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SRUC Receives Funding to Create a WW1 Style Allotment

Published Tuesday, 25th March 2014 in Oatridge Campus news

WW1 garden at Oatridge

Scotland’s Rural College has received £10,000 funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to design and build a First World War inspired allotment on their Oatridge Campus in West Lothian.

The project aims to help locals and students develop their horticultural skills though this fascinating glimpse of how people gardened one hundred years ago.

George Gilchirst, SRUC Horticulture Lecturer, who is coordinating the project, says: “It is great to have received this funding and our students, across a range of educational levels, are showing a positive interest in developing the garden and at the same time developing further their personal knowledge of horticulture.”

When food was scarce in WW1 the Dig for Victory campaign was launched and Victory Gardens were encouraged to help keep Britain fed. This allotment will demonstrate some of the varieties and gardening methods used during those turbulent times.

All the staple foods of the Scottish diet, so vital in 1914, will be grown on the allotment, including heritage varieties of potatoes, turnips, carrots, radishes, beans, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. These older varieties have not had the benefit of years of breeding and selection which means the gardeners could find increased problems with pests and diseases and lower yields. Modern varieties have also been selected for improved flavour, something both the gardeners and the public can judge for themselves at an open day to be held later this year.

A particularly difficult crop for the students to tackle will be the common mushroom. They are currently researching how to cultivate mushrooms in outdoor ridge beds as they did at the time of the First World War, a method that required both time and attention to detail.

The allotment will be open to the public at an open day in late August or early September. Visitors will be able to check out the produce and talk to the growers about how vegetables were produced 100 years ago. They will also get a taste of some of the types of dishes people – now and then – can make with the home grown produce. For those who’d like to attempt to make a WW1 meal in their own kitchen, a WW1 recipe booklet is also being produced and will be launched at the open day.

As part of the project, a smaller scale allotment will be running at Pumpherston and Uphall Primary school where the pupils are learning about World War 1 and the role that gardening played in supporting the nation’s people.  An educational resource for schools has been also produced which will support other schools in developing their own WW1 Learning Allotment.

George would also like to ask people in West Lothian to look out any old photographs, newspaper clippings or pieces of equipment that are relevant to gardening during the war years. They hope to borrow such items for use in a display that they are planning in August to commemorate the centenary of World War 1.

For more information, or to donate an object, please contact George Gilchrist at or on 01506 864 800.

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