Delapre was a children’s paradise, with the huge walled garden supporting lots of big trees. As children we spent many healthy hours climbing the trees. The different species of trees lent themselves to different games because of their individual shapes. The trees bordering the driveway had deeply curved branches, one particular forming a ‘U’ shape which we termed the camel tree. Sitting astride that branch we rode fearlessly into the desert as Lawrence of Arabia. Another tree was the circus tree where we performed daring acrobatics, hanging by our legs and swinging ourselves up on to the ‘trapeze’ above. There were many tumbles, but fortunately no broken bones.
I wasn’t as fearless as the boys though, and I remember climbing up very high into the horse-chestnut tree then looking down, and freezing. My father had to fetch a ladder and bring me down. I never was very good with heights, and he had a similar experience on a helter-skelter during one of our summer holidays. Poor man had to squeeze his way past all the children queuing up behind me because I was too scared to go down.
I wrote a poem about the horse chestnut tree:
The boys were in the tree, their den,
Mocking me, a girl,
You can’t get up, you’re too scared,
Jumping for the lowest branch
Swinging my legs up,
Pulling, pulling, stretching,
I’m sitting on the branch,
Reaching the next one,
Climbing, higher, higher,
Always looking upwards for the next branch,
Passing the boys on their wide branch den,
Climbing to the top, the thinner branches swaying in the breeze,
I’ve got my own den I tell them from the crow’s nest,
Dinner time, calls Mum from the house,
Boys scramble down.
As I look down for a branch
I feel myself being drawn off the branch,
Falling crashing through the branches,
But I have not moved,
And I cannot.
Until through my tears I see
Dad, with a ladder.