Posts Tagged ‘food waste’

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

August 21, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.growyourownclub.co.uk

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

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

August 8, 2011

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spitfires, Stukas, George and the Dragon: Newquay War Weapons Week poster design from Carmen Blacker and Joan D Pring at Benenden Girls School, evacuated to Newquay in the 1940s. Copyright: World War Zoo project, Newquay Zoo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.growyourownclub.co.uk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Absent fathers day – a wartime perspective from the World War Gardens project, Newquay Zoo

June 19, 2011

Father’s day in the World War Zoo wartime garden at Newquay Zoo – Blitz Bear, our project mascot
Father’s Day in Britain June 2011 – the nation awoke groggily to the headlines of the Prime Minister’s  offer of pursuing absent fathers and making them pay, making those who ‘abandon’ their children  feel the same  social stigma as drunk drivers.

Father’s day 19 June 2011 at Newquay Zoo –  an event to celebrate with half price entry for dads, free entry for children under 14 with a bear and a field hospital style surgical tent for injured bears.  Nurse “Penny Sillen”, otherwise known as Zoo Events organiser Lorraine Reid, nursed calloused hands from a few evenings cutting up and rolling hundreds of tiny bandages in scenes reminiscent of ladies of the First World War. Busy day! 

In the World War Zoo garden at Newquay Zoo, our peaceful and productive memorial to wartime zoo staff, during the brief periods between much-neeeded rain showers you could glimpse our project mascot, Blitz Bear, formerly of the Lost Property Department of Newquay Zoo some years ago.

Blitz Bear is usually found in the children’s section of our wartime displays alongside handmade toys, some of which are on show in our wartime display cabinet, others on the BBC / British Museum History of The World in 100 Objects digital online museum (see our blogroll for address). The handmade toys, some by wartime absent fathers for their far off children, are especially poignant. Blitz Bear symbolises all those special toys taken away from home by evacuees or much-loved presents who symbolised home, parents and loved ones.

My mum was evacuated to distant relatives for much of the war and barely saw her dad for the duration of the war, especially during his naval service in the Pacific. Fortunately, unlike many others awarded the Burma Star for their travels, he returned.  There must be many others on Father’s Day who remember ‘absent fathers’, some of whom never came home because of wartime. Many of the zoo keepers who died on active service and who are remembered on the staff war memorials at London Zoo and Belle Vue left young children without a father.

Next weekend is Armed Forces Weekend, and our dig for victory gardening friends at National Trust Trengwainton Gardens, Penzance will be holding a 1940s day on Sunday 26 June 2011 with a later one planned for Open Heritage Saturday 10th September 2011. A chance to glimpse their wartime allotment project  – and of course to remember our many veterans and the current serving forces, many mums and dads who will be way from home this weekend on Father’s Day …  

Keep reading for more about our World War Zoo wartime gardens project on this blog or browse the archive posts since 2009. You can contact us on the comments page here or via the Newquay Zoo website. Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo.

New Home Front ‘design or reimagine a poster’ campaign 2011

March 29, 2011

New Home Front Design Competition – Closing date: 6 May 2011

Wartime recycled handmade toys and Blitz, our re-enactor bear have got the squander bug surrounded - surrender! Objects from the Newquay Zoo wartime garden archive collection.

New Home Front 

(“How we can learn from Britain’s war time past in the age of dangerous climate change and energy insecurity”) are launching a competition to find the best ways in which the wartime poster and public education campaigns can be re-imagined to help today’s society understand the dangers of climate change, and what they can do to help. Wartime slogans such as “Is your journey really necessary?” remain relevant today when so much business travel could be replaced by video conferencing, for example. New Home Front is supported by UK Green MP Carolyn Lucas and a pdf report and audio press coverage can be found on their website.  

For more information see http://www.newhomefront.org/

Wartime posters can be seen on  http://www.iwm.org.uk website

So what is The New Home Front?

Lessons from the wartime generation for the modern world’s changes.

wartime posters and a forgotten skill - seed saving practice for next year's crops at World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Over the past two years at Newquay Zoo in our World War Zoo wartime garden project, I have been researching how we can learn from the wartime experience of zoos in surviving shortages and uncertainty as a way of preparing for the future. Editing personal diaries of wartime life or talking directly to older zoo visitors and WI groups of roughly my wartime evacuee parents’ generation about their experiences of rationing and allotments, “making do and mend”, has been as fascinating as chatting over the ‘garden fence’ to the smallest primary children who have ‘done the war’ at school and are proudly growing things to eat at home or in their schools gardens.  

Occasionally zoo staff and visitors are puzzled why I’m working on a wartime dig for victory allotment, surely a ‘history and heritage’ project looking back in a forward-looking, modern zoo / ‘environmental park’.    

So I was really interested to read the short New Home Front report by Andrew Simms (commissioned by Caroline Lucas UK Green MP) which is available to download free on pdf on http://www.newhomefront.org/

I’d be very interested to hear what you think of their ideas (and so would they). This is not the first time I’ve read ‘like minds’ on the subject. Several other recent books you might enjoy (all available on Amazon): 

 “Suppose such shortages arose again, maybe as a result of climate change, would the experiments of the past help ordinary people to survive? Better still, could we adapt some war-time methods of saving and sharing food and fuel with a generous spirit of neighbourliness?”

Introduction to Katherine Knight, Spuds, Spam and Eating for Victory: Rationing in the Second World War (Tempus, 2007)

 “In wartime the can-do community spiritedness of the propagandists instructions to ‘Make Do and Mend’ and ‘Dig for Victory’ fired the public’s imagination. Post-war, however, bald bossy exhortations seemed an insult to a people who had endured six years of wartime working and wanting, only to experience, with peace, an apparent decline in living standards … who, at times of national crises, could swing together. Britain did so in 1940 and I believe would do so again should a future global crisis threaten the essentials of our national life and culture. Should that need arise, our leaders today could do far worse than look back to 1940, to our nation’s darkest hour, to learn form our grandparents – and how they fought their way back towards peace and prosperity.” 

Patricia Nicol,  Sucking Eggs: What your Wartime Granny could teach you about Diet, Thrift and Going Green (Chatto, 2009)

 Covering everything from recycling to recipes, from fuel saving, food miles to fashion as well as gardening and holidaying at home, these books are as fascinating as the Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm TV series (Lion TV, when are you going to make Wartime Farm?) or the original BBC Wartime Kitchen and Garden (Please, please Acorn Media / BBC, please release this 90s classic on DVD) .

A Titchmarsh before his time ... C.H. Middleton, the radio gardener. This original wartime paperback has recently been reissued.

It’s also worth tracking down the recent ‘exhibition book’ for the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition Ministry of Food by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, 2010.

 Despite recently reading the beautifully presented and written Digging for Victory by Mike Brown and Twigs Way (Sabrestorm, 2011), I have yet to find a better gardening book on the urge to live and garden in extreme circumstances than Kenneth Helphand’s Defiant Gardens. http://defiantgardens.com/

In a world of nuclear accident, natural disaster, recession and political upheaval, I keep coming back to these ‘old and new’ books for facts, recipes, inspiration and challenge when I occasionally tire of reading the jovial and down to earth C.H. Middleton’s radio gardening talks (reprinted recently by Aurum Press as Digging For Victory, Dig on For Victory and Your Garden in Wartime), a Titchmarsh before his time.  

 You can find out more about our World War Zoo wartime garden project online on our website www.newquayzoo.org.uk and our events section, or by looking at past entries on the blog archive here.

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

March 15, 2011

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

LATEST POSTCARD RECEIVED 23 March 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 3, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of our Gnome Guards is missing from Newquay Zoo …

February 21, 2011

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

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

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

from where he sent this postcard! All very mysterious …

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

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

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

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

 

Who knows where he will turn up next?

 

Who knows when he will return?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 http://www.potatoday.org/potatodays.htm   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. http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/factsheets.   

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 http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk . This May half-term week coincides with the national BIAZA Love Your Zoo week events http://www.biaza.org.uk

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

ARRAN BANNER (EARLY)

ARRAN PILOT (1ST EARLY)

ARRAN VICTORY (MAIN)

DUNBAR ROVER (2ND EARLY)

DUKE OF YORK (1ST EARLY )

EPICURE (1ST EARLY)

GLADSTONE

GREAT SCOT (2ND EARLY)

HOME GUARD (1ST EARLY)

KING EDWARD VII (MAIN)

MAJESTIC (MAIN)

MAY QUEEN

SHARPE’S EXPRESS (1ST EARLY)

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

http://www.youtube.com/user/bristolz00

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 ...as 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!

Wartime Christmas past and presents from the World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

December 12, 2010

1940s toy Ark and toy train, handmade in wartime from any materails to hand, treasured Christmas presents in wartime (Image: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

1940s toy Ark and toy train, handmade in wartime from any materails to hand, treasured Christmas presents in wartime (Image: World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

It’s almost Christmas in the wartime zoo garden at Newquay Zoo. The snow and ice has for the moment gone from our ‘Dig For Victory’ allotment veg patch, leaving some plants looking the worse for wear. The spring crops of lettuce, cabbage, spinach and carrots look as if they might pull through as they did earlier this year, surviving the snow and ice in February. Frost is still an ongoing problem and garden fleece hadn’t been invented in the 1940s, whilst growing under glass ‘Cloches versus Hitler’ (to name a topical book of the time) was too expensive or impractical for many.

 The gardener always has a long list of desirable Christmas presents in this quiet time of the garden year, poring over seed catalogues, tool and equipment lists for desirable things. I’ve been looking dreamily at tough old fashioned tools  such as the FSC oak planter tools set from Mit Hus www.mithus.co.uk . (Is Father Christmas in his tin hat listening?). Our Zoo director Stewart Muir, a keen gardener at home and in the zoo, has been openly envious of a very tough Dig For Victory 1944 spade acquired for the World War Zoo gardens project on E-Bay as better than any of the several modern ones he’s broken in the last couple of years. All I want for Christmas this year is decent growing weather for next year. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Newquay Zoo’s keeper carol service www.newquayzoo.org.uk and Christmas fair takes place this weekend, and we’ve been busy putting up a Christmas Past and Presents Trail about the Victorian customs that now make up much of our modern Christmas. The carols, the tree, food, drinks, games and toys – we owe many of these to the Victorians including the German Christmas tree tradition brought to us by Prince Albert. A later custom dictates that the national Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square each year is a gift from the peoples of Norway to Britain for their wartime assistance. It’s been fascinating seeing where our peacetime and wartime Christmas traditions came from and the feast of Thornton’s chocolate indulgence we are lucky enough to have now (possibly my favourite trade stall at the Zoo’s Chritmas fayre).

A rare survival of a cardboard Christmas stocking toy in our World War Zoo gardens collection alongside the excellent Christmas on the Home Front book by Mike Brown

The first Christmas of the war would have been of all the Christmas in wartime much like others before and since, apart from the blackout, the many evacuated children and serviceman overseas. There would still have been chocs, toys and presents in the shops. Food would not become rationed until 8th January 1940. Resources by Christmas 1940 would become increasingly set aside for wartime production. Toy shops would be increasingly empty (many toys pre-war were made in Germany anyway).  The church bells would not be rung at Christmas for several more years as church bells were one form of invasion warning.

 The enduring morale boosting customs despite the changing nature of this wartime Christmas experience between 1939 – 1945 is well documented and illustrated in Mike Brown’s recent book Christmas on The Home Front (Sutton Publishing, 2007). There is more in A Wartime Christmas by Maria and Andrew Hubert  (Sutton, 1995) and excellent Age Exchange publications on Christmas past and wartime reminiscence. There are some great wartime Christmas recipes in the Mike Brown book, along with Jennifer Davies’ The Wartime Kitchen and Garden (book of the 1990s BBC series, available second hand). 

 If Christmas treats and toys were to be had, they often had to be handmade or obtained second-hand (so Present Sense style gift recycling or Yankee Gift Swaps are nothing new). Wartime magazines were full of ‘eco-tips’ for improving or improvising clothes, toys and Christmas food.

One of our wartime life collection toys is a hand-made sliding puzzle made from an Australian  butter box and old calendar by a serviceman for his child back home. It was the sort of wartime Christmas toy many children would have received. We featured this toy and a hand-made wooden Spitfire in our choices for the digital museum on BBC Radio 4 / British Museum’s  A History of the World in 100 Objects series  this year, which you can still see and hear online (see our links page) or buy the BBC book by Neil McGregor. I’m sure many will unwrap and enjoy a copy this Christmas.

Recently we have been loaned or acquired a fantastic wooden toy train with cocoa tin boiler and cotton reel funnel, a paper Indian Headdress from a wartime Christmas stocking and a beautiful wooden ark and animals hand-made in wartime by teacher Mr Ernest Lukey of Poole for his daughter Wendy Norman. She thought the zoo’s wartime life collection would be a suitable place for this to be looked after.

 Amongst the treasured wartime presents handed down in my own family are 1940s children’s books – often the like the above toys, the main present from service fathers far away. Many were and remain the distracting companions for children on rainy days since.  Inscribed with love, a far away place  and Christmas date, these Enid Blyton annuals, countryside  or nativity books from 1944 through to 1947 show that toys and books were still scarce after 1945. Food rationing carried on until 1954. BBC History Magazine’s Christmas 2010 edition features an article on symbolic Christmas activities amongst DPs (Displaced people and refugees of many nationalities) around Europe in 1946. Some of these DP camps took over empty zoo areas such as Hamburg for a while, these strange photographs being in the Imperial War Museum collection (IWM collections are visible online).

The IWM London’s rationing exhibition Ministry of Food ends on the 3rd January 2011, http://www.iwm.org.uk so still time to catch this! For those who can’t make it, there is the IWM blog, the tempting online shop and a well illustrated book of the exhibition by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall. If you have green-fingered friends, cooks or those interested in history, the RHS have produced a great little DVD called Dig For Victory  and there are plenty of recent reprints of C.H. Middleton’s wartime gardening talks on the radio, wartime cook books or garden writer Twigs Way’s well-edited reprint of Ministry of Food and Farming’s 1945 advice leaflets, all very relevant today. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Twigs-Way/e/B0034PAXNW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Seed saving practice for next year's crops at World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo

Garden writers of the time recommended seeds, tools, livestock or subscriptions as presents, making wartime Britain look a little like a modern Oxfam Unwrapped catalogue. BBC History, Wildlife and Gardeners World magazines aside, there are now plenty of excellent Your Kitchen Garden, Grow Your Own, Amateur Gardening or Smallholder type magazines around for those subscription gifts, not to mention membership of the 1940s Society. Wartime editors of such magazines particularly pleaded with readers to place a subscription as it helped them prevent producing unwanted issues in a time of acute paper shortage. Sadly many magazines never survived the war.

Wartime shortages brought about the animal adoption scheme, to fund the upkeep and feed of zoo animals, started they claim at Chester Zoo but rapidly adopted at others places like London Regent’s Park Zoo and Edinburgh Zoos. Many Christmases in the past at Newquay Zoo have seen our mad scramble to get that last-minute ordered animal adoption or Junior Keeper experience scheme pack out in the last Christmas post. Deatils can be found on many zoo websites or for Newquay Zoo http://www.newquayzoo.org.uk

 Hopefully you will be able to add a World War Zoo gardens book from Newquay Zoo to your present list for Christmas 2011 if all goes well. I have been working for the past few months on editing the wartime pocket diaries of the London Blitz and Home Front life elsewhere in Britain, with fascinating almost Twitter length entries allowed by the space in a pocket diary. Hopefully these should be published later during the year in both schools and adult reader versions so watch this space for details.

Whatever you give or receive for Christmas, we at Newquay Zoo hope you enjoy this family time, sparing a thought for ‘absent friends’ and the many ghosts of Christmas past.

And, although we’d love to see you this Christmas or during 2011, please don’t send your relatives down to see us on Christmas Day – it’s the only day we close to the public each year … 

Enjoy reading this year’s blog entries, we look forward to your company in the next year!


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