Chailey Heritage School Old Scholars Association
APPLE TREE CLIMBING The older I get, the more long-forgotten memories seem to arise from the depths. For a reason I cannot fathom, I awoke one morning with this one. Once upon a time, at the St. Martins site at Chailey, there was a small orchard tucked in front of the administration building. It had a small low drystone wall in front of it and then, behind it, the orchard. It was overgrown with grass, tall grass and dotted with wild flowers, and the apple trees stood, gnarled and enticing. Old sheets of corrugated iron stood against some of the tree trunks. It was a bit of forgotten Chailey. Miss Cheshire’s gardening lessons had sunk in and the nooks and crannies of the drystone wall captured my imagination. It looked magical. So I started tidying it up and pressed roots of some of the plants into gaps I had cleared. Gardening is a slow business and I quickly became bored waiting for the first blooms to arrive. It was quiet and peaceful, the weather was warm, and the sun made patterns as it came through the branches of the apple trees. It was immensely soothing and fascinating, as a light breeze stirred the branches. That was when I had my brilliant idea! I could climb a tree and see far and wide. I could climb a tree and see forever. Goodness knows how I did it, I can remember the determination that I would and could do it... but I had not allowed for the fact that I had not thought about how to get down. I stared at the sky, I looked all around, sitting on a branch many feet from the ground. Then it came to me - the sheet of corrugated iron standing against the trunk... but on the other side from me. If I could just turn around on the branch I was perched on I might, just might, be able to use it as slide! So very gingerly I inched my way round, my brace sticking to my skin as the sweat trickled down my back. Then the big decision, did I slide down with my face to the corrugated iron sheet, or did I slide with my back to the iron. By this time fear was rising, I was truly frightened of what was going to happen next. I made up my mind I would slide down with my face to the iron, so I could hold onto the branch as long as possible. So carefully turning, and with the weight of my legs beginning to pull me off, I let go and with an awkward wiggle reached “terra firma”. I lay against the corrugated iron panting with fear and exhilaration. I was filthy and sticky but the feeling of euphoria made me light headed and for five minutes the worry about moving made me forget that my crutches still had to be retrieved. By the time I had collected them and made my way back to the rec room the fear had gone banished by the secret that I had climbed a tree.
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