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