As quickly as it was organised, the day came for Primrose and I to complete our biggest country challenge yet. You know, the one I’ve been dreading……no.1 of all the National Trust’s 50 things project – Climb a tree. With this year’s summer of 50 Things already upon us and with so many events and adventures to go on in London and South East, it seemed fitting that we should start at the very beginning with no 1.
Booking in for our tree climb at one of NT The Vyne’s 50 things events couldn’t have been easier. It was the chickening out on the day that I was worried about. Perhaps it hadn’t been a wise idea to imbibe rather a few too many glasses of wine at the village barbecue the evening before….? Still, suited and booted so to speak, Primrose and I received our pep talk, alongside a group of eight year olds, from Great Big Tree Climbing company experts, Leo and Neil. It was the signing of papers and the harness that spooked me first – maybe this is why there were no other grown ups doing the climb? Primrose just couldn’t wait to get going. Putting on my best ‘I’m feeling really brave’ face and telling my lovely 5 year old girl that it was all going to be really easy and we’d love it, we went through all the various ropes and ‘how tos’ with Neil, our climbing guide. I have to admit he had the patience of a saint as I must have asked him at least six or seven times if Primrose would be safe and if the ropes were strong enough to hold a grown up!
Foot in foot knot and moving up hand knot, we set off. Up, up, up and away we went. Primrose nervously giggling as she soon realised that she wasn’t going to be touching her foot on the ground for long. I seem to remember yelling down to Jerry that he would be in serious trouble if he was caught taking photos of my bottom from 25ft. I’m sure I could hear him muttering that there was nothing that I could do about it since I was dangling from a rope and on my way towards being more than halfway up the tree.
On we climbed – 10ft. I can tell you, dear Reader, it does nothing for one’s thirty something ego to see eight year olds whizzing up past you into the canopy. Primrose was getting a bit tired by this point. It’s hard work pulling yourself up the rope and concentrating on adjusting foot knots. I was mightily impressed that she had made it this far, considering that she is usually the first to declare that her legs have given up on a walk halfway around the village!
We’d been climbing together – chanting ‘foot, hand, rest’ before poor Primrose, taking in the view, became glued to the spot. Dangling in mid air, the tears began to flow as she realised that she was more up than down – no amount of cajoling her at that point would get her to climb up even further. Thank goodness for Neil and Leo, (obviously experts at dealing with fear at 15ft) who hoisted her up to rest her bottom on one of the largest branches of the tree. No such luck for me – apparently winching up the tree is only for those under ten. Damn my old age. I climbed the rest of the way to where Primrose was waiting for me – by now, she had completely overcome her fear and had the cheek to tell me to hurry up! We were almost as high as the top of The Vyne itself!
Now for the fun bit allegedly (to be honest, this was the bit I had been seriously dreading all the way up). The knots can’t be used to get you down so the only way of returning to solid ground again was…….a zip wire. Cue – Margot wailing like a banshee. As I watched them clip Primrose’s karabiner to the zip wire, I was so grateful she couldn’t see my face. To my surprise, with whoops of delight, she edged herself off the branch and whizzed down. A beaming smile was all I could see as she reached the bottom.
Just me stuck up a tree then….. I knew I couldn’t stay up there forever but really, dear Reader, it is completely unnatural being asked to slide one’s bottom off a seriously high branch 28ft in the air. The large crowd gathering to watch a grown woman zip wire down from a large tree was seriously off-putting too! How I wished I’d done more of those pelvic floor exercises….
Eventually, it was only with Neil telling me that the next group were waiting to climb and that there was no other way down, that I took the plunge. I squeaked all the way down to a round of applause. Do you know what Primrose said as I was unhooked from the wire, dear Reader? “Can we do it all over again, Mummy?!!” She hasn’t stopped talking about it all since, either!
If you fancy joining us on our adventures then don’t forget to sign up to do the 50 Things – there are a whole host of different activities to tick off and the National Trust are running some fantastic events at properties all round the country for free. I think that this could be our best summer yet! Thanks so much to Great Big Tree Climbing company and to Amy (The Vyne) and Jo for organising our fab climb. I’m off for a stiff gin…..!