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About A Week: Trees

“Trees were our own personal Everests, with green on their tops instead of snow. As we triumphantly surveyed the surrounding scenery from the highest branches of a stout old oak we felt we were capable of conquering the world,’’ says Peter Hinchliffe, recalling his boyhood.

Our lawn mower is no longer sounding like a Gatling gun. Its fast-spinning blade has been picking up cherry stones and slamming them with bullet-force against the underside of the machine’s casing.

The garden is dominated by three huge flowering cherry trees. Beyond them is 500 acres of beautiful parkland. At those times of year when the trees are in full leaf we only get half a view.

By mid-July cherries begin to ripen. Scores of birds then swoop down on us, eager for a sweet treat.

When they fly away, filled to bursting, cherry stones litter the lawn.

“You ought to get rid of those trees,’’ a friend advised. “If I had chance to look out on a view like that I wouldn’t want anything standing in its way.’’

A fair point. But I like trees. And I like owning my own trees. They’re our enduring friends.

The cherry trees were newly planted when we moved into this house 31 years ago. When our sons reached the stage of experimenting with danger the trees became climbing frames.

Now, three decades on, each one of those “climbing frames’’ is big enough to support a dozen daring men.

Are they good climbing trees?

A chap called Andy McClure, leader of the team which looks after the 14,000 trees in Kew Gardens, London, offered his thoughts on tree climbing.

“What you want is a tree with a good framework of branches fanning out from the trunk.

“You also want it to be smooth, without thorns or thick branches that could hurt you, but not so smooth that you won’t find any knots for foot and hand-holds.

“Low-lying branches and forks such as are found on oaks and yews are also important for beginning the climb, although ladders and ropes can always be used to reach higher boughs.’’

Mr McClure advises parents to check on the health of a tree before allowing their children to climb it. Be on the lookout for rotten branches, he warns.

No supervising parents followed us around when I was a boy. I was a member of a village gang which roamed far and wide through the woods around Huddersfield, glad to be away from adults who would inevitably have said “Don’t do that’’ to everything we did.

Trees were our own personal Everests, with green on their tops instead of snow. As we triumphantly surveyed the surrounding scenery from the highest branches of a stout old oak we felt we were capable of conquering the world.

A year or two ago I was in the Valley of the Giants in Western Australia, looking out in exhilaration from a walkway 100 ft up in a forest of giant tingle trees. Those tingles really are giants. Some of them measure 50 ft around the base.

There was a real urge to play Tarzan. To scrim out along one of the branches alongside the walkway and attempt to climb down one of the huge tingle trunks.

Put a man in the top of a tree and he immediately begins to think he’s still a boy.

Oh the fun we had with trees, climbing up them, swinging from them!

Our village gang used to walk down through Whitley woods to watch Tarzan films at the Vale Cinema, Mirfield. On the way home we turned ourselves into Tarzan, swinging on a rope attached to a tree which grew on the edge of a 20 ft deep ravine.

What excitement! Almost as good as flying!

After reading the Kew gardener’s tree climbing advice I’ve just been outside to survey our cherry trees. You know I think I could still manage to climb the biggest of the three.

Put a foot on that branch there, reach for that hand-hold, move slightly to the left…

No more cherry stones on our lawns now in this misty October. The flowering cherries are beginning to shed their leaves. Soon there will be frosts to harden the ground around the base of their moss-grown trunks.

But a winter tree, standing proud and leafless against the gales, is still a pleasure to the eye.

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