Copyright all Text and Images J.A. Hindle 2008
I don't know how long I'd been asleep for, but when I woke up, I was fifty foot up in an oak. A clear, bright sun had come up through the tree line, covering everything with a fine, golden light. It was already autumn and the leaves were pretty much all down. From here, the effect of the leaves on the ground was stunning, like a vast cloth of copper running all over.
Dawn had come in under a heavy blanket of mist, which had already burned off. But steam was still rising up from the wet earth, the ground erupting with the sound of water writhing in the new warmth. I was in an oak on the edge of an area of older trees, which overlooked a small valley full of coppice; hazel and blackthorn and elder interspersed. This lower storey was visible now as network of fine hemispheres, all lit brilliantly with the early morning sun. And because of the mild weather, the hazel had recently flowered into tubular catkins. They hung in their thousands, like a cascade of green fire. My breath poured out in white clouds.
It had been my first night in a tree and I'd slept in a hammock. Between one thing and another, I'd had the distinct feeling of being on a boat. Drifting off, I could feel the movement of the tree in the wind, a circular roll around the main mast of the trunk. And it was impossible not to be aware of the distance between my back and the forest floor. In the middle of the night, I'd been woken by the sound of creatures scuffling in the leaf litter beneath me.
I'd kept my sleeping bag half unzipped so I could stay 'clipped on'; the umbilical cow's tail of my climbing harness winding out and securing me to a separate loop of rope tied to a branch. Sleeping in your harness isn't much fun though, so the next day I pulled up two sheets of corrugated iron and wedged them against the framework of the treehouse to form a safe, windproof corner. The house was still the barest of frames; two levels of four-by-two timber lashed in a rectangle around the trunk. Two plywood boards helped form the floor, with a blue plastic tarp for the roof.
A man called Ed lived in the next tree along, connected by a rope walkway. Ed had red dreadlocks and a little methylated stove. Just after dawn, he'd start banging a tin pan with a spoon and I'd clamber over for tea and muesli. Getting up at dawn wasn't so bad as it was pushing November and the nights were getting long. But the muesli always tasted of meths.