Childhood Holiday Memories in the UK

Wildlife I Remember from Childhood Holidays

I have been recalling what I remember best of my childhood holidays with my family, and without any doubt it is the wildlife I encountered in the places we stayed at and visited in the car. When we went to the beach I was always more interested in what I could find in rockpools than the sands or going in the sea.

My mother used to say it was "hard to get me out of my Wellingtons," and so it was if we went to the beach. I often preferred to wear my "Wellies" to bare feet because it meant I didn't hurt my feet on sharp rocks and was less likely to slip.

Also if the beach happened to have a river estuary or muddy tidal lagoons, all the better as far as I was concerned, because there were always all sorts of creatures and plants to be found in brackish water habitats.

As a small boy I remember we used to stay in a holiday chalet in a village called Stepaside just outside the beach of Wiseman's Bridge in Pembrokeshire. Amroth and Pendine were just along the coast and sometimes we went to these beaches too.

European viper

European Viper photo by Jzef Kazimierz Sokoowski
European Viper photo by Jzef Kazimierz Sokoowski
Cornish Sucker photo by Polandeze at Wikipedia
Cornish Sucker photo by Polandeze at Wikipedia
Sand Lizard. Photo by Piotr Podsiady
Sand Lizard. Photo by Piotr Podsiady

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The Adder or Viper

In my spare time when we were back at the chalet I would roam about on the grassy banks that overlooked the holiday homes and look on the roadside verges on the road into the place. It was there that I would spot Adders (Vipera berus ) with their distinctive zigzag patterned backs.

I used to delight in finding these snakes basking on anthills and patches of exposed earth. There were smaller greyish males and much bigger females that were sometimes a reddish-brown.

I would be careful not to disturb the snakes but it didn't take much to do so. The slightest movement and they would uncoil and vanish into the grass and surrounding undergrowth.

Common Lizards too could be also found where the Adders lived and this was not surprising because this snake eats the smaller reptile. Sadly today both these British reptiles are becoming rare.

In the evenings I was excited to see what types of moth turned up after being attracted by the lights. I used to see what sorts of wild flowers I could find too and look up all the new species I discovered in my Observer's Books.

My Dad had a blue Vauxhall car with a curved-roof and we used to go on day-out journeys to other beaches and locations of interest in Carmarthernshire and Pembrokeshire. Often we stopped for lunch for a fish ´n´chip shop and I used to love eating battered cod and chunky chips with plenty of salt ´n´vinegar, all wrapped up in newspaper. They don't make fish ´n´chips like this anymore!

At Wiseman's Bridge I remember catching prawns in the deeper pools. I had a big net and learned to sweep it under the rocky ledges in the pools and under the underwater seaweed. Bringing it to the surface quickly you would hopefully find prawns jumping about in the net, and sometimes there would be fish or other interesting marine creatures.

If the prawns were females often they would have masses of eggs underneath and I would throw those back in the seawater.

We also used to catch shrimps on the sandy beaches and that was a totally different technique needed of skimming the net through the top of the underwater sand and then swilling it in the water if you were in luck and could see any shrimps in your catch. They were speckled and hide by burying in the sand.

Sometimes we brought home a catch of mixed prawns and shrimps. We used to clean them by leaving them in a bucket fresh tap water overnight and cook them by dropping the crustaceans into a boiling pan of water when they would instantly die and turn pink.

I remember being fascinated by the small fish known as Blennies. They are able to live out of water for short periods and often could be found in deep crevices in the wet rocks after the tide went out. Blennies reminded me of the exotic Mudskipper fish I had seen on TV wildlife documentaries with David Attenborough.

On day trips to other places in Pembrokeshire I can remember a place called Dale where there were muddy saltmarsh lagoons and on the beach I found the strange Porcelain Crabs with flattened claws. In St Martin's Haven, another beach we sometimes went to, I discovered the Cornish Sucker fish (Lepadogaster purpurea ) in the rock pools.

These weird little fish look really exotic with their plum-pink colouring and shape and they stick on the rocks like some types of tropical catfish can do. They also have eye spots on the back of their heads. Cornish Suckers are a type of cling fish and this was the only place I ever saw any.

We also used to go to a place called Stackpole where there was a long walk past the Bosherston Lily Pools and end up on a sandy beach where a stream from the ponds went into the sea and I could catch small flatfish in the large pool it created of brackish water.

When I was a bit older we stopped going to Pembrokeshire and started going camping in the New Forest and had a big blue family tent. I can remember how exciting it all was, and used to enjoy hearing the rain pattering on the canvas if the weather was bad. I remember the very plastic smells of the inner compartments that we could zip up and the plastic buckets and bowls and food containers we had.

It was all very plastic and artificial but it didn't seem that way so much because we had grass and trees and sky outside. It was fun sleeping in a sleeping bag too.

I cannot be sure of the name of the area we camped in but I think it was near Ringwood. Again I was thrilled to be able to go out and find all sorts of wildlife.

I remember wandering about in the forest and moorland areas near the campsite and finding Sand Lizards, a rare species I had only seen in books, Grass Snakes, Adders, White Admiral butterflies and occasionally catching sight of Fallow Deer as they ran to hide in the trees and bushes.

I also remember finding moths that flew into the toilet block attracted by the lights. I saw some of the first Prominent moths and also Thorn moths and some types I never managed to find in my insect books.

My Dad used to drive me and my family to beaches and towns and places of interest in the area and I know we went to Chesil Beach, for example, but for me what I remembered the most and enjoyed the best about the camping holidays, was being able to find all sorts of wildlife that didn't live in Wales. Holidays for me were always about exploring nature and finding plants and animals.

© 2009 Steve Andrews

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Comments 42 comments

Pete Maida profile image

Pete Maida 7 years ago

I guess animals were big with you as a boy. I lived in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania USA and we would hunt for snakes and climb the mountains. Very descriptive hub.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Animals and flowers have always been what I am most interested in since I was a toddler.

emohealer profile image

emohealer 7 years ago from South Carolina

Very nice memories, very nice places. Thank you!

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Emohealer!

countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

WOW!! You love nature just like I do too. Thanks for taking us all for trip through your childhood memories. Have a great weekend. :D

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you again, CW! :) BTW CJ Stone inspired this one with his holiday book!

countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

Then thanks to CJ stone too for this inspiration. If you can divide your life in chunks of decade then we can have a series. 1-10 then 11-20 and so on. Life is an amazing journey and I am 26 now but I myself have seen each decade shape me into a different person (which I hope is better). ;)

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I have never thought of dividing my life up into decades but it's a good idea, CW. Actually I tend to have problems with knowing what year was what and am constantly amazed by how long ago something was or how old someone now is! CJ actually has a very accurate knowledge of my life and why I am as I am. He knows that part of me is still a teenager that never grew up! There are a lot of things that are "normal" that I never went through or tried to have but failed and I had never been in a plane until 2002. What has always remained constant for me is nature. Animals and flowers were my childhood because I hated school and didn't get on well with most kids. Actually I had a message from a friend on Facebook yesterday, who is currently holidaying back in Cardiff, and he had seen an old friend of mine called Roger - one of the only boys I got on well with as a child - and he has been working on a school nature reserve project. Roger used to go looking for wildlife with me and has personally thanked me for what he has learned from me and nature has stayed with him all his life. So I was pleased to hear he is doing something to help it now!

fen lander profile image

fen lander 7 years ago from Whitstable

I have a tiny tiny brown-field mouse that comes into my tool-shed where I write, sleep, etc. It makes my day. I stop typing and sit really quiet and the mouse carries on as if unaware of my presence. It's cute. I don't care if it does gnaw everything- it's only nesting.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Wonderful! Thanks for sharing, Fen! My song about Piss-off Pete whom Chris wrote about in Last of the Hippies has a line in it: " He had a friend a little mouse, fed him on crumbs in his crumbling house..."

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Thanks for sharing these memories. Children still love the simple things in life but are so often not allowed to enjoy them.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

You are so right, Ethel! Thank you for posting!

Julie-Ann Amos profile image

Julie-Ann Amos 7 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

What about newts? I still have them in the garden, living proof the Forest of Dean is living in a timewarp...

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain

A very enjoyable hub

2patricias profile image

2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Thanks for an enjoyable Hub.

Did you know that Whitstable Views is looking for people with memories of holidays in the UK from the 50s and 60s and maybe 70s?

2patricias profile image

2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Oh dear - just reread the comments and see that CJ Stone (alter ego Whitstable Views) and his book has already had a mention - sorry.

Anyway, still enjoyed your hub.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Julie-Ann, I love newts but never found them on holiday or if I did I forgot because I was used to catching and keeping them where I lived in Cardiff. Actually CJ Stone wrote a story about my experience later in life with making the mistake of telling a naturalists trust about the Great Crested Newt. First they didn't believe me, then when I had proved there were plenty in a local pond, they did conservation work which ruined the place and it's been downhill all the way ever since. I had Palmate Newts in a bath I had sunk in the back garden in Ely.

Thanks, Maggs!

2patricias, yes, it was CJ who inspired me to write this! It is for him to get some of my memories from.

Anamika S profile image

Anamika S 7 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

Childhood memories are so special. But a snake would scare me to death anytime though i am told they are harmless mostly. I love flowers and all sort of pets except cats.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I live with a cat and she is so important to me that I cannot travel because I have no one here to look after her! I love snakes too as you would have gathered, but Tiggy would kill them or they would kill her if they were poisonous types. There are none on this island but we have geckos and lizards here.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

I remember being fascinated by the lizards I saw on my holidays. I never saw any growing up in a busy town, but I remember seeing them at the sea-side. I had family in the New Forest, and we sometimes stayed with them when I was a child, and I remember the excitement of seeing ponies, donkeys, cattle, and even deer, all roaming freely, and often venturing into the Forest towns. Even today it's common to see cattle grids at the end of people's drives in the Forest, to stop the wildlife coming in and chomping on the flower beds!

We just got back from a holiday in Wales, and on our very last day we were absolutely delighted to see a dolphin swimming in the sea at New Quay, quite close to the harbour wall. I'm not anywhere near as talented at spotting wild-life as you, Steve, but the dolphin, and the seals that we saw earlier in the week, absolutely made my holiday!

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I am glad to hear you saw some seals and a dolphin, Amanda, and that you know what I am talking about about the New Forest area and lizards. Thanks for posting!

bingskee profile image

bingskee 7 years ago from Quezon City, Philippines

wow.. snakes. i fear them but i love the flowers and the plants.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you for posting!

Ravenz profile image

Ravenz 7 years ago from London

Childhood Holidays, amazing though, yours i can say is Adventurous. Pretty Post.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Ravenz!

CJStone profile image

CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

Hi Steve, thanks for this, and I'm pleased to see it's generated lots of comments too.

trinaruth profile image

trinaruth 7 years ago

I have been to both South Wales and Ely in my travels in the UK! Thanks for bringing back thosee memories!

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Hi Chris and Trinaruth!

Chris, I am glad you like it, and Trinaruth, I am glad you have been to South Wales!

Kim Garcia 7 years ago

Very interesting childhood to say the least. I live in Beaufort SC, close to the marsh and we have lizards all over the yard. One day we found a curled up rat snake on our front porch, same night....a huge bullfrog, and then before I went to bed, a HUGE moth under my porch lamp. What an experience in one day.

I always try to see things in a spiritual light....but metamorphosing was all that came to mind. Thanks again! Blessings! Kim

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I would love to find all those creatures! Sounds a great place! Thanks for posting, Kim!

Hammerj profile image

Hammerj 7 years ago from Cebu City

remembering the past will makes me happy in times when we spend our vacation in the province together with our whole family its nice to remember the good things that had happen in our life..

This hub is one of the most prestigious hubs...its nice to read this article...and your other article..nice one guys...

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Hammerj!

Plants and Oils profile image

Plants and Oils 7 years ago from England

Exploring rock pools and the creatures lurking there is a great memory for me from my childhood - my sister and I poked in every rock pool in Devon, I think!

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I am glad to hear it!

ralwus 7 years ago

Childhood lasts such a short time, but the memories it can hold for us lasts for a lifetime. Glad you still have them too and shared this. Thanks Mine is full of such things and a lot of serpents, no sea creatures. I remember looking all summer for a new hidy hole to replace the old one discovered the previous school year that I had been dragged from back to school. It was during these times I learned much about nature.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you for posting your comments, Ralwus!

shoppingqueen profile image

shoppingqueen 6 years ago

Looking forward to making memories with my new child!

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you for your comments!

Maria Daines profile image

Maria Daines 5 years ago from UK

Childhood memories are my favourite reads and I remember those plastic smells inside tents too :) I was also more interested in animals and nature rather than playing with other kids or going swimming at the local pool or any of the more usual haunts. A great read Bard, I've lots more of your hubpages to catch up on, I can see I'll be reading into the early hours on many a night. Keep up the great work, it's always interesting to read about your life.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Maria!

princesswithapen profile image

princesswithapen 5 years ago

I must say, reptiles are not my fancy. But it was heart warming to go down the memory lane with your story on how you enjoyed holidays with your family as a kid.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you for reading it and commenting!

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