There are some projects Tentsile feels particularly passionate about. And saving forests is certainly one of them. Rise Up are a group of activists on a mission to share a dirty secret and expose Europe’s biggest man-made hole in an attempt to save one of Europe’s ancient forests.
For four years, they have been building tree houses, blocking diggers, promoting themselves and engaging in politics in an attempt to both protect and raise awareness about the disappearing Hambach Forest near Cologne, Germany. As one of Europe’s oldest forests, existing since before the last ice age some twelve thousand years ago, it has a unique biodiversity as the last habitat of some of Germany’s endangered species, among them being the Golden Eagle, the Grey Wolf and the Eurasian Otter. Here is their story:

Using the world’s largest machines – diggers that are as long as two football pitches and as high as a 30 story building, RWE has been tearing up the Hambach Forest since 1968 trying to satisfy an insatiable appetite for the notoriously inefficient brown-coal. Digging day and night, they have managed to carve out of the ground a hole 1500ft deep and as a wide as the city of Cologne (which is a city of one million people). For a country that uses more solar power than any other country in the world and twice as much renewable energy as the U.S., it is shameful that RWE have reportedly taken 85% of the ancient forest, delivering to power-plants that are responsible for 13% of Germany’s total CO2 emission. And that’s not all. The diggers not only take ancient forests, but they also demolish whole villages, and force thousands of people out of their homes, totally protected by German law. 

This whole destruction, for sure, motivates a lot of people to act. And they act in different ways. What we do is protect the trees by living in them. In line with Tentsile’s motto, we believe they can’t cut trees down if we are actually in them. We built a little low-impact village called “Meadow” on the edge of the Forest, now containing around 30 buildings, some made from clay, wood and some recycled materials, others built directly into the ground. We also built tree-houses around 20 metres of the ground, sometimes even connected to each other to become a small tree-house village! We find 350 year old trees (mostly oak) give a huge canopy and a solid construction in which to build. Most of our tree houses are large, well-isolated and oven heated, with bedrooms and balconies.

This village itself has everything it needs - a communal kitchen, a theatre, a hotel, a bar, a workshop, a Free Shop, and a lot more besides. We get energy from solar panels and a self-made windmill. Food is either self-grown, or donated by private patrons, local farmers and bakeries or bigger companies. On the Meadow, we organise skill-sharing camps, concerts, forest walks for families and we have a free space for everyone who wants to come and support. There are people arriving and leaving every day – travellers and activists alike. We even house some old women from the next town, who just lost their home. Everyone is welcome.

Our common goal is to stop the diggers. This is now supported by Tentsile, who donated some of their tree tents, which make it possible to set up a temporary tree occupation in just one hour during the night, protecting 3 trees at once! Tentsile has been a revelation. Every year from October until March the cutting season makes life hard for all of us in the forest. With much effort we try to then occupy the trees in the direct cutting area, making it hard for them to cut and destroy. And with Tentsile's continued help, we feel a little stronger.

If you want to support the trees, animals and humans in Hambach Forest, contact Rise UP: 
view our website:
or just visit us directly in the trees!
You are always welcome.


Jethro Shirley-Smith