Two days into 2015, today I'm bringing you the story of a new challenge for the new year.  Having climbed many trees and been inside Tentsile tents on several occasions before, today, in a personal first, I combined a Tentsile Connect with a 15 metre climb. 

Packing rope, a picnic, a lot of carabiners and the Connect, my partner and I walked to our local forest in Oxford, the sun rubbing the sharp edges off the cold as we slid through the mud to find our favourite beech tree.  As we harnessed up, uncoiled ropes in orange and green and jammed on helmets over woolly hats, curious families paused their winter walks to see what we were up to.

Climbing in cold weather can be hard on the hands, and my ascent was slower than usual as I grappled with thinning gloves and numb fingers.  Far above me, Andrew was busy - fastening ratchet straps to branches and unfurling the Connect from his rucksack.  As I drew level, it was anchored by one corner and catching the wind, a giant kite caught in the branches but majestic somehow, still.  I clung to the tree trunk to keep out of the way, feeling it take my weight and almost push back into me - a reassuring push, to say 'I've got you' - as the wind shook us all.  A rustling below us took our gaze down to white flashes in the undergrowth; red deer running from a dog, an enthusiastic terrier who would never catch them up.

The tent took shape beside me and I tipped myself back into it, perching on the edge and then letting it draw me in.  Out of the wind, we poured a cup of tea and watched the sky go by, filtering through the tiny branches etched dark against the white.  Wrapped snugly in a sleeping bag, we ate our sandwiches and our leftover Christmas chocolate, enjoying the feeling of cold outside and warmth within.  We talked and laughed and looked at the winter colours, and listened to the people walking by below, oblivious to the little green treehouse above their heads.  

As the dusk started gathering around the edges of our haven and everything fell quieter, another deer ran under us, slowing through the bracken with no idea we were there.  It stopped briefly, poised on the edge of darting movement but relaxed at the same time, and all we could do was stare in delight.  It carried on its way as the moon rose through the trees, hovering quietly as it waited for the sun to go away.  We made our descent in the last of the light, watching pink and blue stripes race across the sky and breathing in the damp green smell of bark, and as we walked home across the fields we made plans - for more winter days and a try at a winter night; for long summer evenings when the trees are full of leaves.  The Connect is coming with us, and we'll be living life at height. 

Alex Shirley-Smith