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Tree climbing

We all remember those special trees with large lower limbs that we climbed, swung and bounced on. Often in thinning operations trees with ‘poor form’ are removed, or trees brashed to encourage clean stems. In areas where people are using forests for recreation and play, trees with lower limbs should be retained.

How to build

  • The solution to a perceived danger from tree climbing should not be to immediately fell the tree. Trees will be climbed and it is impossible for FC to inspect them all. Understanding the hazards and maintaining those trees that are popular for climbing or adjacent to play spaces is important.
  • Ensure that the ground surrounding popular climbing trees is free from sharp-edged stumps, large rocks or other potentially dangerous materials such as posts or metal.
  • Inspect popular climbing trees for weak branches, ‘V’ shaped neck traps 1.2 m above the ground, eye hazards and potential for falling onto lower branches.


  • See guidance note: Rope swings, dens, tree houses and fires. (Paddy Harrop. March 2006). This gives details on assessing, monitoring and managing risks associated with these activities.
  • Refer to ‘entrapment ’ in safety section of appendix.
Last updated: 8th March 2016

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.