SRUC Oatridge WW1 Allotment Project Goes on Display at Royal Highland Show

A First World War inspired allotment project run by the Oatridge Campus of Scotland's Rural College will be going on display at this year's Royal Highland Show.

The allotment, which offers a glimpse of how people gardened 100 years ago – as part of the Dig for Victory campaign - will be a key part of the Countryside Cottage demonstration area at the showground.

The WW1 allotment project was originally funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2014 to help to help students develop their horticultural skills by demonstrating some of the varieties and gardening methods used during those times. All the staples of the Scottish diet are grown on the allotment – including heritage varieties of potatoes, turnips, carrots, radishes, beans, Brussel sprouts, and cabbages.

The allotment will be used to underline the role food production played during the WW1 campaign. Information boards will highlight that in 1914 British farmers were only producing 40 per cent of what was being eaten in the country – with the rest being imported from the British Empire. On the other hand it was estimated that Germany was 90 per cent self sufficient.

The replica of the allotment will be part of a collaborative project which has the theme: "Work and War Horses 1914 – 1918" which aims to highlight the impact of WW1 and how this played its part in changing horse drawn agriculture forever.

SRUC students and staff from the Equine, Agricultural, and Horticultural departments are all involved in the project.

George Gilchrist, Horticulture Lecturer, said: "At Oatridge Campus our Horticultural Certificate students grow a wide range of modern varieties of vegetables. As part of their course work, this collaborative project with the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland provides our students with the opportunity to learn more about the history of the vital food production during the First World War.

"It also offers the opportunity to compare the developments of a hundred years of plant breeding and the improvements in vegetable growing techniques."

The horticultural staff and students have cultivated 50 food crops grown during the period of conflict which will be replanted at the Royal Highland Show ground. They have also devised a series of hand written slate labels which tells the story of each variety. A range of horse drawn machinery available at the time will be on display, while agricultural students constructed old-fashioned hayricks.

During the war years the government learned just how valuable farming in Britain was to the nation’s survival – and by the end of the First World War 75 per cen of what was eaten was produced in this country. Incredibly some soldiers at the front line actually gained weight due to the tremendous effort of supplying food to the troops.

The educational story boards will also emphasise the pre-war diet in the UK was deficient in vital vitamins and minerals, which led to poor healing of wounds. As a result a lot was learned about nutritional values and the vital food groups we take for granted in today’s diet.

The WW1 Allotment Project can be seen at the Countryside Cottage demonstration area at the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston from Thursday 23 July to Sunday 26 July 2016.

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