An enduring memory of childhood is playing on the swings on warm summer days, first being pushed and then learning to do it yourself and seeing how high you can go. The thrill never palls!
The only thing better than a swing in the park is one in your own garden, and given a suitable tree these can be safe and easy to install. There are, however, a number of factors to be taken into account when considering hanging a garden swing from a tree.
Is it safe to hang a swing from a tree?
If you are hanging a swing from a tree, the branch you use should be at least eight inches (twenty centimetres) in diameter, and long enough to ensure that the swing does not touch the trunk in use. The branch should be sound and free of bulges or burls which might indicate disease or structural weakness. Hardwood trees are best as the branches of evergreen trees or softwood trees such as willow might weaken under the strain. If you are unsure about your choice of branch it is best to consult an experienced tree surgeon who will be happy to advise.
The age of the tree
Swings should not be suspended from very young trees or old trees which might lack the necessary flexibility. The ideal is a hardwood tree that has reached the minimum age of maturity for the species, which can be as young as ten to fifteen years and is commonly about twenty-five years. An oak tree, which is an excellent choice for a swing, matures at about twenty-five to thirty years of age. Again, if you are in any doubt consult a tree surgeon. Do not hang the swing more than eight feet from the trunk.
Which tree should I use to hang a swing from?
Choose a fairly tall tree and look for a branch at least seven or eight feet from the ground to provide enough clearance to swing safely, a higher branch will provide a greater range of motion although this should not exceed more than fifteen feet. A higher branch might be suitable for a tyre, a saucer swing, a single swing rope or a button swing.
There should be between ten and twelve feet (between three and three and a half metres) of clear, level space both in front of the tree and behind with no roots or rocks. The landing surface should be something reasonably soft, like mulch or grass to provide a safer landing.
Never wrap a chain or rope directly around a branch
Direct friction from a rope or chain will damage a tree branch and cause it to weaken. To install a swing, you will need to obtain tree straps (pictured above) which are easy to purchase online. These should allow for the continued growth of the tree and so should not be too tight. It is also possible to drill through the branch and install strong bolts but this would require professional expertise and specialist equipment. Installation of a tyre or saucer swing will need more fixing points.
Should I use chains or ropes to hang a swing from a tree?
Chains are expensive and make it difficult to adjust the level of the swing, a better option is a polyester rope that is at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter. If the swing is for adults a heavier rope would be advisable. Natural ropes stretch and weather over time and are best avoided.
Setting the height of the seat
Depending on the age of the child the height of the seat can vary between twelve inches (thirty centimetres) and twenty-four inches (sixty centimetres) from the ground. For older children, a height roughly equivalent to a chair seat would be comfortable.
A button swing needs only one rope and can be set at the same height as a seat swing.
Set the height of the seat by adjusting the knots below the seat, bearing in mind that if the branch slopes even slightly the ropes will have to be of different lengths to compensate. A level seat will provide an even swing, this is less important with a tyre or saucer swing.
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