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East Cleveland childhoods in the middle of last century were typified by extensive outdoor play and the ability to freely roam the countryside. The rural landscape of East Cleveland was a giant playground and children spent large amounts of time exploring, foraging, and roaming in the quest for the next adventure. As such, these children were well connected with nature and knowledgeable about the wildlife to be found throughout the region.

Although the childhood activities of this generation were very different to those of children today, there are very few records of what children did, primarily because they didn’t keep records or retain records of their “normal” activities. We want to capture these memories as a lasting record before the older generation pass on and this element of social history is lost.

We know very little about the past and in some cases the current distribution of wildlife in this landscape. Some creatures such as water voles, dormice and red squirrels have disappeared from the landscape, others like harvest mice are predicted to have drastically changed their distribution, and some species including deer, have arrived in the landscape relatively recently. For reptile species we have such little information that it is impossible for us to know how they are faring.

Gathering these early memories of nature will build better understanding of past distributions of wildlife and how they link with today’s biodiversity. Better knowledge of past wildlife distribution will help us to plan focussed surveys to determine whether there are residual populations of rare species such as dormouse, grass snakes and water voles.

To achieve our goals we will be engaging with the local community in East Cleveland to collect memories through interviews, reminiscence sessions and other information gathering. Do you have good memories of your outdoor childhood and remember places where you saw wildlife? Do you have any photos of playing outdoors or diaries and memories that could be helpful to our study. Could you help us with wildlife surveys or interviewing? Come along and join some of our events.

On the pages of the website you will be able to listen to some of the memories; upload pictures and memories of your own; report a wildlife sighting to help us build information to support conservation efforts and follow project events and activities. We hope you enjoy it!