|Let the gnome-hunt begin!|
Today, a brave class of Year 5 pupils braved the chill to help us debut a new session aimed at helping them realise that the Victorians new a thing or two about sustainability.
Despite all the water butts being iced over, the intrepid bunch really enjoyed our Gnome Trail. Why gnomes? Well, the Victorians really started the fashion for garden gnomes, when some were imported from Germany. So, we used 10 images of gnomes which had interesting information about Victorians to introduce ideas and facts to the group. They had to walk round the allotment finding them, and try to remember as much of the information at possible. Then, as they finished, they came into the polytunnel to look at some things that were related to what they had learned.
Fresh horse manure was on hand to show how the Victorians had used it to make hot beds (if you rot something down, it will normally heat up at the beginning of the process, and strawy manure does this nicely). Broken tools reminded the group that the Victorians were great menders of tools, with things designed to be mended rather than thrown away when broken. We also got out our push-powered lawn mower, which isn't Victorian, but still shares a lot of the main features of the original pony-powered mower design. Some of our gardening catalogues began in Victorian times when gardening became very fashionable, so we had a few of their modern day descendants on show. We had some bone-meal to remind the group that the Victorians became big fans of the fertilising power of the stuff, even having battlefields and catacombs raided to provide the raw materials! And the biggest hit was the hay box, which was a popular way of keeping food warm and also of slow-cooking in Victorian times. Our version, which you may have already seen, is based on a crisp box rather than a polished wooden chest, but it still does the job nicely, as it was gently cooking the chestnut pate for the Festive Fuddle in the afternoon.
After that, Tracey demonstrated how a watering device popular in Victorian times worked, using a plastic bottle with holes in the bottom. You simply dip this in water, put your hand or thumb firmly over the top and then use it to water by removing your thumb / palm from the hole. This allows air in to replace the water, so the water then pours out. Very clever!
|Hand on top of bottle - no water falls out.|
We finished the session by linking up the Victorian tradition of Christmas Tree decorating with a much older tradition of tree dressing that existed in Britain before that. Trees were decorated in various places, using many different methods, but we chose to use cloths, following a tradition that is still alive in Scotland, Ireland and Cornwall. Our pear tree needs a bit of love and attention, as it didn't bear any fruit at all this year, so we asked the group to help us create poems describing the tree. They then wrote these on strips of torn bed-sheet with permanent markers, and tied them to the tree. It looks great and the poems are really good. If you are passing, why not pop in and have a look for yourself?
|Thinking of words to describe the tree|
|The finished "clootie tree"|