This week is the 40th anniversary of National Tree Week. Coordinated by the Tree Council, it marks the start of the winter tree planting season. There are events all over the country, bringing together community groups, schools, and conservation charities. Find an event near you here. There are loads of other Tree Week activities on the Woodland Trust's Nature Detectives website. I love their Tree Party kit.
Some of my happiest moments from childhood (and indeed adulthood) involve trees - climbing trees, building dens in branches, naming trees. I am proud to say that I've been rescued three times from getting stuck climbing too high in a tree, each time by reassuring friends (never by firemen, although I'm sure they would not mind). Small though it is, my kids love climbing the tree in our garden. They have a name for it. Everyone should have at least one tree they know that has a name (not the species name - a pet name). My favourites are "the three sisters" in Swaledale. Legend tells that they grew from the graves of three sisters. On a full moon, the trees disappear, and the three sisters walk the dale...
Trees are a vital bit of equipment in nature's adventure playground. Sticks provide endless opportunities for play: swordfighting, tracking, burning, building.
When we tested out the Wild Time app with kids in Tottenham, their favourite activity was one of the simplest: climb a tree. It was free, didn't require any fancy equipment, and was a bit risky. They loved it. I'll remember forever the whoop of joy as one kid reached the top for the first time.
Climbing trees is an inherently risky activity - and all the more attractive for that. Shinning up an apple tree seems to me to be a much better way of learning about risk and boundaries than just doing the monkey bars at the park. It's sad that, according to one poll published this summer, a third of parents don't let their children climb trees. That said, there are inspiring schools which actively encourage their pupils to explore in trees. But at a time when school playing fields are disappearing fast and new Free Schools are not required to provide them at all, will there be any trees to climb in super-schools of the future?
Please get involved with Tree Week and join an event planting new trees near you. And when did you last climb a tree? The view is always better up there.