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Wild tree adventure offers magical insight into Scotland’s unique woodlands

Gayle scales a 75ft tree.
Gayle scales a 75ft tree.

Gayle shimmies up a huge 200-year-old copper beech tree at Aden Country Park ahead of a fun climbing event in October.

I’m not a fan of heights – not one bit. So when Tim Chamberlain invites me to climb a 75ft beech tree, I accept with a fair degree of trepidation.

Tim, founder of Stirling-based Wild Tree Adventures, has been climbing trees all his life, and is keen to share the magic with people of all ages.

He runs fun events at unique trees up and down the country, allowing you to climb up into the canopies using ropes and safety equipment.

Ahead of one such event at Aden Country Park in Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, next month, I popped along for a preview experience with Tim and instructor Graham Gage. (It’s also their chance to make sure the tree is 100% safe).

Tim Chamberlain founded Wild Tree Adventures five years ago.

Before I get kitted out, we have a wee chat about climbing. Why do it, in essence?

“Climbing helps to build confidence through a real sense of allowing you to reach heights you’d never dreamed of, and in the process gain an understanding of trees and the environment,” says Tim.

“If you climb into the canopy of a towering, 200-year-old giant like this stunning copper beech, you’ll see the world as never before!”

Sense of awe and fear

Standing at the foot of the impressive tree, I experience both a sense of awe – and fear.

“Don’t worry – there’s no way you can fall,” assures Tim. “These ropes are super strong and the platform, or ‘portaledge’ you see way up there, is more than capable of taking the weight of a car.”

Once Graham has strapped me into my harness and tightened my helmet, he explains how to use the rope system. It’s very basic, using two hand knots and a foot loop.

“What you’re almost doing is making steps, or an imaginary ladder in the sky,” says Tim.

Graham Gage gives Gayle a wee demo.

Getting into it

It takes a wee bit of getting used to but it’s simple enough, and I surprise myself by shimmying quite speedily up into the tree.

I’m quite tense initially (remember, I don’t like heights!), but I soon chill out when I realise I’m not going to plummet to my death.

“Lean right back and put your arms out!” hollers Graham from way down below. I do so, and nothing bad happens. Woohoo!

Hanging out on the portaledge, with Graham Gage below!

I make it up to the portaledge, a sturdy platform on which I lie down and gaze up at the vast, leafy canopy.

It’s really relaxing: I even close my eyes and feel quite sleepy, my earlier fears have completely vanished.

Time for a nap?

I carry on climbing up to what Tim calls a “seat”, although it’s tempting to call it a swing because it moves rather like one.

Highest point

The highest point I climb to is about 70ft, which isn’t bad for a former feartie.

“The whole tree is about 75ft, but we can only get to 70ft,” says Tim. “Well done you!”

The final challenge is to abseil down to the ground, and off I whizz, whooping all the way to the bottom while Graham lets out the ropes.

Cool as a cucumber at height.

Climbing events

Tim puts on a weekend event at Aden once a year and is always blown away by the beauty of the ancient copper beech.

“It’s a tremendous, big beech, a couple of hundred years old – such an impressive tree. We help people climb into it and experience something a bit different,” he says.

“Everybody walks past this tree, but when you’re in it, it’s totally different. You realise it’s got this incredible structure of branches, lichen and moss, some amazing wildlife, and the experience of being up there is magical.”

Go Gayle!

All ages and abilities

The oldest person to have climbed with Tim was an 80-year-old lady, but he says all ages and abilities are welcome. “Core muscles make a difference, so if you’re a dancer or a horse rider for example you might find it easier,” he adds.

For those with limited mobility, Tim can sometimes use a special hoist system.

Other Wild Tree Adventures locations include Paxton House near Berwick-upon-Tweed (oak), Traquair House near Peebles (oak) and Abernethy Forest (Scots Pine) in Strathspey.

Fan of special trees

So, how did Tim get into climbing, I wonder. “As a child in the Borders near Melrose I spent a lot of time roaming around in the woods, playing in trees, making ropes and swings and things,” he says. “I have memories of lots of special trees.”

He spent a year doing voluntary work, climbing into trees to monitor goshawk nests, and then trained up and set up Wild Tree Adventures five years ago.

“Scotland’s got some amazing trees, and it’s such a special treat to be able to climb up and explore them,” he beams. “It’s just such an amazing experience.”

  • Scale the huge copper beech at Aden Country Park with Wild Tree Adventures from October 21 to 23.
  • If you’re lucky you’ll share the treetops with woodpeckers, red squirrels and other wildlife. The tree is next to the ruin of Aden House.