The Tree House and the future of timber construction



In a recent article in the Guardian, the use of sustainably sourced timber in construction was recommended as one of the top four methods of making housing more sustainable.  Not only are we delighted that the demand for sustainable living is on the rise – something Ethical Forestry wholeheartedly supports – but that the UK media is starting to champion timber as the material of choice.  The article highlights how not only is sustainably sourced timber readily available, but that the industry has “protected millions of acres of rainforest around the world” – something at the heart of our work in Costa Rica. We hope the future of construction revolves around timber, but we also wanted to celebrate one consistent timber-based house that has stood the test of time – the tree house. 

Tree houses have been found throughout history in every corner of the world, for living, and for pleasure.  Indeed, today, The Korowai, a Papuan tribe in the southeast of Irian Jaya (Indonesia), still live in a form of tree house, doing so because the constructions do not require a clearing of any forest, therefore leaving the wildlife, climate and local surroundings as unaffected as possible. 

In the Middle Ages, Fransiscan monks used very basic tree-rooms to meditate, and Hindu monks also lived in tree houses to free themselves from earthbound considerations.  Many centuries later - in the mid-19th century – a town just west of Paris called Plessy Robinson became famous for its tree house restaurants, where chic Parisians could be found during their leisure time. The restaurants were built in chestnut trees, covered in rambling roses and had 200 tables at the height of its popularity. Meals were hoisted up to diners in a basket pulley and often consisted of roast chicken and champagne. 

British nobility also enjoyed their tree houses, and they became an important part of the culture in Tudor England. It was said that Queen Elizabeth I dined in a massive linden tree. These English tree houses were attached to the tree using rope, which would be tied in summer months and un-tied in winter months to allow the tree to grow. One of the oldest tree houses still in existence is located in a 500-year-old lime tree in Pitchford, England. It was designed in the popular English Tudor style, and is known as "The Tree with a House in It."

In more recent times, Winston Churchill constructed a tree house 20 feet (609.6 centimeters) high in a lime tree at his Chartwell Manor home, and John Lennon was rumoured to have a tree house overlooking the Strawberry Fields orphanage.

Using timber in construction is without question, nothing new, and yet many are still unaware of just how important it is that we continue to do so.  Our experience in the planting, caring for, and harvesting of timber is a great source of pride, and we wholeheartedly believe in championing the use of material as much as we can.

To find out more about Ethical Forestry and our timber operations, please call 0800 075 3010 to speak with one of the team.