Growing up Wild

Growing up wild is a campaign by Suffolk Wildlife Trust to create a memory bank of people's childhood experiences of nature that can be shared to inspire families to spend more time in the wild spaces where they live.

Voluntary warden Gordon talks about the history and wildlife at Arger Fen & Spouse's Vale, a Suffolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve:

Memory bank:

Abigail Turner

Name: Abigail Turner
Age: 10

I went fishing in Dedham and we caught about six tiny fish. Before we went home, we put all of the fish back in the water. We also went blackberry picking and picked lots of berries. It was loads of fun. We did it at Bramford Meadows last year (2015).

Andrea Eichhorn

Name: Andrea Eichhorn
Age: 67

Growing up in Wickham Market in the 50's:

"In spring I used to cycle to Loudham Woods to see the bluebells. They were amazing and so was the freedom that children used to have in those days. In summer my friends and I would go potato picking to earn pocket money and in late summer fruit picking. It was an idyllic childhood. We went everywhere by bike and a trip by bus to Woodbridge was a real teat. Times were hard but we were very happy."

Audrey Steley

Name: Audrey Steley
Age: 95

"I was brought up in Leiston, Suffolk. 1920 was my birthday. One of 4 children, we spent all daylight hours out of doors, playing with hoops, tops, skipping ropes, hop-scotch and many other games. I remember each season had its ritual: to Theberton to pick snowdrops; in September to fill sacks with leaves to put in the hen-house; in September or October to pick up conkers and acorns; to spend the darkening evenings using them to make little animals and people with the help of spent matches for legs and arms.

In summer holidays my next door neighbour and I would take a sandwich and a bottle of cold tea and walk to the Common (half-way to Sizewell) for the day. There we would make a den among the gorse bushes and be happy all day!"

Ava Turner

Name: Ava Turner
Age: 8

"In my garden I saw at least five frogs in the pond and with my cousin we found a bucket and we caught quite a few."

A Winter

Name: A Winter
Age: 80

"Swimming in local river Moles in pram instead of dolls."

Bernard Scarfe

Name: Bernard Scarfe
Age: 90

"All my holidays were spent outside with my friends roaming around countryside armed with home-made catapults and bows and arrows made from hazel wood or any sort of available wood.

Sometimes we were Robin Hood’s outlaws – played mostly in an overgrown pit. Summer holidays were mostly spent in harvest fields hunting rabbits in the cornfields from dawn until dusk – feeding mostly on apples taken from orchards.

Winter months spend sliding on frozen ponds, playing conkers, climbing trees, pole vaulting over dykes and sledging. We would try anything daring."

Claire Ward

Name: Claire Ward
Age: 28

“Springtime… there are so many different things in spring…. all the bulbs coming out, leaves coming into bud and all that – it was just brilliant and waiting for blossom to come on the trees. He had a big hedge going all the way down and we used to go, like, every week to see if the blossom had actually come out… Summertime…. as soon as you heard a swallow you was, like, ‘yes, summer! Listening for the cuckoo, that was another thing we used to do…. Autumn ….there was so many leaves and we used to rake and rake…sweeping them into a massive pile and kicking them all over”.

David Burt

Name: David Burt
Age: 68

"I used to go to the Ferry School at Felixstowe. On the way home we had to cross allotments by footpaths to come out on Church Road, Old Felixstowe. There were lots of old elm trees and, as boys, we couldn’t climb them. We went home and got lots of 6” nails and hammered them into the trunk so that we could climb into the upper parts of the tree. Great fun!"

Debbie Reynolds

Name: Debbie Reynolds
Age: 31

"Walking through woods; seeing deer, rabbits and bugs; making up stories."

Edward Miller

Name: Edward Miller
Age: 64

"Getting up early in the morning with jam jar and sock on piece of wood to catch stickle backs."

Elijah French

Name: Elijah French
Age: 4

"I liked it at Minsmere when we saw the Avocet."

Emma Gallafant

Name: Emma Gallafant
Age: 31

"Grew up next to Bull’s Wood. We rode into the wood at dusk and would watch the owls and bats."

Gail Baxter

Name: Gail Baxter
Age: 57

"I grew up in the village of Thornham Magna – a tiny village abounding with wildlife.

My memories of summer: out all day, climbing trees, watching coypu and water voles in the stream running past our house. Catching sticklebacks and returning them. Walks looking for wild flowers through the year: the first primroses, in lanes covered with them, and then cowslips followed by the amazing displays of ox-eye daises and the brilliant red poppies."

Guy Oram

Name: Guy Oram
Age: 88

"We came to Frostenden in North East Suffolk from Leicestershire in 1946. I was 18 and more interested in shooting than wildlife at the time. I remember in summer numerous red-backed shrikes on the wires and turtledoves everywhere, but perhaps the most memorable experience was listening to a nightingale night after night in a thicket not 50 yards from my bedroom window. What a song! When all else was quiet."

Ian Peters

Name: Ian Peters
Age: 64

"One of my earlier memories was my granddad arriving from Liverpool with a pair of very old army field glasses. He wasn’t a birdwatcher but he allowed a 7 year-old to use them. I spent a long time lying in the grass watching house martins at their nests and those birds captured my heart and led to a lifelong passion for birds. I later remember the painters who worked for the council who knocked the nests down. With eggs and young strewn around, I was devastated! I have encouraged nesting house martins ever since, and became interested in all forms of wildlife."

Ian Smith

Name: Ian Smith
Age: 62

"In the early 1960’s I spent much time in school holidays in Leeks Hills in Melton. There were streams and pools of water to play in and see various small creatures. One of the streams had a place you could cycle through like a ford. These were fed from underground springs which were all diverted when parts of this area were developed for housing.

Also remember the winter of 1962/3 when the River Deben froze over. After school we went and walked out beyond the tide mill. Council workmen kept some holes cut in the ice for the swans and other wildlife. Used to go each day and take food for the birds. I don’t think health and safety would allow such things now!!"

Jacqui Chambers

Name: Jacqui Chambers

"My Mum was born in Wetheringsett. She used to dress dead mice in little bonnets and dresses. She used her own imagination.

She loved making little gardens with wild flowers and named them herself: baby blue eyes; shirt buttons."

Jan Middleditch

Name: Jan Middleditch
Age: 45

"Back in 1981, I went for a bike ride down 7 Cottages Lane in Ipswich. Walked through a meadow and down the stream. Looked up and a stag was popping his head over the hedge!"

Janet Carver

Name: Janet Carver
Age: 66

"I lived on the outskirts of Oulton village near Lowestoft surrounded by fields. Nearby was a hay meadow called Durrants Meadow. I was about 11 at the time in 1961 and my friend Janet and I decided to go for a walk there. We were both wearing shorts as it was a hot summer’s day. I was in front and jumped over what I thought was a dog poo. Imagine my shock when a snake shot up alongside my leg! I don’t know who was the most surprised, me or the snake, as we’d both startled one another. We decided not to leave the field by the way we’d come in but over at the corner and wade through waist high nettles to leave."

Janet MacDonald

Name: Janet MacDonald
Age: 68

"Redgrave and Lopham Fen (Circa 1987)

A night spent camping out with 2 daughters on a bat hunt and also another night on a moth hunt. It always rained. These were ‘Watch’ activities."

Janet Phipps

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Janet Phipps growing up in the Suffolk countryside.

Name: Janet Phipps
Age: 79

“Small garden (Victorian cottages next to Gestetner factory). My own 1 square yard – primrose and lots of thrift (had been a sand pit so good for both) Allotments near river Lea (where we fished for tiddlers – no health and safety then!) which I took home and kept in an old sink in the garden. Our neighbour had been a professional gardener so we had lots of help!”

Jenny Coe

Name: Jenny Coe
Age: 33

"I remember going to the river in Stowmarket with my best friend and wading through to lift up the rocks and find catfish."

June Goodhand

Name: June Goodhand
Age: 77

"I remember one sunny day almost 70 years ago; my mother and I were walking part of the railway at Cavendish. She suddenly said: “listen”. We both listened and could hear scratching noises. We realised we were passing the advertisement boards, “Visit Clacton-on-Sea”, “Spend a day in London”. Etc. To our amazement, we saw a number of wasps on each board, busily pulling paper off the adverts. But we noticed they were only taking the white paper – the coloured paper was ignored. We assumed the dye was not liked. Perhaps it had a taste or smell which they didn’t like.

I have never seen this behaviour before from wasps, although I have heard and seen them pulling pieces off a wooden fence. I know they make their nests from paper."

Lesley Catling

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Name: Lesley Catling

“I spent the first 19 years of my life in East Anglia. I was born in Norwich & moved to Flatford Mill in Suffolk with my parents in 1951 aged 6 months. I left in 1970 to go to London where I trained as a primary school teacher.

My father worked for the Field Studies Council who were based in the National Trust Property at Flatford Mill. The FSC was the inspiration of Dr Enyon who wanted to enable children growing up in inner city areas to experience first-hand the realities of life & connections in the countryside. For example milk comes from cows who live in fields full of flowers & tasty grasses! It doesn't just arrive from out of space in glass bottles (or in plastic cartons in the supermarket now) ! The fields and Watermeadows were my first play ground.

As a child in the 50's I played in the corn fields in those days the corn was cut and left to dry and then threshed. In the 60's we made dens out of the straw bales. I remember seeing the harvest mice nests on the corn storks & being very upset when the corn was cut down and worrying about whether they had managed to run away in time!

The River Stour at that time was still tidal and I spent many happy hours making plaster of Paris casts of the bird foot prints left after the waters had receded & the waders had wandered by searching for food. My father introduced me to the birds that were nesting in our hedges, the sparrows nested in our roof and he got exasperated with me climbing up his ladder to check how the babies were getting on!

My first Primary school teacher used to take us out on nature rambles & I enjoyed showing her & the other children where the flowers were & what they were called. I still have the copy of the ‘The Dumpy Book of World Nature’ I won as the Nature Prize in Infants A in 1958!” 

Linda Morton

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Jill, Linda and Susan Harris in Suffolk in the 1950's

Name: Linda Morton
Age: 69

"As a child growing up in Ipswich in the fifties the best days were summer weekends when, together with my two sisters and the dog I squeezed into the back of the car and we headed off to Thorpeness for the day. Dad always stopped at Tunstall Forest on the way where we often had a picnic and searched around under the trees for creepy crawlies. Once at Thorpeness beach I would spend hours in the wild sea jumping the waves, then searching along the tideline for interesting shells and stones to take home. I don't remember feeling cold! 
Dad would try to cook sausages on a little camping stove, but the wind sometimes blew too much and the stove went out. I have very happy memories of those days at Thorpeness, and still love swimming in the sea."

Marion Wells

Name: Marion Wells
Age: 65

"Our family spent every summer in a 2-room hut on stilts called ‘The Puritan’ at Felixstowe Ferry – 1951-66.

When the tide was low, my elder brother and I would row out to the Horse Sands in the River Deben, secure the dinghy with an anchor and explore the creatures in the sand pools on the Sands. I especially liked watching the hermit crabs and occasionally saw them changing their shells."

Mary Atkinson

Name: Mary Atkinson
Age: 46

"I grew up in a village called Bradfield Combust. My parents had a garden of 1.5 acres with oak trees, elm trees and yews. With two sisters and a brother, with cousins living close by. We spent our childhood outside climbing trees, making dens and playing in the fields after harvest and playing with straw bales. We went on long walks, bike rides and picnics or played on village greens with other village children! We also used to get on our bikes and follow field fires."

Michael John Mayhew

Name: Michael John Mayhew
Age: 80

"I lived at 28, Hall Road, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, from 1945 to 1953.

“Git ye out abroad bor” – The command from a 90-year-old grandmother to a 8-year-old boy. From farming and fishing stock, living was outside and not in front of a fire. Snow, wind and rain was not an excuse. For me “abroad” meant helping on the allotment or the marshes. The marshes won most of the time.

A half mile strip of marshland ran parallel to the road in front of the house. The marsh bounded on the far side, 100 yards away, by a railway line, on the other side of which is Oulton Broad. A dyke started at a water meadow at one end and a small lake at the other. The lake was surrounded by reed and swamp with alders, marsh marigold and tussocks of vegetation.

That piece of marshland had everything a young boy needed. Sticklebacks, newts, frog spawn, dragon flies and water boatmen from the dyke. Lapwings nesting on the water meadow at one end, moorhens and mallard on the other and snipe getting up unexpectedly from anywhere! It also provoked an interest in butterflies and moths. The beautiful emperor moth caterpillars were found on the meadow sweet, those of the drinker moth on the reeds and grasses. In the nettle beds, webs of the small tortoiseshell and peacock caterpillars were always collectable. Poplar trees provided specimens of pussmoth and hedges of privet were searched for hawkmoth caterpillars. These were kept in cases provided by James Warner, out next door neighbour, who was official photographer to the Lowestoft Field Club. I was the first junior member and many of my finds were in the annual reports between 1947-52.

Children did not have watches or ‘phones for emergency contact. Health and Safety was not a consideration. We went out anywhere walking or cycling with plum jam sandwiches for lunch!! With Minsmere, Breydon Water, Blythburgh, Walberswich and Benacre all within cycling distance we had plenty of scope for exploration and appreciation of wild life. The Field Club introduced me to naturalists like Fred Cook, Harold Jenner, Robin Harrison, who wrote for the East Anglian Daily Times and Ted Ellis, curator of Norwich Museum. James Warner took me with him on many of his trips to record rarities.

The memories remain extensive and satisfying. It is a source of great satisfaction that my children and their husbands now share my love of wildlife and of Suffolk in particular."

Naomi Partridge

Name: Naomi Partridge
Age: 90

"I was born at Whatfield (Near Hadleigh) in 1926 and lived there until 1949.

From the age of 6 to 10, while we did not think of it as wild, we were very free. The big thing was wandering around the hedgerows in Spring looking for birds’ nests – we never took eggs and were careful not to scare the parent birds. We found Blackbirds’, Thrushes’, and what we called Hedge Bettys’ (Dunnock) nests. I loved the bright blue eggs of the Dunnock.

Each year the birds we found built in a summer place and usually near to habitation – gardens, etc. We found other nests too but didn’t know what they were – probably Tits. My brother and I used to wander round the local fields and sometimes woods but were a bit wary of the farmers. One place we loved was a channel which ran across meadows and alongside fields – we would either walk along in the water with our wellies on or jump across where the water was deeper – sometimes arriving home a bit muddy and wet!

We also used to cycle or walk to a local river where there was a deepish ford. We took a 2lb jam jar on a string and dropped it in the water hoping the small fish would swim into it. I think these fish were Gudgeons. Obviously this is all a long, long time ago!

PS. I also remember finding a Yellow Hammer’s and Skylark’s nest."

Nicki Dixon

Name: Nicki Dixon
Age: 44

"Story from my childhood in Cornard Road, Sudbury in the 1970s/80s.   

For a child with a natural love and curiosity of the outdoors my garden when I was growing up in Sudbury was heaven. 100ft long, it stretched from my bedroom window down to the railway track which carried commuters from Sudbury to Marks Tey. I always loved being outside and would happily sit in my homemade den in all weathers with my younger brother making mud pies.
Our two ponds were home to newts and frogs and I remember watching in total awe as tadpoles turned into frogs, drawing rough pictures of them in my notebook and showing the artwork off at school.

I’d often wake to the sound of a pheasant or two and watch as rabbits breakfasted on our grass. We made lard balls for the birds which came, it seemed, in their dozens to the huge conifer tree to dine on these homemade delights – blackbirds, blue tits and, inevitably, starlings who tried to bully their way to the top table. We lived also within easy walking distance of Sudbury’s water meadows where heron, kingfishers, ducks, swans and the grazing cattle were our neighbours.

In the warmth of summer we would swim in the Stour and dry off on the banks as the cows grazed nearby, glancing up occasionally as if to check what we were up to.We’d catch tiddlers with nets and be out until the sun started to set, grabbing a bag of chips wrapped in newspaper for the journey home."

Phoebe Ravenhall

Name: Phoebe Ravenhall
Age: 72

"I didn’t grow up in Suffolk, but in Warwickshire and Berkshire, but my earliest memories are of rambles with my parents; my father was a keen amateur naturalist, who for example, collected fungi specimens and identified them from their spores.

The drawing room mantelpiece housed a row of jam jars inverted over fungi caps on paper. I particularly remember a field of cowslips which lingers still in my head – the wonder of it – in Coleshill about 1944, and all the family sitting in a small wood, in about 1950-1, listening to a nightingale. I doubt if either habitat still exists!"

Roslyn Cleveland

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Name: Roslyn Cleveland
Age: 62

"Growing up in Lavenham in the 1950’s and 1960’s we roamed everywhere. Over the ‘Long Meadows’ between Bears Lane and the road to Brent Eliegh brought constant delights. We knew where the foxes lived, climbed oak trees looking for – I hate to say it – birds’ nests but didn’t take them! The meadows always seemed to be full of flowers: buttercups, shirt buttons and campion, and the slopes were great for sledging on!

The dismantled railway line was another great place to play as we got older and it became overgrown. We also knew all the local farmers and would often lend a ‘hand’.

I loved being outside and still do!"

Sarah Watts

Name: Sarah Watts
Age: 56

Pinmill – 1960’s – 1970’s

"As a child I and my Pinmill friends roamed free from Pinmill to Clamphouse through the woods. Bluebell carpets in Spring. We’d climb trees and make dens. We also got to go sailing and fished for crabs, baby eels, flat fish and sticklebacks.

In winter, the mud flats at low tide were alive with waders.

Swallows and house martins flew overhead and many houses and boatsheds had nests. Sparrows and starlings lived in the roof spaces. Tawny owls ‘hooted’ at night from the woods and herons and barn owls were seen on the meadow.

Stag beetles emerged at night from the old oak trees by what is now the car park entrance.

Happy memories!"

Shirley Daley

Name: Shirley Daley
Age: 70

"In the fifties my favourite place to play in the school summer holidays was Holywells Park. From early in the morning we walked with our jam sandwiches and a bottle of water that had been mixed with lemon ade crystals till late in the afternoon; we spent the long days playing on the swings, or making a den, hiding and seeking or just laying on the grass looking up at the blue sky wondering what was up there when all at once we would hear and see a skylark above so high into the blue. We were me, my brothers and best friend Edna. Oh! Happy fulfilling days."

Steven Green

Name: Steven Green
Age: 65

"When I was a child aged 4 to 7, I lived at Thwaite down the A140, and we had an orchard set in about 1 acre of garden, and I could catch up to 50 Red Admirals and numerous Peacocks and Commas. There were plenty of Wall Brown about at that time.

I also had fish tanks and used to catch tadpoles behind the old Bucks Head pub next door and raise them. When they were baby frogs, I let them go. I did the same with smooth newts. I had diving beetles in another tank, and they were plentiful at that time. The years were between 1954 and 1957.

We then moved to Metfield, and there I was raising great crested newts and dragon fly larvae. Broad Bodied Chaser were common at that time 1958 to 1962. I have not seen once since, and I would like to see one – a male. Can you advise me? I’ve been to Carlton Marshes and Lackford Lakes. We are Trust members and have been since about 1981."

Growing up Wild exhibition booklet

Click the map below to read stories of growing up wild in Suffolk