• Rachael Bentley

Tree of the year, have you found yours yet?

Rediscovering the lost art of tree-climbing and finding a gem of a tree.



I was a child of the 70s and 80s, so I climbed trees

My friends and I climbed on, through and over everything and anything. Up fences, onto the shed roof and into trees – from gnarled Crab Apples to bouncy Leylandii – getting cuts and scrapes along the way.


The National Trust’s ’50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4s list’ puts climbing trees at No.1.


Climbing trees for grown-ups

It’s been a while since I tried to climb a tree and I’ve since developed a fear of heights. I haven’t been exercising my tree-climbing muscles or my tree-climbing mind. However, the Woodland Trust’s website is great for finding tree climbing spots, there are also some great specialist tree climbing sites around, which cater for all abilities. Check out GoApe, The Great Big Tree Climbing Company and Goodleaf for starters.


Fresh air therapy

Tree climbing has proven health benefits both physically and mentally, no matter how old you are. The act of climbing engages your brain and your body with little room for other worries. You’ll improve their flexibility and balance and you don’t have to climb too high to get a happy feeling.


Cognitive skills are shown to benefit and simply by being in a forest, can slow the pulse, calm you down, boost your immune system and reduce stress. Along with a sense of achievement, you can experience a rush of happy hormones post-climb too.


Reasons to climb a tree

– get a whole body workout – get rid of stress – discover your strengths and limitations – get better balance – get skills for life – get independant – get happy – get confident – get decisive – get an appreciation of nature – get to scrump apples or other fruit. – get a great view!


Vote for your favourite tree

The Tree of the Year 2017 competition has started – and I just nominated my new favourite tree. An ancient Welsh Oak which is both beautiful and easy to climb, thanks to a raised bank of earth behind it’s trunk. The setting is a magical clearing, backed by an old quarry wall. A quiet stage where birds sing their hearts out. And the air is so clean that every surface is draped in bright green moss and lichens.


You can find my tree, just off the beaten track which leads from the fforest camp down to the River Tiefi in Cilgerran. The area is a haven for wildlife – the Welsh Wildlife Centre, The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales is only a short stroll away and you can park there.


The Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year competition helps recognise, catalogue and protect our most special trees, whether they’re especially old, large, or have an interesting history. You can nominate or vote for your favourite until July 30th.


As I wobbled my way onto a branch which was thicker than my waist, I realised that half the reason I don’t climb, is a fear of falling. The other half, is the fear of being seen.

Maybe it’s time to get out of my comfort zone and just enjoy the view.