The street where I grew up: Michaela Strachan

The street where I grew up: Michaela Strachan, 57, Springwatch presenter and conservationist, shares memories of Manor Road North, Hinchley Wood, Surrey

With its orange carpets and bright flowery curtains, our house was super-fashionable in the 70s. It was like the set for a real-life Abigail’s Party, and Mum and Dad had the parties to match.

They were far more sociable than I was – they were party animals. We even had a wood-panelled bar in a corner of the lounge, which my dad was very proud of.

There were stools in front of the bar and behind it were decanters of things like sweet Martini. There was a hatch between the bar and the kitchen, where the dirty glasses would be pushed through and I’d volunteer to do the washing up.

While Dad would stand behind the bar with a Bacardi and Coke, Mum did all the cooking. She was also the entertainer, and did all the chatting.

She’d been a professional dancer in revues before she met my dad. That must have been in my genes because from the age of three dancing was my thing too.

Michaela co-presents Springwatch from Mon, 7.30pm, BBC2, and Ice Age: A Frozen World next month on Ch5

On Saturdays and after school I’d do classes in tap, ballet, acrobatics… everything.

The house was in a very pleasant tree-lined street in the commuter belt, but it wasn’t mega-posh like in nearby Esher. At that time my dad was director of a building society and we were lucky to have exotic holidays.

We’d bring back ridiculous things from our trips and put them on the wall behind the bar. We came back from the Seychelles with a coco de mer, which is a huge plant seed in the shape of a bottom – it’s now illegal to take them out of the country.

We also had a sword we brought back from Turkey, probably in hand luggage.

We went to Kenya when I was 12 and it was life-changing. While out on safari I decided I wanted to be like Joy Adamson from Born Free, which was how my passion for wildlife really began.

At home we had cats, tortoises, hamsters and even a dovecote in our garden, which was a decent size with a lawn, fruit trees, a monkey puzzle tree and a conker tree.

I used to get Jinty magazine for girls and had Sindy and Barbie dolls and a collection of smaller Pippa dolls. But to join in with my older brother Gary and his Action Men I had to bring out my Action Girl and Havoc doll – she had a motorbike and a machine gun!

My bedroom was yellow, and I collected lots of things including badges and Whimsies, which were little porcelain animals, while my bed was covered with cuddly wildlife toys – otters, squirrels and badgers.

Michaela sitting at her father’s prized wood-panelled bar as she shares memories of Manor Road North, Hinchley Wood, Surrey

I went to a local primary school and then a private school in Esher. I liked school and was disciplined. I’d sit in my room with the door shut and a hamster running free while I did my homework.

I was the sort of child whose mum had to say, ‘Darling I think you need a break.’

I just got on with it, knowing that when school was over I could follow my passion and go to musical theatre college, which I did aged 16.

I’d sit in my room with a hamster running free while I did my homework 

Mum and Dad divorced but my mum lives not far from Hinchley Wood so I’ve been back to the street. It made me sad.

The house looks a little tatty, and the beautiful garden has been sold to developers. But I believe that where you were schooled is where you think of as home.

So although I live in South Africa I have great memories, and the area still feels very familiar and welcoming.

Michaela co-presents Springwatch from Mon, 7.30pm, BBC2, and Ice Age: A Frozen World next month on Ch5.


Related posts