The Museum For Trees

She looked at me aghast, her eyes wide in horror at the mere suggestion,

"No no! They can't climb trees! We're a conservation area! They might damage the trees, plus of course the danger to themselves!"

Nature's Playground

I kid you not, this is an actual conversation that I have just had with the elderly lady in our local country park when I enquired about hiring a barbeque area there for The Boy's sixth birthday party, hinting at one of the activities he wanted to do.

An hour after his fifth birthday party (I am never doing a joint party with another mum again, very different ideas about what a child's party consists of) my son asked me if he could have his next one in the country park as all he wanted to do was climb trees, make mud monsters and build a den. How could I not agree to such a wonderfully simple idea incorporating simplicity, nature craft, outdoor play and good old fashioned fun?

Of course, what I hadn't bargained on was the health and safety regulations that existed in a country park full of trees. Climb one of them? The very idea of doing one of the most obvious things when confronted with a natural climbing frame caused this woman to nearly collapse in a heap of quivering anxiety. Let's not analyse whether she, her children or grandchildren ever did such a monstrous and disrespectful task; clearly that would be a ridiculous question.

There is a reason why it is #1 on the National Trust's 50 Things To Do Before You're 11 & ¾, because it's a basic childhood activity. Climbing a tree rewards a child so much; challenge, achievement and pride, boosting confidence and self-esteem, and teaching them about perseverance, how to assess dangers, and team work. Being close to nature grounds us in our hectic man-made world.

I left the reception area shocked, not having booked a barbecue area and with my tail defiantly standing to attention rather than between my legs as she wanted.

He will have his party in this free and open country park. He will have a scavenger hunt and create natural art. He will build a den amongst the trees with his friends. He will sit and have a picnic lunch. And if he wants to do that eight foot off the ground up the trees that he and his friends will have climbed, then I for one will not be stopping him.

I'll be sitting on that bloody branch with him!

The Museum For Trees

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Comments

  1. says

    Ah, you know my opinion on this my friend. I've been banging on about the importance of tree climbing for years!
    Trees are living, breathing, beauties of nature. They aren't statues and as long as they're not being abused I'm sure if they could talk they would say they LOVE having youngsters clamber up their branches.
    We did exactly this sort of party a few years ago but we just all turned up with blankets, food and let the kids play. Like you say, nature's playground; can't be beat x

  2. says

    It's health and safety gone mad. Sounds like a fantastic party and would much rather that than some of the ones my boys go to x

  3. says

    *applauds wildly*

    Both the Forestry Commission and the National Trust both support tree climbing and den building.

    Sounds like this old dear isn't down with the kids.

    Hope he enjoys his party, wherever you find to have it.

  4. says

    Kids should be free to do whatever they like for their birthday parties, especially at younger ages! We have to be encouraging kids to pursue activities such as climbing trees, or in my children's case; enjoying the sciences!

  5. says

    quite right, sounds like a fab party, the different parties are always the best, just make sure you let the girls mum's know not to send them in their best dresses.
    Poor old soul, you will have to hope she is not on duty that day.
    Enjoy your party The Boy

  6. says

    Time to employ my favourite motto; better to seek forgiveness than ask approval! Sounds like a perfect party & better than any indoor plastic ball pool any day!

  7. says

    I assume all the trees in question are in a new plantation, still with their deer protection on. New saplings. Pah! Unlikely. I'd go for it. Then later join their committee, or who ever manages the woods, and change the policy/atitude. Hope the Boy has a fabulous birthday party. (I've been caught out by a joint party too – never again)

  8. says

    You make me feel very privileged to have had Coombe Mill for years of birthday parties growing up, plenty of den building and tree climbing. This week's Country Kids is the first venture away from Coombe Mill for the triplets birthday party at age 11.

  9. says

    Oh this is something I'm so passionate about! Natural play, including climbing trees, is incredibly important for children. Because of rules and regulations and people like the women you encountered too many children are being denied a chance to enjoy nature. Luckily there has been a movement to try and stop this and encourage children to experience simple things like climbing trees backed by lots of studies showing it makes them happier, healthier and smarter (in fact I just wrote a post recently about it!). The National Trust's 50 things is a result of this movement to get kids outdoors having a natural childhood. So I love this post and your reaction!

  10. says

    Madness. I run an a RSPB wildlife group for kids on our local nature reserve and we positively encourage tree climbing. We're lucky to have a centre with a small patch of woodland next to it and come break time almost every kid will be up a tree.

  11. says

    Have you seen how much damage a woodpecker makes to the trees? Climbing tree hardly weakens them, it strengthens both the child and the tree. Both become one and support each other. After all, we are all one. Yes, the tree is is very important to our life on earth. Trees give us food, clean air and a sight of beauty. We appreciate them by climbing on their back when Mummy is cooking apple pie and Daddy isn't around.

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