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The inaugural Scottish Tree Hugging Championships took place at Ardtornish Estate in Morvern on Friday, as part of this year’s Morvern Games and Gala Week, writes Nic Goddard.
Hosted by An Darach Forest Therapy, the championships were part of a full day of nature connection activities including guided forest bathing and an ephemeral eco art workshop.
The event was live streamed, and with 25 competitors and a crowd of enthusiastic spectators, the trees on the estate got a lot of hugs.
Organiser Hugh Asher told the Lochaber Times: ‘We were absolutely delighted with the number of competitors for this first ever Scottish Tree Hugging Championship.
‘Whilst the event was a fun and light-hearted competition, there is a serious message behind it. The benefits of nature connection, spending time outside, appreciating the
importance of trees to humans and slowing down to enjoy the wild beauty of this part of the Highlands were all key messages being promoted by the event.
‘Participants competed in three rounds including Speed Hugging – racing between trees to hug the highest number in a minute; Dedication – selecting a single tree to hug and show love and respect to, and finally Freestyle – demonstrating creative flair in the hug.’
Competitors had clearly been practising and preparing for the event, with some using props for their freestyle entries. These included an origami crown to adorn a tree, a felted leaf garland, and from Fort William resident tree hugger Paul, two potted tree saplings which he had bought along ‘to introduce to their grandparents’ as he sat in the shadow of a large tree.
Some competitors used slow and meditative techniques, with hugger Andrea adopting the yoga tree pose with her back against a large tree trunk. Strontian resident Justine performed a headstand against her chosen tree to allow for ‘seeing the sky and the top branches while I’m hugging the tree’.
Hugger James from Mallaig spent a full minute hugging his chosen tree upside down, while Eadie from Lochaline took inspiration from a sloth for a clinging suspended
The judging panel praised all the entrants for their brilliant engagement with the trees but were unanimous in their decision to award third place to Kat from Ardtornish for her collaborative ‘Dedication’ hug with a fellow competitor to encircle a very large tree trunk and a fully reclined Freestyle entry.
Second place to James from Mallaig for his full score in the speed round and
energetic Freestyle entry.
First place had to go to Lochaline local Alasdair Firth who attended in a wonderful tree suit complete with handmade leaves and acorns, smashed the speed hugging
record by embracing multiple trees – including prickly holly saplings – simultaneously.
He also managed to zone out from the distractions of the many spectators and photographers during his Dedication entry and climbed up into the high branches of a tree for his Freestyle round.
Mr Asher presented Alasdair with his paper crown and a beautiful handmade ‘trophy’ made from a tree branch as he was crowned the Scottish Tree Hugging Champion 2022.