Our Vision

mature oak growing in the Kingston Hill woodland

At Sylva Foundation we envisage a wood culture where people understand and promote the good stewardship of woodlands and are mindful of their utility, while being conscious of their fragility.

Future society will recognise the creative and productive value of forest products which can be derived from growing well-managed forests, and at the same time enhance their wider benefits for people and for nature. This will help result in a halt in the loss of biodiversity, a reduction in climate change, and a human society that can sustain itself.

Our actions today will be tangible in the love and respect that future generations afford our trees and forests.

Learn more about our work or how you can get involved

Our mission at Sylva Foundation

To use our forestry knowledge and information technology skills, supported by state-of-art evidence, to provide innovative solutions to some of the greatest environmental challenges facing modern society.

To work extensively and selflessly with others, recognising that collaboration is necessary to overcome the challenges of halting biodiversity loss and reducing climate change, while supporting the transition to a sustainable human society.

To deliver the training and education necessary to support the transformation of society, focussing on the stewardship of our forests and the utility of home-grown timber.

To undertake advocacy to inspire one another, raise awareness, and endow people with knowledge, passion, and the shared ambition for a better and more sustainable society.

Sylva Foundation Reports

Sylva Foundation Annual Reports

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Our History

Sylva is an old English word from the Latin silva, meaning a wood, forest, or woodland.

During the reign of Charles II in 1662, John Evelyn was asked by the Royal Society to draw attention to the damage done to England’s wooded estates during the English Interregnum and to encourage reforestation. The resulting paper was entitled: Sylva or a discourse on forest trees and the propagation of timber in His Majesty’s dominions. This led to the publication of his famous book with the same title in 1664, which ran to four editions during his lifetime, and many more afterwards.

The New Sylva authors and Sir Martin Wood

In 2006, Sir Martin Wood and Dr Gabriel Hemery founded a project seeking to review the status of Forestry in the UK: Forestry Horizons. The project was founded on the simple beliefs that trees are important, that we should look after them better, and have more of them.

From that work, the idea for a new charity dedicated to reviving Britain’s wood culture was born, which we defined as “the stewardship of woodland and the use of forest produce for a sustainable future.” Sylva Foundation was founded in March 2009.

Martin’s friendship and leadership transformed my life, professionally and personally, and consequently the lives of the entire Sylva team, the thousands of people we work with, and the tens of thousands of hectares of woodland we help care for across Britain. On my office wall hangs a framed note from Martin that I found waiting on my desk on the first day we started working on the idea of founding a new charity: ‘Greetings, a great day – we’re going to change the face of forestry in the British Isles!’ In a few words, this perfectly captures Martin’s unparalleled vision, philanthropy, and humanity.

Gabriel Hemery, CEO Sylva Foundation
Martin & Audrey Wood

Staff and Associates

Sylva Team

Gabriel Hemery, Chief Executive

Dr Gabriel Hemery co-founded Sylva Foundation with the late Sir Martin Wood in 2009, and has since led the charity as its Chief Executive.In addition to his duties as CEO, Gabriel leads on the charity’s scientific work, and supports colleagues working on forestry projects.

Richard Pigott, Head of Web Development

Richard has led the development of the Sylva Foundation’s suite of websites, marrying a keen eye for design with full stack programming skills. He has a pivotal role in developing our cutting edge web technologies with the myForest and NatureBid services.

Paul Orsi, Director of Operations

Paul is a Chartered Forester and a Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.He joined Sylva Foundation in 2013 from Blenheim Palace, where he managed the rural estate of 5,500ha, which included 700ha of woodland.

Joseph Bray, Head of Wood School

Joe leads the Sylva Foundation’s Wood School and describes himself as a designer, maker and teacher. He is passionate about inspiring and supporting people to become skilled craftspeople and furniture makers. He has been directly involved in the furniture industry for the past 25 years.

Oliver Price, Web Developer

Ollie joined the Sylva Foundation in 2021, after graduating from Sussex University with a BSc in Computer Sciences with Games and Multimedia Environments.

Phil Gullam, Senior Tutor

Phil joined Sylva Foundation in 2022 to support teaching at the Sylva Wood School. He previously taught at Rycotewood for a number of years, teaching various furniture-making courses.

Lucie Henwood, Finance Manager

With a background in agriculture and the wooden boat industry, Lucie joined the Sylva team in 2023 as part-time Finance Manager.

Andrew Clark, Head of Forestry

Andrew is a Bangor University Forestry graduate from a farming background with a career spanning over 25 years of public and private sector forestry throughout the UK, ranging from the uplands to the lowlands and everything in between. His experience of grants, regulations and forestry management mean he is well placed to help myForest users make the most of its capabilities, as well as helping with the development of the many other projects in the Sylva pipeline.

Christine Howard, Sylva Foundation

Christine Howard, Operations Administrator

Christine joined the Sylva team in 2023 as part-time Operations Administrator. She is a Chartered Landscape Architect and green infrastructure specialist, with a background in consultancy and public sector working.

Sylva Associates

George Dennison, Forester

George joined Sylva Foundation in 2020, after graduating from Bangor University with a Masters in Forestry with International Experience, including a year abroad at the University of British Columbia.

Our Impact

We are still a small charity. Yet, through our strong reputation for our knowledge base, and our innovative work that brings people and organisations together – we make things happen…

Sarah Taylor, Chair of Sylva Foundation Trustees

Sylva Foundation Impact Reports

Sylva Foundation continues to influence both policy and practice to support sustainable development across the length and breadth of Britain. 

Sylva Foundation Impact Report 2022 - the year in numbers

Find out how our main initiatives are making an impact today

myForest

Innovative digital tools for forest creation and management

Wood School

Inspiring excellence in craft, design and education using home-grown timber

NatureBid

A collaborative environmental funding platform

Never before have we faced a global challenge to conserve life itself. We must work together to reduce the impacts of the climate crisis, develop and support a transformation into a sustainable society, and halt the loss of biodiversity. We believe Sylva Foundation is already playing a significant part. We hope that you will support us to make our positive impact even greater.

Gabriel Hemery, CEO Sylva Foundation

Sylva Foundation as a Charitable Trust

Sylva Foundation is a charity registered in England and Wales 1128516 and in Scotland SC041892.

Sylva Foundation charitable objects are to promote the conservation of the environment for the public benefit consistent with sustainable development principles by:

  1. promoting and conducting research for the public benefit about effective sustainable forest management and the dissemination of the useful results of such research;
  2. advancing education for the public benefit in the theory and practice of sustainable forest management;
  3. supporting the development and application of sustainable forest management for the public benefit;
  4. advancing education and business enterprise in the design and production of home-grown wood products for the public benefit.
Joan Webber discusses Chalara fraxinea in a Norfolk woodland

Sylva’s Trustees

Sylva Foundation is governed by a Board of Trustees. They are responsible for the overall strategic direction and oversight of the charity, ensuring regulatory compliance, monitoring and evaluating risks, and approval of the annual budget and audited accounts.

Jim Waterson

After a degree at Wye College, University of London, Jim worked in New Zealand before returning to the UK to begin a career in sawmilling and forestry contracting, then moving into forest and land management in the private and voluntary sectors.

Dr James Morison

James Morison is a forest environmental scientist, leading research on understanding the impacts of, and the response to climate change of trees, forests and forestry at Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission.

Luke Hughes

Luke Hughes is a designer specialising in site-specific furniture in architecture, embodying the highest standards of British design, production and craftsmanship.

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 science-based businesses in and around Oxford since 1983.

Dr Robin Buxton

Robin Buxton’s career has focussed on building effective organisations and networks to strengthen nature conservation in the UK. He has been Chair of the Earth Trust and Wild Oxfordshire, and Vice-President of CIEEM (the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management).

Dr Mary Barkham

Mary has had a career spanning both the public and private sector. She has a degree in horticultural science and a PhD in plant pathology. Following a period of research in universities, she worked in fungicide research for Dow Chemical.