Did you grow up in Suffolk?

We would love to hear your stories of growing up wild in Suffolk.



Growing up wild in Suffolk

Monday 12th September 2016

As part of a Heritage Lottery Funded initiative Suffolk Wildlife Trust is collecting stories from people who grew up in the county. The stories will be used to create a memory bank of childhood adventures in nature.

Suffolk's landscape is special for a lot of reasons, not least for the memories it holds of childhood days spent exploring nature.

The pioneering project, which is being backed by the East Anglian Daily Times and BBC Suffolk, is designed to inspire families to spend more time in the county’s wild spaces.

The Trust is well on its way to collecting at least 100 people’s stories of Suffolk’s summers and winters-gone-by, and you can explore these on the website - the stories will also be featured in an exhibition around the county before being lodged with the Suffolk Records Office.

Sara Holman and Tracey Housley who are co-ordinating the campaign, said they hoped Growing Up Wild could help preserve an important part of Suffolk’s heritage.
Sara said: “While changes in the physical landscape, or declines in species, have been well documented, the oral history of people’s lived experiences of wildlife and wild places remains largely anecdotal.

“We know from our experience with volunteers, staff and close work with the communities of Suffolk that there is a wealth of untapped stories in our region; whether it is swimming lessons in rivers, climbing trees or just running wild until tea time.

“We believe these tales and images will clearly demonstrate how children in our county have always grown up with a largely outdoor life.”

But the campaign, which is supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, will also paint a vivid picture of the lost Suffolk that the Trust is striving to restore; a Living Landscape of flower-rich meadows, furzy commons and expansive wetlands.

“The memories captured during Growing Up Wild”, Tracey explains, “will allow people to see how the Suffolk countryside used to be and illustrate the changes that have taken place since World War II. Hopefully not only will this inspire people to get outside, but it will encourage them to take action for wildlife where they live.”

A spokeswoman for Heritage Lottery Fund said:  “Suffolk’s natural heritage is precious and this excellent project will help people understand and experience this for themselves.  It’s a great example of how everyone can get involved in the heritage on their doorstep through sharing memories and being outdoors.  We are delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to support the creation of this treasure trove of wild memories.”

The timing of the campaign, which will see stories being shared in the EADT, BBC Suffolk and on the Trust’s reserves is also important. Recent research has suggested that the last 40 years has seen children become increasingly separated from nature.

A national YouGov poll, commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts in 2015, revealed that 57% of parents thought their children spend less time outdoors than they did, while 37% of children had reportedly not played outside by themselves in the past six months. One in three children were said to have never climbed a tree.

“The survey highlighted a clear discrepancy between what parents think is best for children and what they actually experience”, Tracey said. “While 91% of parents of children aged 18 and under think having access to nature is important, 78% of parents said they are worried their own children don’t spend enough time interacting with or experiencing the outside world.”

Other research in the last decade has shown that simple activities like walking to school have decreased – dropping from 80% of seven to 8-year-olds in 1971 to just 10% by 1991.
In fact children are said now to only roam 300 yards away from their home, rather than the six miles of 1915.

Tracey added: “We know contact with nature is good for children, it makes them happier, healthier and more creative. Growing Up Wild is designed to present a wild childhood in a new way to increase young people’s contact with the natural world.”

Growing up wild in Suffolk - two stories


Terry Hunt – Editor of the East Anglian Daily Times

"I’m very proud to be a country boy. I grew up in Cretingham, in the heart of Suffolk. To save you looking it up on a map, Cretingham is about 11 miles north of Ipswich, and nestles next to the River Deben although, in truth, it is little more than a stream at that point.

Our family home was between the Deben and the ancient village church – and the river proved an irresistible playground! We would have paper boat races, hoping our hand-made craft would make it all the way along the river to Woodbridge. In truth, most of them sank or were caught up in reeds after only a few hundred yards.

When the water levels were low, in dry summers, the challenge was always to wade across in your wellies without getting your feet wet. I never succeeded  – I always found an unexpectedly deep part. Cue wet feet, soggy wellies, and another telling off from mum.

I know everyone who grew up in the countryside says this, but those really were carefree times for children. During school holidays, I would meet up with my mates and then disappear for hours on end, only coming home at the end of the day to be fed.

We explored the woods, fields, meadows, cheek-by-jowl with nature. I’m probably wearing my rose-tinted spectacles now, but life did seem simpler, and more relaxed back then. I often tell the story of how, when we were bored, we would play a game called “lying in the road.’’ It was as it sounds – we would literally lie in the road until a car or tractor came along. Sometimes we’d be there for a very long time! (Don’t try this at home…)

Just about every part of the countryside was a potential game. Trees were for climbing, water-filled ditches were for scary long jump competitions (more wet feet), and pulsing electric fences were for games of “dare” (definitely don’t try this at home!)

There was never a thought of danger back in those more innocent days. I count myself very lucky to have been a child of the 1960s and I hope today’s generation of youngsters are able to experience some of our very special and increasingly precious countryside."

Gordon Kennett is a volunteer warden at Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Arger Fen & Spouse’s Vale reserve

"When I was just ten we used to camp up on Tiger Hill, which takes its name from the canine of a sabre-toothed tiger that was unearthed there. Dr Grace Griffiths, who was the local GP and cared for consumptives at a sanatorium nearby, lived there at the time.

She was a great botanist and she knew all the names of the flowers and the birds. She used to get all of us kids sat around the campsite talking about wildlife then she would bring us into Arger Fen and talk to us and show us things.

I suppose that’s how I first really got into all of this – and I’ve becoming back to Arger Fen all of my life, so I’ve seen all kinds of changes.

I’ve definitely got some favourite spots. Walking round the perimeter of the site there is what is now called the boxing holly. It marks the spot where, prior to 1951, local people would come to settle any of the differences they might have had. On the bark of the holly tree is the date of the last fight that took place here, which was presumably a bare-knuckle contest, with the initials of the people involved.
It adds to the history of this beautiful place and highlights that these woods have been used by people for many years – it’s part of our shared heritage."

If you'd like to share your childhood memories of wild Suffolk we'd love to hear from you. Please write to: Growing Up Wild in Suffolk, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Brooke House, The Green, Ashbocking, Ipswich, IP6 9JY or email info@suffolkwildlifetrust.org



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