ONE of the North East’s leading visitor venues has been voted top of the tree for an age-old favourite children’s activity.
To celebrate the launch of its 2013 list of 50 things to do before you’re 11¾, the National Trust has identified the best places around the UK for outdoor adventures.
And the Trust’s Wallington property in Northumberland has been cited as having the best tree to climb.
Last year, 40,000 youngsters signed up to the “50 things” project and, from their feedback, the trust drew up a new list of outdoor adventures.
Armed with the new list of activities, they then set about finding the ultimate places where each of the 50 activities could be enjoyed at its properties.
According to the conservation charity, two of the 50 activities are best experienced in the North East, including climbing a tree at Wallington and camping out in the wild at Gibside, near Rowlands Gill.
Last year, the trust held a successful family camping weekend at Gibside and will repeat the event in August.
People can also go “glamping” at West Wood yurt village on Gibside’s Cut Thorn farm
Julie Tucker, events and promotions manager at Wallington, said: “Our 45ft-high Nootka Cypress evergreen has been chosen as the best tree to climb in the whole of the trust, as its trunk height and branches make it ideal for mini adventurers.”
The Nootka, on the lawn near Wallington mansion, was planted in the 1880s when landowners were caught up in the fashion for acquiring the new trees and plants being brought back by collectors to Britain from across the world.
The Trevelyan family, who owned Wallington, and Lord Armstrong at Cragside in Northumberland, were among the landowners who were buying up the new imports.
“In the Victorian era, these new trees were very trendy. The Nootka comes from the north west of North America and is named after the local native American people of the area,” said Wallington countryside manager Paul Hewitt.
“With its smooth bark and branches close together, it has been the unofficial climbing tree for generations of children.”
In the 1880s and 1890s, the Trevelyans also planted other North American trees such as the Western red cedar and Douglas fir, named after plant hunter David Douglas.
There will be heritage tree walks around Wallington at its Bank Holiday spring event on Sunday and Monday.
Of the children questioned by the trust, 63% chose tree climbing, den building and bike riding as the top three activities, with half agreeing that tree climbing was one of their favourite activities, as it is the most challenging.
Jessica Swales, aged eight, is a Nootka climber and member of the National Trust Kids Council, which advises the charity on outdoor activities for youngsters.
She said: “I have completed every activity from the 50 things to do list, and tree climbing is my favourite thing to do outdoors, and climbing this big tree at Wallington with my friends was great fun.”
Julie Tucker added: “We are passionate about getting children outdoors, and we want to encourage them to play outside and connect with nature, so we’re thrilled at how many under-12s have been engaging with the 50 things initiative.
“This inspired the trust to source the nation’s best place to climb a tree, and we’re delighted that Wallington’s Nootka tree has been chosen.”
To find out what youngsters can do and where, download a planner from www.nationaltrust.org.uk/northeast
10 OF THE BEST...
The top 10 North East National Trust locations for “50 Things” activities are:
1 Go on a really long bike ride – Cragside, Rothbury.
2 Build a den – Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, Northumberland.
3 Climb a tree – Wallington, Cambo.
4 Cook on a campfire – Cherryburn, Stocksfield.
5 Hunt for fossils and bones – Northumberland coast.
6 Discover what’s in a pond – Washington Old Hall, Washington.
7 Camping and track wild animals – Gibside, Rowlands Gill.
8 Hold a scary beast – Souter Lighthouse, Whitburn.
9 Go bird watching – Farne Islands.
10 Go on a walk barefoot – Lindisfarne Castle.
THE Nootka is the focus of several legends for the Native American people of the same name in the Seattle and Vancouver areas.
One is that a raven questioned a party of Nootka women fishing at a river in order to find out which animal made them most afraid.
It turned out to be the owl, and the mischievous raven flew into a tree and impersonated an owl, causing the women to run in fear up a nearby mountainside, where they died.
The Nootka bark is soft and shiny, like the women’s hair, and the story is also said to account for where the trees are found – on the sides of mountains.