After five magical years …

It’s been 5 years since we – five parents: Denise, Emma, Sara, Tom and Lars, and our facilitator Rowan – founded Free We Grow. Each of us had its own motivations and needs when starting the project, however what aligned us all was the belief in children as people worthy of respect and that a free childhood is priceless and this is how we turned it into our vision:

A democratic environment embedded in and connected to the world around us where children can grow socially competent and ecologically mindful and where their innate curiosity and instinct to play and learn is trusted and nurtured.

Denise, Emma, Sara, Tom and Lars

Continue reading “After five magical years …”

Facilitator’s reflections

by Mariana Martins

It is nearly June and here we go pouring onto paper our impressions and observations: as I sit down to reflect on my time as facilitator at Free We Grow, I look at the shelves and find the picture of me dressed in the most unusual fashion (a corduroy dress on top of a pair of ski trousers, really? What was I thinking?) reading the Acorn poem in the meadow with the children acting as Greek chorus, back in the beginning of the spring term. It has been 5 months since the Winter and the cold January when I started working here. I was uncertain then about the steep learning curves of working in a forest and I am now more excited than ever about all the thrilling rides of being immersed in this new journey.

The image I refer to above is the one of the farewell party held for one of the children in the moment we were planting the baby oak tree. Continue reading “Facilitator’s reflections”

Welcome to our Open Day!

All welcome to our spring open day at Dacres Wood! Ahlan wa sehlan! Bienvenidos!  Bem-vindo!

On Saturday the 21st of May from 2 – 6 pm we’ll be opening Dacres Wood to the public! Come and visit this little haven in the middle of south London, bring your friends, bring family, bring a picnic!

It is a chance to spend the day in our magical woodland setting with treasure hunts, pond dipping, flying paper airplanes, learning to fix and maintain your bike, clothes swapping, and lots more!

For those interested it will also be a chance to get to know our project – We are a nature based, sociocratic, self-directed learning community of children based in South East London.

See you there!
Email us with questions to:

Magic exists

By Rowan Salim


I’ve recently realized that magic exists. I think this happened when I found out that a kingfisher visited Dacres Wood. I didn’t see it myself, but Ema, who runs a toddler group at Dacres Wood on Tuesdays, sent us a photo.

It was a Kingfisher. Sleek and proud. Skilled and clever. Beautiful. Calm and present.

Continue reading “Magic exists”

Finding my tribe

By Mariana Martins

Before Christmas, we came into Dacres Wood, Rowan, and I, to take down the parachute and organise some materials for the beginning of 2022. I was very excited to be working outdoors and finally experiencing a different kind of dynamic with children in the UK. I had a lot of experience with child-led education in Rio, where I am from, but not so much in London. What a great present and moment in my personal and professional life to be joining Free We Grow!

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The healing power of a community based in nature

By Elena Noseda

I’ve joined Free We Grow at the beginning of Spring.

Trees were naked and so looked the pond, with its clear and still surface reflecting shades of brown and grey with just a few small and timid leaves coming out of its edge.

The air felt sharp on my face, and I very much needed a hot tea every morning, to keep my body warm.

Continue reading “The healing power of a community based in nature”

Holding each other and being held by Free We Grow

By Sara Asadullah

Since bursting back through the gates to Dacres Wood, after three months away, there’s been such a real sense of mutual delight! Delighting in the wood, the freedom, the spring, and each other. Being together as a group feels precious and exciting. There’s been an eagerness to come to meetings, an attentiveness and curiosity towards each other. There’s been respect and harmony in sharing our space, and so much joy in being together physically – wrestling, dancing, moving, chasing, and of course being cats and creatures together. And with my pregnancy, I’ve experienced so much tenderness and care from all the children – another thing bringing us all together. There’s also something emboldening about deadlines – the fact that we have a certain amount of time together before the baby – that brings clarity and energy, and a sense of purpose. Just like having been deprived of each other during lockdown is helping us to value our experiences even more now. Continue reading “Holding each other and being held by Free We Grow”