Tree tents and orangutans: Tentsile's going to Sumatra!

In April last year, our photographer friend, Andrew Walmsley, had a life-changing experience on a trip to Sumatra. Supported by Sumatran Orangutan Society, he spent several days in the field with the Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU), part of the Orangutan Information Centre's team of dedicated conservation experts.  As the team trekked through humid rainforest and rubber plantations, slipping into rivers and slapping away mosquitoes at every turn, Andrew documented their progress - from the start of their search to the moment they captured an adult male orangutan for re-release into a safer forest.

One of the riskiest and most difficult parts of the rescue process for any orangutan is bringing it from the tree safely down to the ground once it has been located and darted.  In this case, as the team waited with a net tensioned out between their outstretched hands beneath the tree the big male clung to, their location on a slope and the density of the trees around them made it almost impossible to tell where he would fall.  Although they caught him safely, it was a close-run thing, as large animals under sedation don't fall gracefully or land lightly and neatly, and things could have ended very differently if the net had been a few inches out.

To this end, a team of arborists from Sawpod will be jetting off to Sumatra on Easter Sunday to spend a fortnight training the HOCRU team how to climb trees and rescue fellow climbers (or orangutans) using accredited techniques.  Andrew is going along to document the process and will use his images to raise awareness of the lengths charities like Sumatran Orangutan Society and Orangutan Information Centre go to to protect the remaining members of a Critically Endangered species. Not only that, but he's taking a little piece of Tentsile with him - we're supporting his journey and donating a Stingray to the team so they can have an arboreal platform from which to monitor orangutans as they prepare for rescue.

To find out more and support the team's incredible work, check out Sawpod's donation page, look up Sumatran Orangutan Society and Orangutan Information Centre on Facebook, and read this blog to get a sense of what the team is up against. We'll bring you more photos and stories from the field as the trip progresses.

 

 

March 28, 2015 — Alex Shirley-Smith

Tentsile = versatile: customers show us how it's done.

From starry nights in Hawaiian palm trees to winter picnics in an Oxfordshire beech, there's no doubt that Tentsiles are versatile, adaptable and add magic to outdoor adventures, no matter where you go.  We're devoting this blog post to some of the many fantastic customers who take our tents out to play and send us envy-making pictures of the results. 

 

Photo courtesy of Travis Burke

The picture above was taken in Hawaii and features our friend and champion, Ryan Robinson.  Professional adventurer, slack-lining expert and all-round inspiration, Ryan often takes Tentsiles to places nobody else has taken them.  If the picture above doesn't make you want to pack up your tent, head for the seaside and get stuck into sandy camping and all natural ocean sounds, we don't know what will.

Photo courtesy of Parrish Phillips

Another amazing thing about the feedback from our customers? It's shown us our products are truly as family-friendly as we always hoped they would be.  The above shows Parrish Phillips and co turning a Tentsile setup into a party, and this is what they had to say about it. 

"Well... After several days testing out our new Tentsile gear, we are in love. We have named her 'The Ravens nest'...this is the best money I have ever spent in gear. I've never been in a camping trip where everyone wants to hang out in the tent and not by the fire... So much fun! I'll be ordering levels for 'The Ravens Nest' very soon!"

Photo courtesy of Richard Symonds

Some people think you're mad if you go camping in early March in the UK, but we just think it's brilliant.  Richard Symonds and a group of his friends took their Tentsiles, firewood and lots of warm clothes and set up camp in a beech woodland a few weekends ago and had an amazing time, with wildlife, good food and not a trace of cold. You can read more about it here - you may well fancy giving it a go yourself.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Robinson

Another incredible shot from Ryan shows us what Tentsile can do when pushed to its limits.  As mentioned above, Ryan is a slack-lining pro, so this isn't advised if you're inexperienced in such things, but there's a multitude of other ways of getting something new and exciting from your tent with every trip you take.  We'll leave you hanging regarding the back story for this picture, as it'll be the subject of a blog in the very near future.

If this has whet your appetite for adventure, or if you're already sitting on a stash of amazing photos you'd like to share, please get in touch.  We always love receiving pictures to share on Facebook and Twitter, and you might even see them on future blogs as well. Grab your Tentsiles, grab your cameras, and get going!

 

March 23, 2015 — Lucy Radford

When Back Country Calls...

We've been trading for just under 2 years. We've worked hard to create a concept that surpasses the versatility offered by conventional camping solutions, increases comfortable living in the wild, get it put into production and in front of enough people so that we can sustain a new full time business!

A real learning curve for two guys that until 3 years ago hadn't touched a sewing machine.

Then last week, Back Country called. For those that do not know Back Country, they are an authority in the world of outdoor gear and equipment. Based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, Back Country have established themselves as one of the most popular US retailers over the past 20 years. “We just posted Tentsile on our social media and the response has been very exciting,” they said. “We need to get you out here ASAP do get an interview and have you give a first hand demo to our staff. Can you leave tomorrow?” Lucky I have a very understanding wife.

Next day I was boarding a plane and heading for JfK where my itinerary had me hauled up between 1am and 5am. It was hardly worth leaving the airport for the hotel room but I was glad to have a bath after the 7 hour flight as I had no idea what I was walking in to.

I was picked up at the airport after a second flight which got me into Salt Lake at 10am and thankfully, presented with a massive American cheeseburger for breakfast from a place called, “5 guys” or something. While stuffing my face in the back seat, I was taken up into the mountains and before I could wipe the grease off my chin, I was being introduced to the whole Back Country content management team. Directors, camera people, writers, testers, the lot.

My first job was to show the team how to set up a Stingray. Which, in my state of whizzing head a full belly, I rushed and got it wrong first time ( I wanted to show them I could do it in less than 5 minutes but I should have taken my time – even under pressure). I was interviewed while perched in the doorway of the Stingray, in borrowed boots. After that, the Back Country team wanted to see if they could utilize the nearby stream by getting a tent up over it!

We each had a bounce around in the Connect we set up over the stream and then got the Vista up so that everyone got a chance to be familiar with all three or our tent models. We took some time to make a few “How To” shorts and some “Top Tips” before the sun went down and we had to pack up before the evening temperature plummeted. By this point, I was feeling the effects of the 18 hour journey and full on 12 hour filming day. I was to be back on a plane within the next few hours ( after a lovely dinner ) and rounding up my whirlwind trip to the US.

This is just what you do when you are asked to teach Back Country about your start up company and range of crazy Tree Tents.

March 19, 2015 — Alex Shirley-Smith

How to Make Your Tentsile Setup Super Light in 5 Easy Steps.

If you're a Tentsile user and adventurer, the chances are you're thinking about taking your Tentsile into ever more remote and challenging locations - the kinds of places you can't take your car and will have to carry everything on your back.  It might also be that you just want to reduce the weight of your setup so that you can fit in more luxuries and end up with the same weight overall.  Whatever your reason, we've got five great tips to help you achieve the super light setup of your dreams...
March 16, 2015 — Alex Shirley-Smith

Full moon camping, with Tentsile and friends.

As the sun started to sink on a perfect March day, we packed the car with our Tentsile and sleeping bags, squashed blankets and pillows around the seats, and sped out of the city to find friends and trees.  In the thick, new darkness at 7pm, we parked near the woods, the quiet wrapping itself around us as we shouldered our belongings and picked our way by torchlight.  We peered through the shadows as our boots crunched dry leaves, looking out for firelight and the specks of moving torches we knew were ahead.  When we found them, the light dancing up and down the tree trunks made the woods seem to grow and shrink around us, rekindling childhood fears and the hint of magic that travels with them.

In the fire light, two Tentsiles floated at shoulder height, welcoming us with the reflected orange glow.  Inspired, we unpacked ours, letting it take shape quickly between three slim beech trees as we wrapped straps around their trunks, ratcheted everything taut, and finally, with help from the breeze, settled the fly sheet over the top to make our home for the night complete.  Then, leaving our blankets in a heap in the middle, we returned to the fire and ate and talked, mesmerised by dancing flames as the wood smoke permeated our hair and weaved itself through our clothes, the smell of history and outdoor adventures already enjoyed and nostalgically missed.

The moon rose as we sat there, hanging shyly behind the trees at first, then, slowly, putting the fire to shame.  We were wrapped up warm and sleep was hovering around our heads, so we called it a night and hauled ourselves off the ground, wriggling over the thresholds of our airborne cocoons with huge anticipation to make up for little grace.  Sleeping bags arranged and blankets wrapped around us, we lay back revelling in comfort, and in the smugness that comes from being perfectly warm on a cold, clear night outdoors.  The moon by now was high above us, bathing our tent with light so we could see each other's faces and our irrepressible grins.  The wind picked up to sound like the sea, and we fell asleep beautifully quickly.  Insulated and suspended, the tent moved with us as we turned over and stretched our legs, and the trees took our weight and held us safe.  At 3am, we woke to a tawny owl calling, the excitement reaching our stomachs as it painted itself in our imaginations, a hunter in the dark.

In the morning, we woke up early and slipped out into the cold, reviving the embers of the fire to make coffee and breakfast, and to keep in the warmth we'd gathered in the night.  We had lines in the trees, ready for climbing, and we had conversations from the ground to 25 metres up; ascending and descending, eating and drinking, enjoying the woods quietly and looking for signs of spring.  The Tentsiles waited around us, ready for escape from the rain that threatened overhead, or for afternoon naps if the fire was soporific enough for that.  When we packed up to go home, we brushed them down and folded them carefully, back into their bags until next time.  We walked back to our cars through daffodils almost ready to flower and trees getting ready for leaves, and looked at each other knowing the Tentsiles wouldn't need to stay away for long.

 

All photos courtesy of Richard Symonds.

March 09, 2015 — Lucy Radford

Monkeys' eye view: why photographers need trees too.

From marine biologist to specialist primate photographer via a course in climbing trees, Andrew Walmsley is a wildlife photographer on a mission: to use his work to help people connect emotionally with forests and the species that depend on them.  Scaling everything from 70 metre strangler figs in the tropics to ancient oak trees in wintry woodlands, he has documented the beauty, behaviour and conservation status of scores of species and won awards and international acclaim in the process.  In today's blog, we interview Andrew about why trees are the key to his photography - from the technical to the emotional - on every level.

How did you get into photography?

In early 2005, I was volunteering as the Science Officer for Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre in Wales.  I'd completed my degree in Aquatic Bioscience and was carrying out distance sampling on the Centre's dolphin research boat trips.  This year happened to be the first year they'd started creating photo ID catalogues, so part of my role was also photographing every bottlenose dolphin in the area.  It was at this point that I realised how much I loved the challenge of photographing wildlife - on choppy seas, in squalls of rain and with a lot of things to consider and get right in terms of lighting and composition.  For me, it was the perfect combination of science and creativity, and kept me close to the animals that had so interested me since I was very young.

At what point did you start to make the connection between photography and conservation?

I've always recognised the power of a strong image - I loved nature as a child, and spent hours poring over sticker albums and stunning images of wildlife from around the world.  When I was documenting the dolphins, I realised that I could try to inspire people in the way that I had been inspired myself - I could take my knowledge of photography and use it to give people a connection to wildlife that they otherwise might not be able to have.  

My belief in combining photography and conservation grew even firmer when I became closely involved with researchers at Oxford Brookes University in 2010.  Conversations with experts in the threats facing slow lorises, orangutans and Sulawesi crested black macaques led me to make a six month trip to Indonesia in 2012, where I had my eyes opened to the diversity of life in rainforests and the terrifying scale of the threats facing them. Speaking to people at home on my return, I realised how hidden some of these threats are - deep in academic journals or in doom-laden headlines which switch people off the species concerned before they've even got to know them - and saw how effective simple, powerful images can be in getting people to look at an animal and feel something more visceral than just a passing interest.

When did you start climbing trees, and why?

The answer to that, really, is that I started climbing trees when I was a child.  If my parents ever lost me, they knew they'd find me again up the nearest tree.  I don't know why it took me so long to realise that I could learn to do it properly, but once I did, I didn't waste any time - I wanted to know how to get as close as possible to the habitats that harbour my favourite species.  I knew that doing so would enable me to show people how the world looks from a monkey's, ape's or bird's eye view, and just how fragile that world can often be.  On the technical front, I just knew the light would look different from up in the branches, and that it would give my photos a quality they'd never had before.  In March 2012, I took a Basic Canopy Access Proficiency course at Westonbirt Arboretum, just a couple of weeks before leaving for Indonesia.  When I got there, I was incredibly glad I'd equipped myself with the knowledge to get up high and see landscapes differently.  On one particularly amazing day in South Sulawesi, I climbed a 70 metre strangler fig and spent the night sleeping up it.  In the morning, the canopy spread out below me made me feel connected to trees like never before, and as the sun rose and the forest woke up with a crescendo of bird song and animal noises,the burning conviction that I have to do something to protect them began.  

What's been your best tree-climbing experience to date?

When I first went to Indonesia, one of the species I fell in love with was the Sulawesi crested black macaque, or yaki, as it's locally known.  Returning in 2014 after two years of planning, dreaming and honing my tree-climbing techniques, I was determined to fulfil my long-held ambition of photographing monkeys from a slightly different perspective than usual, by climbing 50 feet up a tree in Tangkoko Nature Reserve, North Sulawesi, to meet them at their own level.

After getting out of bed at 4 am, I trekked through the forest by the light of my head torch to make sure I didn't miss the monkeys before they moved on to forage elsewhere. I set up my gear, ascended a tree and sat there for a few hours, until a lone male came wandering past, foraging around the base of the tree for 20 minutes or so. He stayed on the ground, then climbed a tree far away before disappearing.  Feeling pretty hungry and tired, I decided to call it a day. I descended, coiled my rope, packed up and started heading back, happy that it had worked, and that the morning had been enjoyable and relaxing. That was when the rest of the monkeys arrived.  Pulling my phone from my pocket, I saw five messages from the researchers who follow the monkeys on a daily basis.  'On their way to you now', 'Getting close to you', 'I hope you're ready'  Why didn't I check my phone before leaving the tree? I have never, in all my life, felt so stupid.  

Some rustles in the undergrowth betrayed the monkeys' arrival. First throw: miss. Second: miss. Third, fourth, fifth, sixth: all miss. Again and again I threw the rope, going wide of the target every time. About to give up and watch my opportunity slide away, I managed to swallow my panic and finally made my mark. Click, click, heave, scramble, I hauled myself skywards, careful to stay on the correct line and climb safely, but using the adrenaline to make every move count. I'm not sure I've ever climbed so quickly. The monkeys were all around me by this time, picking through the leaves for morsels of food, still not fazed by their relatives unexpectedly coming to lunch.

The next hour was amazing. I was treated like a part of the furniture, another being going about his day in the canopy. Nobody tampered with my equipment, nobody showed any fear, no aggression. The experience taught me, beyond any doubt, that everyone has to see wildlife in its natural environment. 

What about future plans?  Have you got any exciting projects in the pipeline?

I'm going back to Indonesia, specifically Sumatra, in April this year.  This time, it's to photograph other people learning to climb trees. Tony Darbyshire of Sawpod, along with a team of arborists, is going to train the staff of the Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit in climbing trees so that they have an even greater skill set at their disposal when rescuing orangutans from patches of forest threatened by destruction.  By getting to the same level as the team, I'll be able to show the lengths they go to to protect Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutans - the incredible hard work and dedication that goes into locating, darting, capturing and rehabilitating them for release into forests where they can live wild in safety. I'm also looking forward to showing off my Tentsile Connect and using it to protect myself from mosquitoes and position myself for long periods of time as I capture the action around me. 

Finally, what advice do you have for anyone who wants to use photography, tree-climbing or both to effect change for the benefit of the environment?

If you want to climb trees, learn from the professionals - there are lots of great arborists who are also tree-lovers and will teach you how to be safe, adaptable and, above all, climb without damaging the trees in the process. Trees really are the most amazing places to sit - I can't urge you enough to get up there, whether you pitch a tent a few metres up or scale the highest heights. There are ever more tools at your disposal to help you get into the canopy and see things in a different way.

In terms of the photography itself, photograph what you love, what you know and what you care about - don't try and replicate other people's work, or you'll just get a diluted version of their pictures.  If you truly care about something, you'll keep going back; keep wanting to get pictures that show the world how you see it so that they can start to care too.

If you want to find out more about Andrew's work and the projects he supports, check out his Facebook page, Twitter feed and www.andrewwalmsleyphotography.com

March 02, 2015 — Lucy Radford

Dirty Hands and Tiny Trees

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about our involvement with WeForest, who have planted over 7.5 million trees in 11 countries to date, making an incredibly important contribution to protecting the planet, biodiversity and human health.  We know from personal experience that there are few things that foster a stronger connection with nature than planting tree saplings and watching them grow, so in the hope of inspiring a spirit of reforestation in our fantastic community of tree fans, we're sharing a tree planting story with you today.

On an August day in Kenya, suspended in the kind of heat that makes air feel like water, we stood next to the forest on a patch of naked green and contemplated the piles of soil at our feet.  They sat crumbling, red-brown and defiantly cold against the day, and waited for us to get to work.  We were in Kakamega, where rainforest that once marched confidently across the country now hangs on, holding its beautiful collection of animals and their echoing noises just out of reach of the world.  The sun climbed the sky and people trickled towards us, a tide of bright fabric and shining spades, watering cans and mud-caked boots.  The forest needed help, and they were here to give it.

We worked standing up at first, carefully rearranging the earth as the spades struggled to escape our sweaty hands.  Then, as our t-shirts stuck to our backs and the water in our bottles turned warm and made us thirstier, we sank to our knees in the tough, thorny grass and dug in with our hands.  We peeled the trees from their cylinders of plastic sacking and looked at their startling roots, a thin web of white through the compacted soil.  As a universe of worms and centipedes broke free beneath our hands, we tucked the tiny trees into the ground and smoothed the earth around them, patting and moulding until they stood solid, a rainforest in training.  Standing again, we wiped dirty hands on dusty trousers and stretched our backs as we shuffled on, picking around planted patches in search of crumbling red.  

The bare earth got swallowed up and the rows of expectant saplings diminished as we spread them across the hillside, down to the river and back up again, working faster and harder as our hands figured out a rhythm and careful small talk became laughter and song.  There were a thousand trees planted that day, a lot but not a lot, an important drop in an ever-growing ocean.  As we trailed away, we left the sun behind us for the cool of the forest, wishing the new trees well as we walked through the shade of the old.  Somewhere in the distance, colobus monkeys croaked, and the canopy rustled sharply above us as birds moved through the trees.  This is what the day was for, and the stiffness in our backs became nothing as the forest painted its own importance all around us and lodged a care for it in our chests.  We glanced over our shoulders for one last look at the tiny trees, and willed them all to grow.

 

February 23, 2015 — Lucy Radford

Where Camping is Headed in the Next Five Years

Recent years have seen some pretty big changes in the way that we all approach camping, from the range of equipment available to types of experience on offer (think glamping, low impact trips and the growing list of festivals that are about so much more than simply music).  With this in mind, and having tried some new experiences ourselves lately, our thoughts have turned to what the next five years will hold for campers.  Here are our predictions.

It's Heading Up

As we discovered recently in Sequoia National Park, there are a lot of campers who are keen to get off the ground.  Whether they're professional arborists, climbing hobbyists or just keen to put a couple of feet between them and the earth, there's a growing appetite for life in the trees.  If you fall into the latter category, are yet to camp at height and wonder whether it's possible for you, reassurance is at hand.  We've been lucky to witness many people enjoying their first Tentsile experience, and without exception, they've all commented on how easy and normal it feels.  The advances in equipment and expansion of our range will also make the portable treehouse experience more accessible to more people as time goes on.  Watch this space.

It's Going Wild

As the pace of modern life increases to a seemingly unsustainable level, more and more of us are feeling the urge to get away from it all and take our holidays (or even just our weekends) in the wild.  While eco-lodges and hidden away cottages still flourish, we think more people will turn to camping to get their fix of nature.  Increasing numbers of people are educating themselves about foraging, bushcraft and wildlife, and that naturally translates into spending as much time as possible surrounded by the kind of open space where you forget the city exists.  Of course, in some places there are restrictions on where you can pitch a tent, but we're confident that enterprising land owners will increasingly start letting environmentally conscious, low impact campers share their areas of natural beauty by opening sites for just that purpose - and by sites, we just mean a permissible piece of land where you still feel largely alone with nature.

It's Getting Technical...

You've read enough of our blogs about gear and gadgets to know that outdoor brands are inventing ingenious equipment at quite a pace.  From clever solar stuff to super-efficient stoves via beds so comfortable you forget you're lying on the ground, these advances make it ever easier to live in the manner to which you are accustomed when you're on a trip - to have your camping cake and eat it too.  It's not just about comfort, though.  We're huge fans of the way that the newest gear allows campers to be environmentally conscious, keep their impact low and stay safe on big adventures.  Gone are the days of scarring the ground with inexpert fire-making or going through pack after pack of batteries to keep your torch alight, and camping is a whole lot better for it.  

...but Not Too Technical

Above all, camping will keep heading where it's always headed - to happy faces around glowing camp fires, delicious meals rustled up from tin foil and sandwich bags, and the thrill of waking up to the smell of damp earth and the promise of a day of new adventures.  We're excited about all the people who want to get involved - who brave all weathers and make time around their daily lives to come out and experience the world by getting closer to it and deeper in it.  We've been asked if camping as we know it is becoming a dying art, and honestly, we don't think it is.  Regardless of equipment, location or who's involved, the central tenets of camping remain the same.  As long as there are adventurers out there with an eye for a view and a bit of creative spirit, the art of camping will go on.

 

February 09, 2015 — Lucy Radford

The WeForest Story

As we mentioned on the blog last week, trees are incredibly important - for animals, for people, for the environment - in every way you can think of.  You've probably gathered by now that we at Tentsile are big tree fans, and today we want to tell you about an organisation called WeForest which is making life a lot better for people all over the world through tree-planting and reforestation projects.  Their current tree planting count stands at over 7.5 million trees in 11 countries around the world - an amazing contribution to our planet's future.  Here's a bit more about the project we're very proud to have partnered with.

How Does WeForest Work?

Individuals and companies can join WeForest in their mission to support biodiversity, food and water security, people's livelihoods and the health of the Earth's climate.  As an individual, you can buy trees as gifts for your loved ones, make a direct donation to pay for trees to be planted, or even adopt a search engine that plants trees in Burkina Faso.  

Companies can partner with WeForest in innovative ways that allow their customers to contribute to planting trees with the products or services they purchase.  Some companies do 'buy 2, get 1 tree', others donate a percentage of their revenue, and some have specific ways of support that fit perfectly with their business - the architecture firm that plants a tree for every metre square built is a shining example.

What Do The Trees Do?

Through WeForest's partner projects across the globe, the trees purchased through individual and company support start their lives as part of a myriad of initiatives that make a difference - initially in specific, grassroots ways, and eventually in a broader context for us all.  From reversing desertification in the Sahel to providing the structure for biodiversity corridors in the Amazon, via improving livelihoods and conditions for communities, these trees make a difference.

Case Study

In Kenya, WeForest works to halt the decline of the forests that is causing drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.  The country's forest cover is less than 2%, with a large part of the remaining forest land on the slopes of Mount Kenya.  By reforesting this area, food crop productivity will increase, poverty will be alleviated, water availability will improve and wildlife can begin to flourish once again.  So far, over 137,000 trees of 19 species have been planted, and the project is ongoing. It's amazing to think that something as simple as buying a gig ticket, renting a car or purchasing a bar of chocolate can put into place a small but crucial piece of the environmental puzzle we all so desperately need to solve.  

WeForest and Tentsile

As we mentioned at the beginning, we are one of WeForest's company partners, and we couldn't be happier about it.  For each tent we sell, three trees are planted in one of WeForest's project sites.  It joins the circle - if we're up trees, people can't cut them down, and by encouraging more people to get up trees, we're contributing to new trees being planted, too. 

You can find out more about WeForest through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and by continuing to follow our blog - we'll be bringing you more in-depth information about them as the weeks go on.

All images by Lucy Radford.

January 23, 2015 — Lucy Radford

Why Are We Passionate About Trees (and Why Should You Be)?

With some of the team about to jet off to California to share the Tentsile experience with tree enthusiasts in Sequoia National Park, we thought it was high time for a blog about just why it is that we love trees so much, and why the Tentsile ethos is 'if we're all hanging out in trees, people can't cut them down'.  

Back in November, Alex explained why we tent in trees, making reference to the Tentsile team's passion for all things green and tall.  Why are we passionate about trees, though - and why should you be?  Here's a roundup of our reasons.

Water

Trees have a huge impact on the quantity of water in any given area.  Deep-rooted in the soil or other substrate in which they grow, trees stabilise land and help prevent soil erosion and flooding in times of heavy rain, storms or overflowing bodies of water.  Not only this, but their presence helps the soil to act like a giant sponge, retaining water that is then slowly released over time, either gradually into rivers or by being taken up by plants.  

Water quality is improved by trees, too.  They filter out minerals and nutrients that would otherwise end up in rivers and lakes, with the dual benefit of keeping the minerals and nutrients safely stored, and preventing the growth of oxygen-depleting organisms that reduce water quality.

Climate

In their immediate locality, trees have an effect on humidity, temperature, light conditions and moisture availability - that's a long way of saying that trees make places just that bit more pleasant!  On a global scale, the presence of forests regulates temperature as branches and leaves absorb sunlight.  If the trees disappear, light is reflected, rather than absorbed, and this alters atmospheric circulation and rainfall patterns.  

You probably remember learning in school that trees absorb carbon dioxide, and this is another key factor in their importance.  When forests are chopped down, and especially if they are burned, huge amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect and global warming.  This is why deforestation is now tipped as the biggest man-made contributor to climate change, even more so than transport.  On the other hand, if they are left to do their job in peace, trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and if mass-scale reforestation were to take place, some of the damage of global warming could be slowed down.  

Biodiversity

It's no secret that forests are good for species diversity.  Rainforests are home to more than half of the world's plant and animal species, despite covering less than 5% of the earth's surface.  It's not just about the ecosystem of the forest as a whole, though; every tree, in temperate forests too, contains a teeming ecosystem of its own.  From the roots to the tips of the leaves, each tree has tens, if not hundreds, of species relying on it - from bacteria, fungi and earthworms to caterpillars, which are eaten by small birds, which in turn are eaten by the birds of prey soaring overhead.  Take away the tree, and you're not just taking away a tall piece of structured wood - you're taking away a whole world and its inhabitants. 

People

We've already talked about water quality and the prevention of floods, but there are plenty of other things that trees do for people the world over.  Agricultural systems that closely resemble natural forests suffer less soil erosion and are less environmentally damaging, enabling increased food production and all its knock-on effects on poverty and food security.

By preventing soil erosion and keeping sediment out of rivers, trees protect marine fisheries, coral reefs, river biodiversity and, as mentioned above, water quality.  Trees also act as natural windbreaks, providing shelter for crops, settlements and and people themselves.  In a beautifully neat cycle, windbreaks also reduce the rate of water lost by crops through evapotranspiration, meaning they need less water - the trees contribute, once again, to water availability.  

Using trees as barriers can also protect crops from grazing animals, and provide carefully harvested fodder for domestic livestock.  Fruiting trees, of course, also provide food for people, and agroforestry and tree nurseries provide employment and economic opportunities.  

Health

Apart from the more tangible benefits mentioned above, trees are good for us because we just need them.  You'll have heard people talk about all the medicines - in use now and yet to be discovered - that we wouldn't have without trees and forests, and especially in recent years, a growing body of research has shown how good they are for our mental health too. One study even revealed that the positive effects of living in a city with green spaces sustain for far longer than the perhaps more obvious positive effects of a new house, pay rise or exciting job.  Trees are also great for people in cities as well as people in rural areas because they filter out smog, provide shade and reduce the incidences of pollutant-related diseases.

We Love Trees

Apart from anything else, being under, in or around trees makes us feel great.  That's why we're committed to making tents that can allow as many people as possible to commune closely with trees and grow to understand and love them.  We want to keep trees around and see their numbers increase, so that everyone can enjoy green space and the benefits it brings.  So, whether you're a die-hard arborist or making your first forays into tree-shaded picnics on summer days, take a moment to think about the trees, be thankful for everything they give us, and tell the people you know why it is that trees are important to you.

All photographs Andrew Walmsley/Tentsile.

January 14, 2015 — Lucy Radford