On the hill behind our house, there’s a tree that was blown down in the gales earlier this year. It lies splayed on its side, the fall of branches creating a small hollow, roofed over with leaves and sky - as seen in these photos. Over the Easter weekend, my mum and I took out half an hour to walk and to explore so I could clamber all over it, digging my toes into the bark.
I’m entranced by dens. Always have been. There’s something almost primal in the idea – hitting that very basic human need for shelter, but with the added bonus of whimsy and imagination. It’s an immensely pleasing pastime, the construction of a space for temporary living, adventuring or escaping. When I was a child one of my favourite activities was to push our two tatty blue sofas close enough together that a sheet could be suspended between them – forming a big, shadowy cave beneath. I’d fill it with cushions and books and listen happily to cassette tapes in the semi darkness. Others were more elaborate. My brother and I made Heath Robinson-esque creations assembled from folding laundry racks, towels, blankets, clothes pegs, chairs, string and elastic bands. I once just slept under the table in my room, draping a blanket over, dragging pillows inside and turning it into a nook to curl up in.
Outside, the possibilities extended further. Many a shelter was made with branched walls and moss for insulation, some of them more successfully put together than others. Up in trees, hidden inside bushes, leaning up against trunks – so many options. One recurring location was a patch of land near a friend's house, accessible only by skirting a wall of nettles and jumping over a brook. We claimed it as our own. We’d sweep away the grubs, lay down dock leaf ‘carpets’, allocate various areas as larder, kitchen, dining room (we were very food oriented), then play at being orphans on the run from the authorities.
What all these endeavours had in common was the desire to carve out somewhere of our own. I guess it’s the same driving force behind any kind of activity involving tents, yurts and caravans; that chance to claim a space – whether it be for half an hour or several days. It’s a means of stepping outside of the responsibilities and challenges of day-to-day living; boundaries lifted for a little while. Not so much a room of one’s own, but a den of one’s own.
The orange silk dress is a gorgeous Fenn Wright Manson number - given to me by my Fairy Godmother last Christmas. The intensity of the colour combined with the lightness of fabric makes it perfectly suited to floating about in - particularly in bare feet. The vintage belt used to belong to my grandma, the necklace is vintage and the bag is second hand.
Dens have cropped up on my blog a few times before, most notably in the following posts: Outside Over There (first photo), These Are a Few of my Favourite Things (included on the list of favourite outdoor activities), Taffeta - A Photo Story, Dressed Up for Den Making and Den Making on a Sunday Afternoon.