The traditional rope swing

A rudimentary time-passing device, made by tying a length of rope to a tree branch. A rope swing can be anything from a serene, summer's afternoon kind-of-a-deal to a death-defying swoop over a yawning, sucking abyss. Somewhere between the two is usually the aim. However, there is a dark side to this apparently innocent world.

Any study of the branches in your local wood will reveal a few instances of The Swing of Days Gone By. This poignant object consists of a short length of dirty rope tied round a high branch, frayed and snapped at the swinging end, and irretrievable to all but the most adventurous tree-climber. To avoid adding to the number of these, and the injuries implied by their existence, your humble narrator has developed ...

the Modern Adventurer's Retrievable Rope Swing!

The aim of the MARRS is to provide excitement - and terror! - but no deaths, or even injuries beyond the kinds of scratches and stuff that get sympathy from the ladies. Here's how to go about building one.

You will need:

  • A swinging rope - for swingin' on;
  • A retrieval rope - the innovative part of the whole deal;
  • A tree branch - preferably over a slope or terrifying precipice of some kind;
  • A stick - to hold on to. This is optional.

The Swinging Rope

You want a nice strong rope, maybe eight or ten metres long. That crappy blue nylon stuff will do fine. Tie a loop, big enough for you to fit your hand through, in one end of the rope, secured with a Reef knot*. Lovely. Now throw one end of your rope (either end) over your branch (you might need to attach something weighty to it, but BEWARE - I have seen a man clocked between the eyes by a lump hammer while engaged in this endeavour). Now that you have both ends in your hands (if you can't reach the other end, you may have to choose a lower branch), put one end of the rope through the loop in the other end. Now you can pull on the end-without-the-loop-in-it, and your loop wil travel up the rope until it gets to the branch. Hey! You've got a swing there, buddy!

The Retrieval Rope

But wait! How the hell you goin' to get that sucker down again? Once you've had your fun, you'll have to leave the damn ting up there forever, for all little kids and that to injure themselves on. Fear not, young swinger. Rewind a little to the point at which you were just about to put the end-without-the-loop-in-it through the loop. Tie the retrieval rope to the loop, using the loop-secured-with-Reef-knot method. Now you can go ahead with the plan. Once your swing is up, tie the retreival rope out of the way until you're done swinging. Then you can pull the loop back down, and retrieve the whole swing. Damn, I'm good.

The Branch and Precipice

Trust your feelings on this one, really. Make sure that the branch is no higher than half the length of your swinging rope, and that it is VERY VERY STRONG. You don't want to have to worry about the structural integrity of your branch. Precipice-wise, do all that you dare. Some kind of bluff is usually my choice.

The Optional Stick

Most rope swings worth their salt will employ some feature that helps the user to stay attached to the swinging end of the rope. This might be as simple as a large knot, to stay the hands, or some elaborate seat apparatus. The tamer species of rope swing will tend to be more concerned with the comfort of the swinger - the tire swing, much favoured by the orang utan community, is an example of this genre. For myself, I like a nice fat stick - this allows a variety of swinger positions, from dangling to standing. However, the stick must be thoroughly tested for strength. The enemy of the swinger is the same as that of the phone sex addict: sudden disconnection. A knot that slips predictably, a little each swing, is preferable to one that appears solid but will unexpectedly dissolve and, likewise, almost any half-assed way of staying on the rope is preferable to a deceptively trustworthy stick. Whack it against a tree a few times, hang on it from a low branch, do whatever you can.

You are welcome to use your discretion as to the method by which the stick is attached to the rope. However, I strongly recommend the round turn & two half-hitches. That is, loop the rope round the stick once, and then tie two ordinary knots in it. If it falls off, you've done it wrong.

And that's all there is. May the MARRS give you many hours of swinging satisfaction.

* Actually I've been favouring the bowline lately. But it's not going to get put under much stress, so it's up to you really.

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