Tree memories

To celebrate the release of our 26 Trees pieces this month, we wanted to hear your earliest memories of a tree. And you did not disappoint. From family memories to the fruits of childhood imagination, here’s a collection of the memories shared by members and friends of 26.

In Bricket Wood, a friendly tree

I’m in Bricket Wood, not actually a wood, but the village I grew up in.

I’m in the back garden with my grandad. We’re not doing anything in particular, just talking and idling the day away.

We have two fair-sized oaks that block out the light in summer, and blitz the garden with brown crinkled leaves in autumn.

My grandad looks up at one of the oaks. He’s quiet and thoughtful for a moment. Then he turns to me and says, “I’ve always thought that trees are friendly. I can’t explain why, there’s just something warm about them. Something you can trust.”

Just like you I think, but never say it, and it’s too late now.

– Andy Hayes

Home. Three cherry trees.

Spring: in blossom, clouds of it suspended outside my bedroom window.

Summer: dappled sunlight dancing on the lawn.

Autumn: gleefully ‘helping’ Dad sweep up the leaves (captured on Kodak).

Winter: still full of life – birds flocking to the feeders strung from the branches by Dad to make my birdwatching mum smile.

Sophie Gordon

Favourite earliest tree memory must be of the yew in the garden of the vicarage where I grew up, and my attempts to climb it, though these never got very far.

Aidan Baker

My earliest tree memory is of a very old plum tree that dominated our back garden – I think it was the only tree we had. It produced a huge amount of plums but temptingly kept too many of them just out of reach. When I was three or perhaps four I remember my dad climbing almost to the top of the tree on a harvesting mission and my mum yelling at him to be careful. The tree won, my dad lost – he fell, of course – and the highest fruit was left for the birds. Happily my dad lived to tell the tale (a slightly different version from the one I tell). And I was left averse to childhood tree-climbing games and convinced (still) that trees are best viewed from ground level.

– Wendy Jones

Although I sometimes climbed the apple tree at the bottom of my garden, my  bookwormish tendencies meant that most of my climbing was virtual, thanks to Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. More recently I climbed right inside a  hollowed tree at the bottom of the driveway of a finca in Aracena while on a Dark Angels course. No one else knew. They might do now. 

– Lisa Andrews

It’s a sunny winter morning. My big sister and I are playing on our swings under the flickering shadows of a huge London Plane tree. Singing at the tops of our voices, we swing higher and higher, oblivious to the frost on the seats and the cold metal chains in our hands.

– Sarah Hill

Huge poplar trees grew in the field beyond our kitchen window. Then one day

they weren’t there anymore, felled by disease. The horizon was empty. A

piece of me was, too.

– Jan Dekker via Twitter

I went to primary school in Drury Lane in central London. My mum dropped me off at school in the morning on her way to work, then my nan collected me after school and put me on the bus home to our flat near Kings Cross. I remember waiting at the bus stop in Kingsway, a wide road filled with traffic and lined with trees. In the autumn I particularly remember the flocks of starlings in the sky, wheeling and turning above the rooftops and above the trees. The trees I now know as plane trees. So in being paired with a plane tree as ‘my’ tree, I have this strange but comforting feeling of heading home.

– John Simmons

My favourite earliest memory of a tree? It has to be Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree. I had a green battered hardback copy, the front cover barely held on by dried up sellotape. I’d retreat to my bedroom with a Granny Smith’s apple, draw the curtains (orange, William Morris design, their threadbare lining a tatty echo of the book’s cover, the sun always seemed to stream through them) and bury myself in the world of Moonface, Saucepan-Man and Silky. The tree’s topmost branches reached into the clouds and it was so wide it had small houses carved into its trunk. And there were the popcakes, which oozed honey. Childhood bliss!

– Sophie Olszowski 

There are several trees that form attachments of memories in my childhood (so I’ve discovered as part of the prompts on Twitter), but the earliest is probably a rather sorry tree, more of a deformed trunk, at the end of a family friend’s garden (near Buckingham). The lawn sloped down to this lone tree, with open fields behind it. It really seemed to stick out from the land. I remember asking my dad why the tree was broken, and being confused by the answer. ‘It died because of a disease, Dutch Elm Disease.’ I had no idea that something could make trees poorly, and I was quite upset by it.

I was probably five or six years old.

– Julia Webb-Harvey

Somewhere, lost in time, is a saturated photo of me in a faux camelhair coat. The photo has curved corners, dating it – and me. It was taken on a long ago family visit to Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire. It was late autumn or early winter and desperately cold but I was swept up by the colour of this extraordinary living museum of trees. The acers are spectacular in autumn but I love the humble native trees. I collected leaf skeletons a memento of my visit, marvelling that in these fragile remnants, where all but the veins have decayed, the form of the parent tree is encoded. Hidden in the back of a draw for a decade between pieces of paper, they were found during a house move. And they have accompanied me on another dozen house moves since. Twenty years ago I put two of the surviving leaves in a frame, and these have been on my walls ever since. I am looking at them now.

– Philip Parker

Being too small to climb big sycamore that my brother would climb and sit and look down teasing me! Tree is still in our family.

– Steve Hill via Twitter

Apple tree in my dads garden… we had five but the top one of the row had been hit by lightning early in its life and grew small, twisted and stunted. Apples were delicious though. There was also an orange blossom that grew over the path in my mums flower garden, if i close my eyes i can still smell the heavy scent. I had a couple of blooms woven into my veil on my wedding day.

Phyllis Rosemary Harris via Twitter

Stealing a tomato, clearing off to the fields to the fairy tree, sinking my teeth into it and thinking yeuch. I like them now though.

– Therese Kieran via Twitter

A plot of trees were planted near my childhood home to replace those lost in the great storm (I was born two years later). They grew with me.

– Charlotte via Twitter

From the patio of my grandparents’ high-up house in Cheshire you could see far away over the landscape – all the way to Tegg’s Nose, which my sister and I would climb and wave from on Big Days Out in the countryside. Though we couldn’t see the house and they wouldn’t have been able to see us atop it either.

But also from the patio – looking dead ahead – you could see a truly colossal oak tree, which must have been ancient. The rest of the landscape around it, all distant hills and sheep fields, seemed to exist only to frame it. My grandmother would sometimes paint that tree. I think I even tried to once or twice. We never reached it (it was on a fence between two private farmlands and further than it appeared given its size) but it was like the still point of the turning world. Wherever you saw it from, you knew where you were and how far my grandparents’ house was.

My grandparents sold that house when I was a young teenager, but I tried to find it on Google Earth once. I scanned the landscape from above until I found the top of a vast oak tree, dividing two farmlands. And to find that old house, all I had to do was navigate back again.

– Julia Fox

The lilac tree in my back garden – with a bit of washing line and a blanket, it was transformed into the prettiest and sweetest smelling den.

– Clare Jennings via Twitter

I grew up with a beautiful beech tree that I recall regularly.

 Paul Wood, author of London is a Forest, via Twitter

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