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Up with the larks:
Financial Times 01-31-1998

The view from the top of a tree near his parents' house in Scotland so amazed Tom Iglehart that he thought he would make a retreat among the branches he had climbed. But the project grew far more grand.

Iglehart now lives in his tree home most of the year, also spending time at his parents' house, from which he and his father run an oil lamp business.

"The treehouse is on the top of a hill on the edge of an estuary looking out across the Solway Firth to the Lake District. It's across the top of five spruce trees about 40ft above the ground.

"It has a feather-light structure. There are no nails. The main area is a squat teepee made of old marquee canvas, about 14ft in diameter, with some tree trunks and branches lashed down below.

"There are a couple of hazel hurdles which I use as movable walls and planks for the floor. I would prefer in time to have mud and moss to make it more cosy. It rests in the branches of the trees like a bird's nest.

"The roof comes off really easily, so if it's not raining, I sleep with it open. It's just fantastic seeing the dawn rise and feeling the wind.

"It's really exhilarating in a big storm. A lot of people feel it' s rickety, but it doesn't creak or groan. It does swing and bounce a bit, especially after a few whiskies and a bit of Jimi Hendrix, but it's pretty safe. It's lasted five years so far.

"I had a buzzard land on my bed one night. Then there are the magpies and crows. They're quite hilarious. If the magpies decide to steal something they are totally dedicated.

"I've had owls land on the place a few times and plenty of small birds like tree creepers and blue tits. I use them as an alarm. I just put out a few peanuts at the end of the bed and in the morning they're all jumping up and down.

"I'm not into roughing it and I hate being cold. I have a TV, video and hi-fi and I'm addicted to my electric blanket. The electricity comes from a lead run from my parents' house.

"My bed is like a gym mat which rests on pallets on the floor. As well as the electric blanket, I have a hot water bottle and a 15-tog duvet with an American Indian blanket on top which takes the dew off. If it starts raining in the night I can pull the roof back on without even waking up properly. I don't ever get colds.

"It's a massive thing. I mainly live on the top floor now, where there are two double beds. The floors down below have turned into ghost decks. There is a big veranda on the south side.

"It's 20ft up to the 'front door' via a large ladder made of spruce poles. I made it so that my mum could come up, but she's never made it.

"I usually have two fires going. I light them on an old tractor wheel, using ash firewood, because that's the best. There are no electric lights, because my father and I make oil lamps for a living, so we wouldn't rough it with anything else. They are made of amber glass in a cone shape with a floating wick. My dad blows the glass and I do the copper metalwork to turn them into chandeliers.

"I have metal army trunks for keeping clothes and other things in, and a thatched bird house by my bed for things which must really be kept dry. "It's totally private in the treehouse. Nobody can see in because it's so high up. I made it thinking it would be a sun temple, but I've really fallen in love with the wind. If I lived anywhere else I'd like a nice stormy bit of sea coast." .


Copyright Financial Times 1998. All Rights Reserved: Spackman, Anne, Up with the larks:.,01-31-1998.
© Copyright the Financial Times Limited 1997
"FT" and "Financial Times" are trademarks of The Financial Times Limited.

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