Raspberries on the hillside…

Ever taken a walk through the forest and seen some ripe berries on the side? Ever tried a few truly organic berries grown au natural? Ever wanted them in the garden?

I’ve discovered that here in Europe it is really easy to find wild berries. Go slightly off of the path and there is often berries galor. All you have to do is pick them.

But wouldn’t it be nice to have them in the garden? Just imagine…Fresh berries to breakfast…or to that cheesecake…or send the kids out with buckets and let them have some fun for an hour or two.

Our abode abutts a small downslope hillside which gets more than its fair share of sunshine and which retains a fair amount of moisture. Excellent berry site.

But how hard is it to actually get berries to take root and establish itself so that it is self sustaining?

Turns out…quite easily.

Step 2: Climbing Pillar

All done! Finished the next addition to the forest playground – a wooden climbing pillar! And it was surprisingly easy to make. Had originally planned to chisel out what I needed, but after 5 minutes thought “This is the machine age – use a drill & electric saw!” And I did, and it worked out beautifully!

Step 1: Planning, Hack-n’-slash & Start

Before laying out any playground, its important to clear the mind and plan: What do you want that the kids would enjoy to play on? Is it going to be educational? Is it going to be challenging? Is it going to be fun?

First rule though: If it ain’t fun – don’t do it! Simple rule, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get an idea or the inspiration for an item and launch off into development…only to have it fall flat as its not fun. Case in point: It would be really cool and amazing to have a tree house! Reality check: children are aged 4 years and younger and already have a toy cottage. Any tree house, as awesome as it could be, is over the top and not needed.

So, what’s our plan?

Our available area is nestled on the edge of the forest, so it has a few large established trees nearby. There are some old tree stumps a couple o’ meters high and there is an old sandpit. the old is rounded out with a set of rings off a tree branch, a plastic dragon and slide.

Whatever we do, it needs to fit in with the surroundings and as far as possible, it should also reuse what is there.

We decided to remove the sandbox barriers as they were mostly rotten and rake it over as the vegetation had started reclaiming the ground. Hopefully over time, the entire area will be reclaimed by grass and wild flowers.

The 3 tree stumps are about 2 meters high and are very usable. Two of them have a cross bar attached that had previously been used as a swing, but the swing had rotted away and been removed long before we arrived. The final tree stump had been used as a corner pillar of a tree house a few years ago, but now was just a mass of rusty nails. Very healthy if you like tetanus!

The cross bar was very sound, so we inserted a durable stainless steel safety hook and hung a monkey swing from it – a lot of challenging fun! The nailed stump has been de-nailed and will be modified to be a climbing pillar.

There aren’t many overhanging branches unfortunately, but one of the trees has a branch that was low enough to hang a pivot swing from. We look a thick, smoothish branch (about 50cm long and 7cm in diameter), made it a little smoother and then drilled a 12mm hole through the balance point. Taking a 10mm rope, thread it through the hole, knot it underneath and then attached it SECURELY to the tree. Ta da – pivot swing!

Some of the wood from the sand box was still sound, so an obstacle course has been started. Taking two tree trunks and securing one of the planks to each trunk has created a balance beam. Going one step further, a thick branch has been sawed into multiple pieces 40cm long and then theses pieces have been hammered into the ground to make balancing poles. We have very shallow soil before bedrock, so short poles had to be used.

The last two items we aim to do is to create a rope spider web and slackline between the trees. For this some stout rope and securing rope will be needed and that is next on the shopping list!