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”

The portal to our hosting space

By Rowan Salim

I wonder who you encountered as a child who’s curiosities, explorations, passion, and kindness you still remember. When I was a child, my parents had many friends who visited us from around the world. I remember Parine Jaddo, the Iraqi/Turkmen filmmaker who visited us in Morocco and who spent a month walking around with her camera, capturing what I hadn’t known I’d seen. I remember my grandmother visiting, laying out her prayer mat on our living room floor and I’d watch from the corner of the room as she prostrated five times a day. I remember when we moved to Yemen when I was 10 and in our first few weeks my new neighbour, Taqiya, came to visit and rather than enter our house, she climbed the wall separating us from our neighbours, balancing high on the beam and jumping onto adjacent rooftops, and in doing so immediately shifted how I saw my new home, in a manner only a guest could have done.

Continue reading “The portal to our hosting space”

The visceral and the virtual

By Rowan Salim

This article was written in July 2020, we are now happily back at Dacres Wood!

Free We Grow online has been great. And going back to Dacres Wood is going to be even better. 

I cannot have predicted what FWG online was going to be like. I held so many feelings before we started. I was excited about the prospect of doing something new with everyone we all know so well. I was relieved at the possibility of remaining in connection with each other during these strange times. I was apprehensive about the prospect of being on screen for so long, of running meetings online, of working out how to hold space for self-direction and expression, about our distance from nature and from each other. Continue reading “The visceral and the virtual”

Being new…

By Sara Asadullah

Whenever I turn into the road and see the Dacres Wood site, I get a smile that starts from the inside and makes its way through to my face! It’s a feeling that I’m in the right place, and I am experiencing such good fortune to be part of Free We Grow – this secret world of cat ninjas – with their unique skills, talents, interests, and hidden depths to be revealed slowly and in flashes. It’s a precious thing and I’m happy to be at the start of this journey! Continue reading “Being new…”


By Rowan Salim

The week before term started in Autumn 2019 I visited Dacres Wood to deliver some materials, and as I cycled up to the gate I spotted a poster with a picture of a cat on it. LOST it read, REWARD if found. I recognised the cat, it was Ginger, the friendly mottled cat who had been a regular at Dacres Wood in our first year. Ginger was a little like the fox in the Little Prince to each child at Dacres Wood.  There are even areas of the woods which are named after her use of them.

That evening as I mentioned this to a friend, I found myself crying. I don’t know if I was sad about the potential loss of ginger, or about the loss I anticipated the children would feel. Continue reading “Goodbyes”

Ecologically minded – Part II

By Rowan Salim

On a tidy up time forest check walk with one of the children, we hear a sharp rasping sound. We both stop as we spot a squirrel running up a tree. We hold still. We often see squirrels at Dacres Wood, but this squirrel is up to something. It stops, freezes. It starts to bob its head. Its tale shivers. It suddenly calls out abruptly like 5 taps on a snare drum. We also freeze and observe it for about a minute until it scurries up the tree and disappears into the canopy.  What was it doing? Continue reading “Ecologically minded – Part II”