staff | associates | board members | our inspiration


Chief Executive: Dr Gabriel Hemery BSc Wales, DPhil Oxford, CEnv, MIEEM, FICFor

Gabriel Hemery Gabriel co-founded the Sylva Foundation with Sir Martin Wood.

Gabriel has considerable practical hands-on experience in land management, extensive knowledge of the forest sector and is a specialist in hardwood forestry research (with a doctorate in walnut research).

He is a passionate advocate for forestry, authoring more than over 60 technical papers and articles, writes a personal forestry blog, and is writing currently The New Sylva to be published by Bloomsbury in 2014.

Previously he has collaborated widely in several international research initiatives. During the 1990s and early 2000s he organised the establishment of more than 25 field trials across the UK and Ireland, and developed Britain"s first independent research centre dedicated to hardwood trees - Paradise Wood. He was a founding member of the British & Irish Hardwoods Improvement Programme, now the Future Trees Trust.

He is a committee member of the Forestry Commission"s Regional Advisory Committee for the South East, and has played an active role in the Institute of Chartered Foresters (former Council member and a professional examiner), of which he is a Fellow.

Chief Operating Officer: Alistair Yeomans BSc (Hons) MSc (Oxon) MICFor

Alistair Yeomans, Director of Forestry Alistair is a founding member of staff of the Sylva Foundation.

He has published a number of reports on subjects ranging from county-level wood fuel resource assessments, to woodland economic studies.

He graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Horticulture from Strathclyde University and a M.Sc. in Forestry and its Relation to Land Use from the University of Oxford. Alistair qualified as an arboriculturalist while working and studying at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.

Alistair has a broad range of experience in horticulture, arboriculture and forestry in the UK and internationally. His research work has focused on environmental factors effecting the growth of trees and woodlands. His commercial work has involved the management of a variety of land-based businesses.

Director for Forestry and Rural Enterprise: Paul Orsi MSc MRICS MICFor

Paul Orsi, Director of Forestry Paul joined us in 2013 from Blenheim Palace. There he managed the rural estate which included seven hundred hectares of woodland. Paul is a Chartered Forester, Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and recently completed a MSc in Land Management at Harper Adams University.

Paul's professional experience encompasses forestry, farming, conservation and rural enterprise. At Blenheim Palace Paul led a team of foresters who managed the landscape and commercial woodlands on the estate. Through study and experience he is also a professional land manager who has worked closely with a variety of tenants and other businesses on the estate to provide multiple benefits from land-based businesses.

With Sylva he will be taking a lead role in the myForest service and other forestry projects, liaising closely with core partners and woodland owners, and developing new activities relating to business enterprise.

Administration Manager: Lesley Best BA (Hons) MBA

Lesley Best, Director Business Development Lesley leads the management of our personnel and financial systems, and works closely with the Chief Executive to support the development of the Sylva Foundation.

She played a major role in organising the public launch of our OneOak project in 2010.

She has broad business experience through working in private and public sector organisations, government funded bodies and charities. She excels in leading strategic and operational elements of business such as sales and marketing, finance and administration, fundraising and quality management, and project management. This has been in high profile Oxfordshire-based organisations including, Solid State Logic, Research Machines, Heart of England Training and Enterprise Council, and the Northmoor Trust. Lesley studied part time alongside a full time job towards gaining her BA (Hons) and MBA.

IT Manager: Richard Pigott BSc (Hons) Comp (Open)

Rich Pigott, IT Manager Richard has led the development of the Sylva Foundation's suite of websites, marrying a keen eye for design with practical coding skills. He has a pivotal role in developing our cutting edge IT capabilities in the myForest service.

He has experience of many areas of computing, and has worked for several years as a freelance web developer, as well as software development and hardware support.

Richard recently completed an Open University Computing degree, while working for Sylva.

IT Apprentice: George Kibble

George Kibble, IT Apprentice George joined us 2014 as our first apprentice under the National IT Apprenticeship Scheme. He is receiving formal education from Oxford & Cherwell Valley College as part of this scheme.

He supports our IT manager in the delivery of Sylva’s wide-ranging IT tools and projects, including our websites, databases and communications. With a strong interest in IT developed at home and school, George is keen to develop a career in Web development and begin coding websites and applications for both Sylva and for personal projects. At Sylva he will learn all the skills needed to create websites, manage servers, and develop applications through working with Richard and learning the web developing scripts needed to code.


Research Associate: Dr Gillian Petrokofsky BSc Wales, DPhil Oxford

Dr Gillian Petrokofsky Gill works with the Sylva Foundation on matters relating to the science and evidence base that supports forestry.

She is a member of the University of Oxford"s Biodiversity Institute and has published a number of papers on evidence-based forestry and reports on science-policy dialogue in forestry and biodiversity.

She has a DPhil from the University of Oxford and worked for many years with CAB International in their international forestry information section on a variety of knowledge management projects.

Gill has worked for the past 3 years with the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) on their science policy dialogue project and is currently coordinating the evidence-based forestry initiative with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Indonesia.

Media Associate: Robert Penn

Robert Penn Robert Penn is an author, journalist, TV presenter and cyclist. In 2012 he presented Tales from the Wild Wood - a six-part series about British woodlands broadcast on BBC4. The series explored the great British love affair with trees.

In 2013, he is following up the series with a project about the ash tree.

Education Associate: Jen Hurst BA (Hons) Oxford, MSc Reading, PGCE Cambridge

Robert Penn Jen has recently worked with the Sylva Foundation to develop Sylva’s education strategy.

She is a qualified Forest School Leader and currently works at West Kidlington Primary School. She also works as an Outdoor Learning Specialist for the Hill End Centre and Combe Mill, Oxfordshire.

Jen taught Geography at secondary level before setting up Global Thinking Co-operative Ltd. With other education specialists she has delivered teacher training and curriculum development for schools and the University of Cambridge, and provided education consultancy to local and national charities.

Jen also has a background in community participation in natural resource management. She has worked in the UK for the Environment Agency, Thames21 and the Forestry Commission. Internationally she set up a charity to establish community involvement in a new National Park in Ghana and then studied particpatory forest management and extension at the University of Reading.

Board Members

Dr Nick Brown

Dr Nick Brown Nick is a University Lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, and the Principal of Linacre College.

He investigates how forests respond to both natural and human inflicted disturbance and the implications of this for sustainable management and has published in excess of 50 academic papers of these subjects.

He works with the UN Environment Programme on a number of forestry projects in parts of the developing world impacted by war and natural disaster. He is chair of the Wytham Woods management committee.

He was appointed Chairman of the Sylva Foundation in July 2012.

Dr Peter Savill FICFor

Dr Peter Savill Peter retired at the end of 2006 as a Reader in Forestry from the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford and Vice-Principal of Linacre College.

His research interests are in the fields of forest ecology, silviculture, and the improvement of broadleaved trees grown in Britain by selection and breeding. He has published over 100 academic papers and six books.

He is currently Chairman of the Trustees of the Future Trees Trust (formerly the British and Irish Hardwoods Improvement Programme), and a Trustee of two environmental charities. He has recently completed a revision of his book The Silviculture of Trees used in British Forestry.

Sir Martin Wood FRS Hon FREng

Sir Martin Wood Martin studied engineering at Cambridge University and Imperial College, and came to Oxford University to work in the Department of Physics.

He co-founded Oxford Instruments plc with his wife and devoted a lot of his time to developing high tech industry within the county, particularly companies formed to capitalise on university-based research.

Always interested in forestry and conservation, he now devotes most of his time to these subjects and in particular how to manage our forests in ways which produce most usable timber, compatible with wildlife conservation and social benefits.

He is a patron of both the Northmoor Trust and the Oxford Trust.

Lady Audrey Wood OBE MA

Lady Audrey Wood Audrey studied Biology and then English Literature at Cambridge.

She co-founded Oxford Instruments with her husband in 1959 and remained on the Board for twenty four years, finally writing a history of the company, published by OUP in 2001. As Company Secretary for many years she acquired corporate, legal and management experience.

She became involved in many other small companies and co-founded the Northmoor Trust for Countryside Conservation and the Oxford Trust to encourage the study and application of science and technology.

She remains a patron of both.

She has a deep interest in the countryside and its woodlands.

Lucius Cary OBE

Lucius Cary Lucius is the founder and managing director of Oxford Technology Management Ltd, which has specialised in making and managing investments in start-up technology-based businesses since 1983. He has a degree in engineering and economics from Oxford University, an MBA from Harvard Business School and was an engineering apprentice at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell. After forming and raising finance for his first business in 1972, he founded "Venture Capital Report" in 1978 and was its managing director for 17 years.

In March 1996, he became chairman and reduced his day-to-day involvement in order to concentrate more fully on Oxford Technology Management"s investment activities. By 2005, Oxford Technology Management had managed or advised nine seed capital funds which, between them, have made some 95 investments in early stage and start-up technology companies.

In 2003, he was awarded an OBE for services to business.

Lucius is the owner of a small woodland and is a keen woodworker.

Our Inspiration

John Evelyn

John Evelyn John Evelyn lived through the English Civil War, the Commonwealth, the Restoration, the reigns of Charles II, James II, William III and Mary II, and the early reign of Anne.

He was best known in his own lifetime and during the eighteenth century for his book Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees, a work produced in 1664 at the request of the Royal Society, following his delivery of a paper on the subject in 1662.

He highlighted the damage done to England"s wooded estates during the Interregnum and sought to encourage reforestation.

Sylva was one of his most substantial works and he prepared three further editions in his lifetime. The Sylva Foundation is sponsoring a new edition of this work entitled The New Sylva to be published by Bloomsbury in 2014. Read more.


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England and Wales 1128516
and in Scotland SC041892

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