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Established in June 2023 in Sydenham Hill, part of the London Borough of Southwark, the Tree Rescue Hub is a 0.5 hectare plot on the fringes of Dulwich Wood where we facilitate community-led reforestation projects.

of the Great North


The Hub

Located on a landstrip between Dulwich Wood and Grange Lane Allotments (GLA), Tree Rescue Hub is the name of the 0.5 hectare area we protect (leased from the Dulwich Estate and GLA). The Hub contains a shed, a hut, several picnic tables, a community space, an eco-loo and a small pond. The land also contains a tree nursery (349 trees we grew from seed), an orchard (32 fruit trees we planted) and 44 existing trees. We are also developing a neglected area where we plan to create a Community Food Forest.

You can see a satellite image of Guardians' Tree Rescue Hub HERE

About the Great North Wood

Guardians Tree Rescue Hub at Dulwich Wood, October 2023 

Our land is located within the historic Great North Wood, which is the nearest ancestral woodland to any capital city centre in Europe, and a unique natural heritage, home to rare species like the Jersey Tiger Moth, wood anemone, whitebeam and several species of bats. 

There are many historic trees in the area like William's Blake Angel Oak, the Vicar's Oak (named after the legendary Vicar of Lewisham), the Oak of Honour (named after Elizabeth I), and the Guardian of Beulah Heights, thought to be the oldest living oak in London. The area is also home to some of the most extraordinary old boundary trees in London, survivors of the historic woodland that once stretched from Camberwell to Croydon.

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Community Projects

Guardians of the Great North Wood: Soundwood (2023-4)

Funded by Climate Hackathon, Leeds Conservatoire

A project in partnership with University of Manchester and Leeds Conservatoire that engages sound artists, activists, musicians and story-tellers in environmental acoustics, addressing the impact of sound pollution and exploring the musicality of trees.

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Woodland Appreciation Walks 

 Funded by Lush Charity Pot

A series of regular walks and talks along various woodlands within the Great North Wood area with local community members and members of the Guardians Worldwide community from across the UK and abroad. 


Children and Youth Tree Planting

Funded by The Tree Council

A project that engages local children in tree planting, seed collecting and soil management activities  

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Guardians Community Food Forest

A project that engages local people from marginalized communities in Southwark, Bromley and Lewisham in developing participatory mapping for the design of a food forest within the Tree Rescue Hub, as well as developing compost heaps and eco-loo.

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Gypsies and Irish Travelers: the cultural memory of the Great North Wood

Funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund

A project that engages English Gypsy, Roma and Traveler communities from Southwark, Bromley and Lewisham in tree-planting, soil management, skills development, and cultural appreciation of the history of the Norwood Gypsies, the historical guardians of the Great North Wood. There will be several events dedicated to Gypsy and Traveller heritage as part of the Treemoot Festival and we will also be commissioning artwork from Romani artist Rhona Iris as part of this project. 

Our Approach

We follow a rights based approach to reforestation. That means we prioritize human rights and rights of nature in everything we do. Each of the four branches of our forest-making approach has both a social and environmental dimension:   

The Right to Seed

1. Seeds: Our forest-making work starts from the collection and protection of seeds. In 2022, during a supermast year, we collected 1,500 highly fertile acorns and established the Tree Rescue Hub seed bank.


2. Memory: Forests begin with the seeding of collective memory. Since 2019, we have been connecting with the oral history and living memory of Norwood Gypsies and Irish Travelers, the historical custodians of the Great North Wood. We have identified the oldest trees in the Great North Wood area and have collected seeds from historical trees associated with important figures from the past including William Blake and Queen Boudicea. Our approach to cultural memory is inclusive of the bio-cultural rights of indigenous people and minorities.


The Right to Environment

3. Water: Forests are water baskets. The way in which they function is inextricable from the water cycle. Therefore, understanding the hydrology of the land and local river systems is vital to forest making. Understanding of catchments, cloud formation systems, drainage, flooding, droughts, humidity levels of the soil are all essential to improve tree transpiration (or evo-transpiration) and tree hydration.

4. Food: Forests are also food systems. Understanding the role of food-bearing species is important to ensure the forest can thrive as a self-sustaining food system and a biodiversity hub; hence our focus not only on native trees, but native food trees such as the oak, the chestnut and the hazel, which sustain many species within the living forest system, including humans.

The Right to Soil 

5. Soil: A forest starts from the preparation of the soil, ensuring the humus contains required levels of nitrate and minerals that are suitable for plant and tree growth. This involves tending the soil by composting, mulching and allowing for natural top soils to develop leaf mould and mineral-rich organic materials.

6. Soul (People): The preparation of the soil goes hand in hand with the preparation of the soul- i.e. the people who work the soil. Humans can enrich the soil by recycling nitrates (for instance by re-using human urine and feces) Community and social cohesion are connected to the soil. No wonder the word human and humus (soil) come from the same root.

The Right to Growth

7. Nurseries: Our approach finally requires support of the woodland’s existing efforts at regeneration. By rescuing trees from natural nurseries under mother trees, and ensuring more individual trees survive, and by creating new nurseries, more saplings can make it to adulthood. In 2023, we supported a natural tree nursery in Dulwich Wood and established a new nursery of oak saplings (350 trees).

8. Tree disease: Finally, our work concerns the monitoring of tree disease and encouraging the use of dead materials (branches, trunks, leaves) for regrowth. Since June 2023, we have established an Ash Island, made up of 15 young ash, to monitor and combat ash dieback. We have also established three bug hotels with rotten wood.

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