To climb trees as a child, was to be the most unrestricted expression of yourself that you could be. It was the ultimate adventure you could have, and you could do it alone, when you wanted that solitude, or you could do it as a group, often daring each other to go higher and higher, and maybe even making dens and treehouses – secret clubhouses with special passwords to be able to enter.
It’s like the anti-‘Peter Pan Syndrome‘, sometimes as grown-ups, we forget just how to be children when it comes to certain things. Climbing a tree, for example, is nothing that a grown-up ever did if the child inside had not done it first.
How to Climb trees and get acquainted with nature
The National Trust recently produced a list called 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ and ‘Climb a tree’ is the No.1 adventure on that list, it’s that important to them. So if you’re doing them in order then it’ll be the first one you do.
So, here’s our guide, for new climbers, or for lapsed clamberers; whether you’re looking to educate offspring or just rekindle those feelings of youth and nostalgia.
Before you start out, it’s important to remember that every tree is different; it has something special about it and is unique. You could look in your garden, your local park or woods for a tree that you think you’d like to get to know, and set about finding your route to scaling it. Go searching solo but don’t scale your first time out without someone knowing where you are. Why not invite your family or friends to join you?
Before you set off, check with an adult (even if you are an adult!) and take extra care around trees that look damaged or old.
A guide to climb trees with care
We want everyone to enjoy trees as much as we do. Before you begin, check if there are any signs of damage or if it may be special for its age or type. Keep out of the branches if the weather is stormy. Check for other signs of danger, be sensible and don’t climb if you can see things like power cables (man-made problems) or beehives, etc (nature’s warning signs).
Despite the act of climbing a tree and how we can’t stress enough that falling is a bad thing, climbing a tree safely and sensibly is one of the safest activities you can do in nature.
Selecting your tree
To select your tree, the best way to do this is to look up. Simple it may be, and obvious, but you need to be able to see your way up. Where are you going to start? How do you get from here to there? Can I get from this branch to that one?
If you feel you have the branches, you can begin to get a feel for the tree in other aspects, like the previously mentioned safety bits and bobs. Once you’ve found your tree, it’s time to begin.
Go for the lowest branch
Having begun, you need to start somewhere. The ‘low-hanging fruit’ is where you would go if you’re a first-timer, or if you’re getting back in the game. As an alternative, the experts who climb trees, and more seasoned climbers may opt for the ‘run and jump’ technique. It’s important to know that there is no right way. There is a wrong way, and that way is anything that causes you to misstep or fumble your entry. Do whatever feels more comfortable and you won’t go far wrong.
Use those muscles to pull yourself up. A lunge. A thrust. A hoick. And you’re away. Assess before reaching for your next branch, and be thinking a few steps ahead each time. If you’re reaching for a particular branch with your hand, you need to also know where your foot is going to be next.
Practice the ‘Rule of Three‘
There are four points on your body that come in contact with the tree’s branches: two hands and two feet. At any one time, its good practice to have at least three of these points supported by branches. The reason is that if one of the three branches breaks, then at least two branches will still be supporting you.
This could be two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand. Whatever it is, as long as the rule of three is observed, the safer you will be.
Coming back down
Quick and simple. Come back down the way you went up. Use the same care and attention on the descent, as you did when you were scaling.
We can’t say ‘don’t overthink it’ because clearly there are things to consider, especially from a safety aspect. But it’s important to remember that you are doing this because it is enjoyable and you can really lose yourself in something like this.
There’s so much to discover on a tree climb. The way the branches cross over and inter-connect to allow your ascent, holes, and gaps for feet, hands, leg-ups, or if big enough, a seat. Keep an eye out for these gaps, as it helps you move onward and upward.
Ultimately, enjoy the experience. There’s nothing much like it.
A Note on Treehouses
Treehouses themselves are commonplace childhood haunts, often invoking some of the best memories you can have. Whether you built yours for seclusion or to play with friends, to climb trees and make dens or houses, offered our childhood selves a release or an escape. Building structures out of as much reclaimed wood as the woods or forests would offer, and to be a pint-size pioneer for an afternoon. So, its utterly fantastic then that in 2020, you can enjoy the nostalgia and atmosphere; the safety and familiarity that trees gave you as a child, in epic structures like treehouses.
It may seem obvious, but the dreams we have as children more often than not set us up on the course to who are going to become, and even to the extent that it influences what we do. So, if you built dens and used to climb trees when you were younger, you may love one of the following structures…