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The best trees in London for kids to climb

Tree-climbing is a great outdoor activity for adventurous kids. Here are London’s most fun-to-scale trees

By Jack Cooke
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Go back to basics this summer and explore the city’s trees. Nature’s climbing frames offer secret hideouts, lofty perches and panoramic views, reached by clambering up trunks and tiptoeing along branches. Many of London’s trees have been climbed for generations and offer the perfect escape from the city. While having fun in the treetops make sure your little gibbons respect the trees and the people who care for them. And be careful! Climb barefoot for better grip and always keep an eye out for dead wood. Don’t let kids climb higher than they can climb down unless you want to fetch a ladder… Here are five of the best trees for kids to tackle – each one a different species with different challenges.

Note: some parks don’t permit tree-climbing so be prepared to be moved on by keepers. You climb trees at your own risk.

Jack Cooke’s ‘The Tree Climber’s Guide’ is published by HarperCollins.

Five top trees for kids to climb

The Sky Bridge

English oak, Hampstead Heath

How to find it Walk up to Parliament Hill Viewpoint then follow the track north down a slope. The tree is in the first grove you come to.

The climb This oak blew over in a storm but survived. Its trunk is bent double, creating two arches. Shuffle up from the exposed roots on the west side, then tightrope-walk along the bridge. Descend down a natural slide or through a tangle of branches.

While you’re there Jump into the mixed bathing pond to cool off (ages eight and above only).

The Octopus Tree

Horse chestnut, Clissold Park

How to find it Enter the park through Robinson Crusoe Gate and take the first path on your right. You can’t miss the huge horse chestnut.

The climb This is a tree with tentacles. Giant branches fan out from the trunk, each one a different path into the heart of the beast. Try climbing upside down like a sloth, locking your ankles around a branch. This centuries-old giant has dozens of picnic perches, but watch out for dead wood.

While you’re there See deer strut their stuff at the nearby animal enclosure. 

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The High Tower

Monterey pine, Victoria Park

How to find it Look for two pines between the Old English Garden and Victoria Park Pond.

The climb These tall twins, with branches spiralling around their trunks, are perfect for beginners. As the tree moves with the wind, pretend you’re the lookout on the mast of a ship.

While you’re there Whizz down the giant slides in Pools Playground.

The Hidden Cave

Caucasian elm, Hyde Park

How to find it Head to the Rose Garden near the park’s south-east corner and look for a large tree with vertical branches that look like hair standing up on end.

The climb You’ll need a leg-up to get into this unusual tree house. Clambering inwards instead of up, tunnel your way to the middle of the tree. There you’ll find a bed of leaves and a wooden cave of your own.

While you’re there Take a pedalo for a glide on the Serpentine.

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The Flying Carpet

Cedar, Greenwich Park

How to find it Turn right off
The Avenue where it passes the public toilets on the park’s east side. Follow this path and look out for the cedar on your left.

The climb This is one for older, braver kids. The squat cedar is umbrella-shaped, its canopy trailing on the ground and forming a ring around the base. Inside, you’ll find two branches hanging down at head height. There’s a final, tricky traverse to an exposed perch. Poke your head out and discover another land floating above London.

While you’re there Walk under the golden hull of the Cutty Sark.

Or, for the less adventurous

The Great Big Tree Climbing Co runs hour-long supervised sessions for kids and adults with safety gear.

More ideas for outdoor fun

Outdoor activities for kids

Kids

Opportunities for alfresco activities are plentiful in this city, so prise the video games from the kids’ hands and get outdoors. Our suggestions for getting some fresh air include imaginative adventure playgrounds, thrilling boat trips and bustling city farms.

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