anymore, I now have a couple of sacks full, enough for autumn and winter. One young lad kindly send us an envelope full of acorns to say thank you for his Junior Keeper day.

Acorns provide useful enrichment for some foraging animals such as our rare Philippine Warty Pigs, but are not the widespread food for all that they once proved in wartime. From providing German ersatz acorn coffee to feeding many people during the Dutch hunger winter of 1944, acorns also proved helpful to bridge the animal foodstuff gap early on in British wartime zoos. Reminiscent of the scrap drives for iron railings and Aluminium saucepans  for Spitfires by Lord Beaverbrook, the secretary of ZSL London Zoo Julian Huxley put out a broadcast appeal for acorns in Autumn 1939:  

“Many children in the country have done their part to help feed the Zoo animals by collecting acorns. Acorns are an excellent feed for agoutis, squirrels, monkeys, deer, and even pheasants like them. Beech mast, so often left to waste on the ground in beechy counties like Bucks, also makes a fine food and it is surprising how helpful such emergency rations have proved.”

Quoted from The Zoos in War article by Margaret Shaw, Animal and Zoo magazine, November 1939 (copy in Newquay Zoo archive).

Julian Huxley reported the public response a month later in the News from the Zoos section of the December 1939 issue of Animal and Zoo magazine:

Acorns for the Camels – December 1939

“Acorns have been pouring into the London Zoo at a rate of a ton a week ever since a broadcast appeal was made for them. They arrive in sacks, parcels, shopping bags and even the canvas sacks used by banks to store coins. One of the overseers told me that most animals have the sense to know when they’ve had enough acorns. For, of course, acorns are only a supplementary diet, and these sent in to the Zoo are being saved to offer the animals as a little luxury to supplement the rather restricted diet of wartime.”

“The elder of the two Bactrian camels, George, loved his treat of acorns and munches them up with great gusto. Not so Wally. Wally was born at Whipsnade and is quite a youngster compared to his companion. He simply refuses to look at them. In the Rodent House many of the burrowing animals are busy hiding them away in the straw. Every one has enjoyed helping the Zoo by gathering these acorns. I heard an amusing story from a member of the Zoo’s staff whose mother has been evacuated to Devonshire, where she is staying on a farm. She wrote a plaintive letter with her consignment, saying that the competition was so great among the farm animals and herself that she had to stay at the window waiting for a breeze to dislodge a single acorn. Then there was the concerted rush of twenty pigs, ten cows and herself to pick up the fallen nut.” (December 1939)

A fine hat on display in our Zoo News 'World War Zoo' article on display at the wartime garden, Newquay Zoo.

Speaking of zoo and animal magazines, the World War Zoo project features in a double page article with photos in Zoo News, the thrice-yearly members’ magazine of Living Coasts, Newquay and Paignton zoos (all part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust). Newquay Zoo members have already popped in to laugh about my ‘daft  hat’. (Thanks). Hats and headgear are one of the few areas of ‘un-uniform’ that zoo staff are usually allowed.  However, this was not always the rule. Fellow local zoo historian and Bartlett Society member Neil Thomas-Childs in some of his kind library searches for the World War Zoo project told me as an aside that London Zoo created their famous ZSL cap badge as the standard badge for its famous peaked caps directly after the First World War. This was as a result of  keepers returning from the forces doggedly wearing their old regimental cap badges. This strange peace dividend went on, according to ex London Zoo staff at Newquay Zoo, right up to the late 1980s when the peaked cap were phased out. One day maybe our peaked keeper caps will return … and the lion shall lie down with the lamb.

For our next wartime garden blog article in early November, we’ll be returning to London Zoo amongst others, in time for Armistice and Remembrance Sunday. We will be observing the two minute’s silence and holding a small display of our project’s wartime gardening and home front memorabilia at Newquay Zoo on Remembrance Sunday, the 14th  November 2010. Part of  the wartime garden’s role is as a  living memorial to the wartime generation, along with a couple of stories from the few war memorials to zoo staff we have so far discovered. The scale of the ‘sacrifice’ is still difficult to comprehend.

War memorials and poppies aside, we have in our November blog a couple more examples of  the wartime “time safari” around your neighbourhood, which may be of interest to primary and history teachers. (A similar “Victorian time safari” is sometimes featured on our sister blog, We also hope to have some more cheerful news, fingers crossed, from the BIAZA zoo awards at Paignton Zoo in early November of whether the World War Zoo gardens project has received an award commendation in its first year.

 It’s poppy time again (see blogroll links for the Royal British Legion website). Zoo staff and the wartime garden will be proudly wearing their poppies, although keepers don’t wear them whilst working as pins, poppies and grasping animal paws don’t mix.

Finally, the BBC’s landmark Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 Objects with the British Museum has come to an end this week with object No. 100: a solar mobile phone and lamp charger, not unlike Newquay Zoo’s bank of solar water heating and electricity generating panels. You can find out about our World War Zoo gardens project offerings to the BBC’s online museum (a handmade wooden spitfire toy and wooden handmade sliding puzzle) in the Cornwall, 1940s or wartime section (see our blogroll links). Enough objects to keep you busy browsing until our next blog offering.

Blitz, Battle of Britain, Broad Beans and Dig For Victory’s 70th anniversary at the World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

September 7, 2010

Fowey Town Hall, Salute The Soldier week plaque awarded to Fowey, Cornwall 1944 (Image from World War Zoo garden, Newquay Zoo)

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


7th September 2010 sees the official anniversary of the 1940 Blitz on British cities, especially London, as Luftwaffe tactics in the Battle of Britain changed from bombing airfields to civilian targets. (Falmouth saw civilian bombing in July 1940 – see earlier blog entries). 

  A poignant little diary by a young  female London Post Office worker in the zoo archive lists “1941 5th January,  2nd Great Fire of London Blazes all around.  Cornwall House hit Hilda will not have to go to work” . Amongst many other routine air raid entries and cinema listings of films seen, we have similar entries for a 1944 London diary about the flying bomb blitz. 

Lots of blitz coverage on the BBC at present blitz 

This week sees the anniversary of the launch or rechristening of what became the Dig For Victory campaign  on 10th September 1940, renamed from the less catchy National Growmore Campaign. 

Robert Hudson, Minister of Agriculture (from May 1940 onwards) broadcast a BBC radio speech on 10 September 1940: 

“We want not only the big man with the plough but the little man with the spade to get busy this autumn … Let Dig for Victory be the motto of everyone with  a garden.”   

(quoted in Jane Fearnley Whittingstall’s Ministry of Food book accompanying the IWM exhibition). 

The Little Man with The Spade - unofficial logo for the National Growmore Campaign 1940, replaced by the iconic hobnail boot on spade image of the Dig for Victory campaign in 1941 Image from adverts in The Vegetable Garden Displayed, RHS (image from the World War Zoo gardens archive, Newquay Zoo)

This “little man with a spade” would often have been a woman, rarely featured in adverts or photos in gardening books of the time.  Many women gardeners had to do make do with special interest columns such as “EXPLAINING THINGS – For the benefit of women who are doing their bit in the garden” in the Smallholder and Home Gardening Magazine.  Both women and children often had their own special pages or columns (see last month’s August 1940 Boys Own paper blog article).    

It would be 1941 before the iconic foot of Mr WH Mckie of Acton in London became the famous boot on spade of the  Dig For Victory poster

Several modern campaigns are underway this week – the start of the Prince of Wales’ Rainforest project development into START with rail journeys around the country encouraging citizens to do their bit for climate change 

Clays Fertiliser advert back cover, The Vegetable Garden Explained, RHS (image from World War Zoo gardens archive, Newquay Zoo)

The zoo is a little quieter this week as schools go back, a different story from the busy Bank Holiday weekend here that saw our first birthday anniversary of the World War Zoo gardens project. The BBC Dig In campaign mentions the schools going back and we’re delighted to see the return of schools gardens schemes over the last few years. One of our intended publications in 2011/12 will be a Dig For Victory schools gardening pack for cross-curricular primary history work 

The last few Broad beans are now saved for seed. Our animals (especially our monkeys) will miss podding these fresh crops. The 2009 sown leeks are now in big flower seed heads awaiting an October seed harvest. 

The next crop of BBC Dig In carrots is growing well along with BBC French beans. Winter hardy cabbage, lettuce and spinach are growing well from seedlings for early spring fresh greens.  As the BBC Dig in site suggests, patches of bare earth that’s too late for catch crops is being sown with ‘green manure’ (buckwheat, clover etc) for a bit of extra soil fertility, ready for next year. 

An early press version of the iconic boot on foot Dig For Victory poster (Smallholder and Home Gardener magazine, Oct 26, 1940) Image from the World War Zoo gardens collection, Newquay Zoo

We should soon have a permanent World War Zoo webpage on the Newquay Zoo website keeping you posted on the next stages of the project. The page and blog also mentions the wartime experiences of our sister Zoo Paignton Zoo in Devon, a town now home to Sutton’s Seeds (based in wartime in Reading). Sutton’s seeds have a good grow your own blog,  which is at  Paignton Zoo’s gardens team led by Kevin Frediani have a request to local gardeners for sunflower seed heads as animal food. 

Other sources of inspiration are the RHS / Wildlife Trust Wild About Gardening campaign (see blogroll 

The RHS also have a new Dig For Victory documentary DVD on sale, filling the gap until one day the BBC release the 90s series The Wartime Kitchen and Garden  on DVD (please, someone at the BBC!) with Ruth Mott and the much missed Harry Dodson.    

Advice for new women gardeners and the importance of wartime onions! Smallholder and Home Gardening magazine, Oct 26, 1940 (Image from World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo).

Don’t forget the Imperial War Museum exhibition Ministry of Food  (until Jan 2011) 

We’re offline and around and about away from the zoo for two weeks before our next posting. 

We’ll be keeping an eye out for any wartime connections or evidence, the equivalent to our Victorian Time Safari on our companion blog  for pupils and teachers studying Darwin, postal history and the Victorians. Maybe this historical I-Spy may be another coastal pillbox or tucked away as I saw in Fowey Town Hall recently on an offsite animal encounter talk during the Fowey Royal Regatta for Newquay Zoo. There is a rare surviving (in- situ) example of a Salute the Soldier Week Campaign plaque awarded to the town to look out for.   

Our stamp blog with RZSS is at  

 Whatever campaigns you’re inspired by, enjoy your gardening and if you miss us over the next few weeks, enjoy reading previous blog entries.

Happy Birthday World War Zoo! Wartime gardens project at Newquay Zoo turns 1 years old.

August 30, 2010

Happy birthday to our wartime vegetables!

Happy birthday to our wartime vegetables …

 Appropriately for our first birthday week (the garden was officially launched to the public a year ago 2009 on the August Bank holiday), we have just topped our previous busiest day back in early Spring  at 65 readers in a single day. This soon adds up to over 6770 readers so far in our first year, 63 posts and lots of lovely comments. We’ve put the gardens project and blog in for a national BIAZA zoo education award which we hear the result of in November 2010, fingers crossed.  

I was talking last week about the wartime garden project and our progress with a planned book and wartime diary extracts from our archive with local Cornish author and maritime historian Elvin Carter. Elvin kindly popped back with a copy of his latest book for me to read, The Last Voyage of the Olivebank, being the 1939 grain race tall ship diaries of Len Townend (published by Blue Elvan books, UK ISBN 9780955995019). Elvin pointed out an unusual little epilogue at the back of this new companion volume to his 2008 book about the grain race sailor diaries of Geoffrey Sykes Robertshaw  (Before The Mast, ISBN 0955995002). The grain races of 1938-39 are also famously described in Eric Newby’s book,  The Last Grain Race. There’s more about each book at  

Len Townend wrote as his final words (he died in 1998, aged 81):

“When the coal and oil supplies become exhausted (as in time they surely must) and if once again the great windships sail the seas (as they may) and if there is such a thing as reincarnation (and I am selfish enough to hope that there is) , then it would be my hope that I may reappear and for a time at least tramp around a capstan or take in a Royal on some black foul night with my old shipmates of yesteryear.”

"Let your shopping help our shipping" was one propaganda message about saving food - grow your own is another, promoted by a typical piece of advertising from a wartime gardening magazine (from the World War Zoo gardening collection / archive at Newquay Zoo).

The tragic events which befell the Olivebank in the early weeks of the war and the rest of Len Townend’s wartime Merchant Navy career illustrate how dependent Britain was on shipping and how vital the National Growmore Campaign or Grow Your Own movement was to become. 70 years ago this month, the latest version of “Dig For Victory” was launched as the Battle of Britain raged in the skies overhead. There is more about this topic in previous posts and at the excellent Ministry of Food exhibition at the Imperial War Museum London (until Jan 2011) – see links and blogroll for details.

People have been potting up seeds in newspaper pots at the zoo this week, just as before on our wartime garden weekends in May. Our wartime zoo trail is busy with zoo visitors as part of our  plant hunters  themed week at Newquay Zoo

The garden is looking a little sparse as the broad beans are now saved for seed or happily peeled and eaten in their pods by monkeys. 

Seed saving of beautiful flower heads of leeks, alive with bees and butterflies. World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

A new batch of seedlings are in the ground for the autumn.     

You can read about the last year’s events on the past 63 posts available in our archive post section.

Happy Birthday, World War Zoo!

World War Zoo gardens project blog has passed the 5000th reader / web hit mark and is preparing for an award- can you help?

July 4, 2010

Display corner from World War Zoo gardens project June 2010 - Fox Rosehill Gardens, Falmouth, Cornwall display

Hooray! Our World War Zoo gardens project has just passed the 5000 reader mark since we started the blog in Summer 2009. 

We have also recently celebrated our first ‘podcast’ last week – have you heard this? 

We’re now putting the World War Zoo garden project, displays, launch weekend, Facebook & Twitter pages, blog and all forward for a prestigious BIAZA Education (General & Public Visitor) award.(British and Irish Association of Zoos And Aquaria)   The deadline is  July 23rd, 2010. 

We need your help! We always need feedback and comment from users, readers or visitors on such projects. 

Did it surprise you to learn about this neglected aspect of history? 

Did it surprise you to learn that a modern zoo has a wartime Dig For Victory allotment on one of its former lawns? 

Have you enjoyed looking at some of the objects in the zoo’s wartime collection, featured in photographs on the site? 

Did you get the connection? Has World War Zoo  made you think differently about the past and the resource challenges of the future? 

Has it evoked any interesting memories or family stories of the time? Would you like to share them with us? 

Some of our source material - old wartime gardening books by the fabulous Mr. Middleton, Imperial War museum seeds from their Ministry of Food exhibition online shop, 1940s varieties available from modern seed suppliers like Suttons, all in an ARP 1940s tin medical box - World War Zoo gardens display, Newquay Zoo

Many thanks to those of you who have already left comments or sent us emails about our project and its unusual way of communicating sustainability, recycling and grow your own and food miles “with a  Vera Lynn soundtrack” by looking at the experiences of zoos, aquariums and botanic gardens in the 1940s.   

We’d love you to leave us a comment.

You can browse the earlier articles back to July 2009 or look at our blogroll for useful links, including the excellent Imperial War Museum  Ministry of Food exhibition running throughout 2010.

You can comment via our blog direct to the project team.

Talk about fresh! Talk about food metres, not miles! Everyone gets conscripted or enlisted – Kat from our Cafe Lemur washing some of our surplus salad lettuce for use in the zoo cafe, once zoo keepers had used as much as they could! World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo.

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