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Climbing The Trees Of London

By Chris Lockie Last edited 41 months ago
Climbing The Trees Of London

When a man begins a project to climb a tree every day for a year, it's almost inevitable that strange things will happen. Henrik G Dahle is such a man and he found his endeavour swiftly bloom to involve interviewing people in trees, having his hair cut in a tree, staging political activism in trees...pretty much everything that monkeys wish they could get involved in if they could only stop playing with themselves.

Happily many of the trees Henrik peered up during his project were in London, where he now lives. His tales are as colourful as you would expect.

Tree 54: Blythe Hill, Lewisham. "My older brother helped me up into this tree. Thirty-one years earlier, as a three year old, he told me the tall people were after us to scare me up a tree. I can still vaguely remember imagining the 'tall people' coming with long spindly legs. Our mum was freaking out when she spotted us. So it was nice to be pushed into a tree by my older brother again in the knowledge that the tall people were busy somewhere else."
Tree 54: Blythe Hill, Lewisham. "My older brother helped me up into this tree. Thirty-one years earlier, as a three year old, he told me the tall people were after us to scare me up a tree. I can still vaguely remember imagining the 'tall people' coming with long spindly legs. Our mum was freaking out when she spotted us. So it was nice to be pushed into a tree by my older brother again in the knowledge that the tall people were busy somewhere else."
Tree 55: Telegraph Hill, Nunhead. “This was the closest I came to getting stuck. There was a bunch of boys playing basketball nearby and what got me down by the skin of my teeth was the thought of having to get their help. The embarrassment. Helping a stupid artist out of a tree would have made their day though I reckon.”
Tree 55: Telegraph Hill, Nunhead. “This was the closest I came to getting stuck. There was a bunch of boys playing basketball nearby and what got me down by the skin of my teeth was the thought of having to get their help. The embarrassment. Helping a stupid artist out of a tree would have made their day though I reckon.”
Tree 57: Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster.
“I would have liked to have climbed a tree in Parliament Square while the protest camp was still there but was stopped by the police. When asked whether they had any legal grounds to prevent me climbing, the PC provided a ticket that just said ‘warned not to climb for own safety’ rather than a straight answer. I was with Caroline Cousins, a 16 year old who had brought home-made cookies for the protestors. As it happens, the trees and statues in Parliament Square are in fact protected, though no-one’s thought to tell anyone with the power to enforce it. So we ended up climbing an oak in Victoria Tower Gardens instead.”
Tree 57: Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster. “I would have liked to have climbed a tree in Parliament Square while the protest camp was still there but was stopped by the police. When asked whether they had any legal grounds to prevent me climbing, the PC provided a ticket that just said ‘warned not to climb for own safety’ rather than a straight answer. I was with Caroline Cousins, a 16 year old who had brought home-made cookies for the protestors. As it happens, the trees and statues in Parliament Square are in fact protected, though no-one’s thought to tell anyone with the power to enforce it. So we ended up climbing an oak in Victoria Tower Gardens instead.”
Tree 172: Hampstead Heath.
“This was easily my favourite tree in London both for its ‘perfect’ form and ideal climbing challenge, but mainly for the honour of meeting Dr David Fleming. Dr Fleming was an economist who invented a new energy rationing system to help battle climate change. The day I met him he was just finishing a book decades in the writing, ‘A dictionary of the future and how to survive it’. I was very lucky to have met this brilliant man, as only two weeks later he passed away.”
Tree 172: Hampstead Heath. “This was easily my favourite tree in London both for its ‘perfect’ form and ideal climbing challenge, but mainly for the honour of meeting Dr David Fleming. Dr Fleming was an economist who invented a new energy rationing system to help battle climate change. The day I met him he was just finishing a book decades in the writing, ‘A dictionary of the future and how to survive it’. I was very lucky to have met this brilliant man, as only two weeks later he passed away.”
Tree 186: from Norway to Trafalgar Square.
“A tree I climbed before it was cut down in Norway and sent to Trafalgar Square as a thank you for Britain’s Second World War help. This tied in with Tree 174, beneath which I met war veteran Don who used to ship lumber from Scandinavia. He was too frail to climb so we had the conversation on a log beneath the tree I eventually climbed afterwards. The log was a kind of memento mori to the friends he lost in the war.”
Tree 186: from Norway to Trafalgar Square. “A tree I climbed before it was cut down in Norway and sent to Trafalgar Square as a thank you for Britain’s Second World War help. This tied in with Tree 174, beneath which I met war veteran Don who used to ship lumber from Scandinavia. He was too frail to climb so we had the conversation on a log beneath the tree I eventually climbed afterwards. The log was a kind of memento mori to the friends he lost in the war.”
"Victoria Embankment. A plane tree by the road side. This was my mum's birthday and she was waiting slightly impatiently below the tree. This one's for her."
"Victoria Embankment. A plane tree by the road side. This was my mum's birthday and she was waiting slightly impatiently below the tree. This one's for her."

Henrik has written a book of his tree-shinning exploits, so if you're interested in the project or would like to pre-order a copy of the book you should head over to his UpTrees website

You can also get a discount on the book if you send Henrik your own drawing of a tree, though beware, your dubious scrawl may end up in the book itself.

And the next time you see a Scandinavian swinging about up a tree around town, make sure to wave at him rather than call the authorities (chances are they wouldn’t know what to do with him anyway).

Last Updated 04 December 2013