Almanac: Winter … and a welcome return to tree climbing

Our visit to Bradgate today is a special one.  It is a welcome return to tree climbing.  Our second eldest son has spent the last six months recovering from a broken arm, caused by a painful cyst in the bone. To our immense relief, he has had an all-clear that everything has healed and he can now return to living the active life he had before.  We are so proud of how our son handled everything, he never complained whilst spending the hottest months of the year on bedrest, in full shoulder-to-wrist plaster.

It is a beautiful day to be in the park. Everything feels so still and filled with potential … as if the vegetation is collectively primed for a signal to burst back into life. We spot a new nest in a tree we often walk past.

Just seeing my son suddenly point out a bird with his “bad arm” is such a joyful thing to behold.

Up ahead of us are my husband and the rest of our boys. I stay behind whilst our returned climber clambers over fallen tree trunks. I am carrying his little sister in her back carrier and she cheers him on enthusiastically. I can tell she wants to get down and join in, but the light is fading, the park will close soon and I know I will never convince her to get back in again.

The view from the top of the hill over the canopy of greens and oranges towards the village, is one of my favourites. Meanwhile, my son finds another lightning-hollowed tree to explore.

I have often thought that this triad of gnarled, ancient trees look as if they are in deep conversation with each other. Deep underground, their roots must be as intertwined as their branches above.

My son finds a path through the bracken. I love seeing him treading over the difficult terrain again without a care. Our 17 month old shouts “hurry up Mummy” from over my shoulder as I try and carefully pick through the potential trip hazards.

Our lungs have that wonderful cold feeling of having breathed in lots of crisp fresh air and all of the children have flushed red cheeks. We get home just as the sun sets in red streaks across the sky.

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Almanac: The Old Treehouses

Just a short journey from home there are vast acres of parkland, with rocky outcrops, banks of bracken, gentle streams and, near the top of one of the many rolling hills, a cluster of trees known in my family as “the treehouses.”  These are ancient trees that are hollowed out with many years of rough winter weather and lightening strikes.   When I was little my parents would take me to climb them, and now we take our children too.

First off is a quick climb up a grassy hill – the children love to run it, it’s always a race to the top!

Then we follow a high-up path that looks down upon a reservoir and all of the surrounding countryside.  There’s usually a quick pause for a spot of rock clambering.

The fallow deer are often resting out in the open in springtime.  Later on, when they have had their young, the stags are more protective and they tend to stay further away in the shade of the wooded areas.

The treehouses stand at the top of a nearby hill; several have giant props to keep their heavy branches from falling.  I love the shadows they cast upon the ground on a sunny day.

The children all run off in different directions, picking out their first tree to conquer.  Our littlest finds one that is just the right size for him…

…and he and rabbit set up base camp.

Soon the children find a tree that is big enough for all four of them, our two eldest sons pulling their younger brothers up to join them in the higher branches.

After all of the snacks in our backpack are gone, it’s time to head back, making a circular route back down the hillside, which takes us through a gap in the drystone wall …

… then winds its way back past a little brook.  We’ll be back soon.

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