12 June 2015

Dens and treehouses!

Remember those long summer days during the BIG 6 week holidays which seemed to go on FOREVER (well perhaps it did to our parents…)… When the weather was great and there was fun to be found around every corner?

I, for one, remember those days fondly - getting stung by nettles, grazing my knees through repeated unsuccessful attempts to ride my bike without holding onto the handlebars, finding little hide-aways to build secret hangouts, playing around in the local park looking for the perfect twigs to build a survival den. Usually arguing over who had the best or strongest design… 

The dictionary tells me that a den is: an informal room or hideout; or a wild animals’ hidden home. Thinking back to my childhood and those long summers, we were rather like wild animals creating dens that no one would be able to find (or so we thought!). Scouting out the best spots for hidden hide-outs, in the pre-smartphone days when time had to be filled with fun found in the great outdoors (or sometimes the living room when the weather was particularly poor!)

The rangers absolutely love building dens! Who says you have to grow up?
Dens don’t always have to be your traditional sticks propped up against a main stem. I recently learnt about the concept of ‘made versus invade’ dens – this is the idea that dens can be ‘made’ from scratch using the more traditional materials such as twigs, sticks and leaves (like in the photo above) or they can be ‘invaded’ such as finding little nooks and crannys that might not otherwise be seen as so. Try finding a hollowed out tree, putting a sheet over an A-frame picnic bench or behind the sofa when the weather is too wet out! Do you remember that feeling of excitement as you inadvertently lose your whole day to developing and perfecting  your own hideaway?

Happy den-builders at Wray Castle
The best news is, you can come build the biggest, the best, the most complex dens at Wray Castle anytime as part of the National Trusts’ 50 Things to do before you are 11 and 3/4. Why not see how small you can build your den (for your favourite toy or an ant?) or see how many rooms you can build within your den. 

Calling all Dads - this is your time to shine!

We often find that parents, Dads in particular, and older siblings are the real den building aficionados. Keen to step up and show the younger members of the family how dens are really built; even without being invited to! So we are putting on a day aimed especially at the big kids! Come down to Wray Castle on Father’s Day for ‘Dens for Dads’ – The rangers are busy gathering plenty of fresh den building material behind the scenes to really get you into the competitive spirit… What will you come up with?

On the 21st  June from 10-5pm; normal admission applies but the event is free. Check out the Wray Castle Facebook Page for more information or call 015394 33250.

In need of some inspiration?

The best thing about den building is making it up, the possibilities are endless… but just in case you wanted some inspiration to get you started, here are some top tips!
      1) First, you need to decide on a basic structure. Here are a few to think about:

The classic 'tipi' - often build around a main stem, like this one, offering the most strength. Find yourself a well-appointed tree with a view and balance the other twigs around it

The ultimate classic 'tipi' - It takes quite some skill and balance to construct this type of den with no middle support. Can you manage it without using rope?

The 'bivi' den - made by balancing a long main stem between two v-shaped branches or nobbles in a tree. The walls are then made by balancing twigs up and down the length of the main stem.
There is also the 'whatever you have lying around den' - never underestimate the value of sofas, clothing racks, cushions and duvets in the living room! 

      2) All dens need walls – so you have decided on your basic structure, what about adding some walls? If your den is in the woods, you can add moss, leaves or brash (or perhaps some old sheets if it is not raining) to make it water tight and more secretive!

All dens need walls - the material from a branch that fell from the Blue Atlas Cedar in the Wray Castle grounds makes great wall material!
          3) All dens need a floor – if you are building your den in the woods, perhaps you can find some leaves to carpet your floor. Beware using of bracken though, you don’t want to get tics!

      4) Your hide-out needs some furniture… hunt around for logs and branches that will make your den fit for a king!

Logs make great seats!

      5) Where can you go to build your ultimate den? There are lots of great places to go build dens - local woodlands and parks, National Trust properties such as Wray Castle, Allan Bank and Sizergh, local parks, your back garden (ask your parents if you can sleep out?!), your front room?

Building the ultimate den in the Wray Castle Play Trail..

You may have read my previous blogs about the play trail describing the new developments in the past few months. Or perhaps you have seen rangers and volunteers busy hard at work constructing more balance beams, log stilts and a giant spiders’ web… if you haven’t been down this year yet, come on down!! 

Testing your balancing skills on the new balance beams?
Jed, the dog, modeling the new spiders' web!
Log stilts
We have an even bigger plan for this year - to build the ultimate hide-out den, A TREEHOUSE!! 

And we want your help to design it… come visit the castle and draw or build your perfect treehouse in the craft room – or if you can't come to the castle, why not send us a photo to the Wray Castle Facebook Page? Get thinking and designing and the rangers will combine the best ones to build the treehouse in the play trail this summer! We can’t wait to see your ideas!

Let your imagination go wild!!

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