Local school children gear up for the Future Forest

October 5, 2016
Willowcroft children at the Future Forest September 2016

Children from Willowcroft Community School at the Future Forest, September 2016

Tesco Bags of Help grant supports the Future Forest

Tesco Bags of Help grant supports the Future Forest

We announced two weeks ago the fabulous news that we will receive a grant from the Tesco Bags of Help scheme – read more. Voting by members of the public in Tesco stores near us in south Oxfordshire could help us attract even more funding and help us support more work with young children from local schools. Voting opens 31st October to 13th November.

This week the local paper visited to cover the story and we were lucky to have the support of children from one of the primary schools taking part in planting the Future Forest. Seven children from Willowcroft Community School came to see the bare arable field, where they will return after Christmas and help plant 7,500 trees.

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Ignite training course: Managing woods for woodfuel

October 4, 2016
Ignite training programme

Ignite training programme

We are pleased to announce an Ignite training courses to be held at the Sylva Wood Centre on 12th October: Managing woods for woodfuel.


MANAGING WOODS FOR WOODFUEL is a one day practical training course focusing on the use of small woodlands for the production of woodfuel products.  Topics covered include:
  • Management systems – management regimes that can be applied to different woodland types
  • Crop assessment – techniques for measuring standing timber, timber quality and potential markets
  • Harvesting and extraction – small scale operation techniques, machinery and equipment in use in the UK today
  • Conversion of the timber into woodfuel, ensuring compliance with the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and Biomass Suppliers List (BSL) reporting requirements.
  • The day includes a practical site visit to demonstrate in-forest timber measurement in a local woodland.

The course date and venue is:

  • Wednesday 12th October – Sylva Wood Centre, Long Wittenham, Oxford, OX14 4QT

All Ignite courses are Lantra Awards accredited and trainees receive a certificate of attendance.


Ignite is an innovative training programme of practical seminars and interactive workshops with a focus on woodfuel. Ignite is designed for those wanting to know more about woodfuel and to equip new and existing woodfuel businesses with the skills and knowledge required to meet the increasing demand for high quality products from this growing alternative market. Compliance with the sustainability requirements for fuel supplied to systems receiving RHI payments are a key feature of all our Ignite courses.


To book, please contact Erica Spencer at RDI Associates by:

Full course details are available on the RDI website:


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Anglo-Saxon building discovered at the Sylva Wood Centre

September 27, 2016

An Anglo-Saxon building has been discovered on our land at the Sylva Wood Centre.

The large house or hall was excavated in autumn 2016 by a team comprising local people, volunteers trained in archaeological techniques through a now completed HLF project in East Oxford, and archaeology students from Oxford University Department for Continuing Education (OUDCE). The team was led by University of Oxford archaeologists from the School of Archaeology and OUDCE.

Archaeological excavations at Sylva Wood Centre September 2016

Archaeological excavations at Sylva Wood Centre September 2016. Photo Adam McBride.

It seems that the village of Long Wittenham lay within the heartland of the early kingdom of the Gewisse, later known as the West Saxons. The area has produced evidence of a wide range of early medieval activity, of which the recently-excavated Anglo-Saxon building forms an important part. Two early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries containing richly furnished weapon burials indicative of links with mainland Europe, and an adjacent complex of large, high-status buildings visible in aerial photographs, lie just a few hundred metres from our building.

The excavated building is likely to date to the seventh century, a period that saw rapid social change in England including the emergence of the first English kings and the conversion to Christianity. Timber remained the building material of choice for Anglo-Saxon kings and nobility, even several centuries after stone construction was reintroduced for building churches. Indeed, the word ‘timber’ is an Anglo-Saxon one and was synonymous with the act of building itself.

Oxford TV visited this week and interviewed Jane Harrison from University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education, DPhil student Adam McBride, and volunteers – watch the clip below.

Category: Announcements

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UK could double its hardwood timber production and reduce reliance on imports

September 22, 2016

The UK currently consumes more than 0.5M cubic metres of hardwood timber every year but less than 10% of this is grown in the UK. Yet sustainable home-grown timber production could be doubled by 2050, reducing timber imports by 50,000 cubic metres. This would underpin investment in innovation both in the utilisation of our woodlands and their management. These are the dramatic findings of the Grown in Britain WoodStock report published this month.

opportunities for uk hardwood

Some opportunities for UK hardwood


  1. An increase of 20% in hardwood timber production is achievable in the short-term, reaching 100% increase by 2050.
  2. For the next 40 years 400,000 cubic meters could be brought to market sustainably, without reducing the overall growing stock in our woodlands.
  3. If timber specifications are altered, to reduce the specification of oak in favour of other species, and with improvements to infrastructure, then there is significant scope to increase production eight fold over the long term.
  4. Timber imports could be reduced by approximately 50,000 cubic metres per year.
  5. A gap in the supply chain was identified, similar to consolidation yards run by timber exporters in other countries, supplying licensed timber direct to wholesalers. Grown in Britain WoodStock could fulfill a role in providing this licensed timber at a competitive price.
  6. An online timber buying platform could help organise stocks and help with marketing, possibly linking right back to woodland owners who have access to their own processing facilities.
  7. The research project consortium was led by Grown in Britain and included Sylva Foundation alongside BRE, English Woods Timber, Forestry Commission, Sustainable Construction Solutions, and Wilmott Dixon. Partial funding was provided by Innovate UK.


Read more about the WoodStock project and Grown in Britain

Download the full report

Download the full report




Category: WOOD
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Help shape the next national woodlands survey

September 14, 2016
British Woodlands Survey 2017

British Woodlands Survey 2017 – click to read more

The team behind the next major survey about our woodlands — launching in June 2017 — wants to hear from anyone with an interest in shaping the future of forestry in the UK.

This is an opportunity for you to shape the fourth in a series of important national surveys, which will contribute to the development of forestry policy and practice in the UK.

Adopting a novel approach, the researchers are inviting participants to suggest important themes the survey should address. They are calling this ‘360-degree’ research, meaning that participants suggest the themes, then can help by contributing ideas and helping interpret findings. There will also be opportunities to take part in workshops around the UK.

Your participation is welcome in all or any of the following phases:

Phase 1 – Help shape the survey by suggesting priorities. September 2016.

Phase 2 – Attend a workshop to agree final themes & priorities. February 2017.

Phase 3 – Contribute to the survey. June 2017.

Phase 4 – Help review findings. September 2017.


To read more about the survey series and find out how take part in Phase 1 – click here


Core Supporters of BWS2017

BWS2017 is led by researchers from Forest Research, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford and Woodland Trust. Funding is provided by Scottish Forestry Trust, Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission Scotland.


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Bags of Help for Future Forest Education

September 13, 2016
Tesco Bags of Help

Tesco Bags of Help

Sylva Foundation calls for votes to bag a share of £12.5million carrier bag charge fund. The charity is bidding to bag a massive cash boost from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative.

The supermarket has teamed up with Groundwork on its Bags of Help initiative, which sees grants of £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 – all raised from the 5p bag levy – being awarded to environmental and greenspace projects.

Three groups in each of Tesco’s 416 regions have been shortlisted to receive the cash award and this month shoppers are being invited to head along to Tesco stores to vote for who they think should take away the top grant. Sylva Foundation has been shortlisted for its local region.

Big Future Forest Plot Project

Big Future Forest Plot Project

The Big Future Forest Plot Project will see over 300 children from 10 primary schools local to the Sylva Wood Centre in Long Wittenham choose and plant trees on 10 plots this winter. As the Future Forest grows schools will be offered the opportunity to use it to Forest School sessions and children and their families can visit ‘their’ school plot to see its progress and enjoy the new green space.

Dr Gabriel Hemery, CEO of Sylva Foundation explains:

“We’re so delighted to be chosen as one of the region’s projects to be funded by TESCO Bags of Help. The grant means hundreds of local children can get involved in creating and learning from this wonderful new sustainable woodland. On planting days they’ll get their hands dirty, out in the fresh air, choosing and planting many different species of new trees. And they can come back with their schools and their families for many years to come to see how the Forest grows. This is a project with a long legacy.”

Shoppers visiting Abingdon Extra, Didcot Superstore and Faringdon Metro will be able to vote for Sylva’s project: voting is open from 31st October to 13th November. Customers can cast their vote using a token given to them at the check-out in store each time they shop.

This is the second round of the initiative: the first round saw approximately eight million shoppers vote in stores up and down the country earlier this year.

Lindsey Crompton, Head of Community at Tesco, said:

“The first round of the Bags of Help initiative was a fantastic success.

“In total 1,170 community groups were awarded £8,000, £10,000 or £12,000 – that’s a massive £11.7 million being invested into local projects.

“We are already seeing some great results from groups transforming their own environmental and greenspace areas.

“We are absolutely delighted to open the voting for round two. There are some fantastic projects on the shortlists and we can’t wait to see them come to life in hundreds of communities.”

Groundwork’s national Chief Executive, Graham Duxbury, said:

“Bags of Help is giving our communities both the funding and the support to create better, healthier and greener places for everyone to enjoy.

“We’ve been thrilled to see the diversity of projects that have applied for funding, ranging from outdoor classrooms, sports facilities, community gardens, play areas and everything in between. They’re all fantastic projects that make a real difference in our neighbourhoods.

“We’re looking forward to learning the results of the customer vote and then supporting each group to bring their project to life.”

Read the full Press Release



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Volunteer supports our forest education work

September 8, 2016

We’re very fortunate to have a new volunteer working in support of our forest education programme.

Pieternel Overweel, Sylva Education Officer

Pieternel Overweel, Sylva Education Officer

Pieternel Overweel has a background in Art, with a MA in Art History at Free University Amsterdam, and studied Fine Arts at the Royal Academy of Arts at the Hague. She was an art educator at the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland, California, and focussed on teaching arts and crafts when she lived in Stockholm, Sweden. Currently she runs her own company in web and print design.

Pieternel got in touch with Sylva Foundation looking for ways to get out of an office job. Currently she is finishing the Forest School Leader training at Hill End Centre, Oxfordshire.

Talking about why she decided to volunteer for Sylva Pieternel said:

“I volunteer for Sylva Foundation because it integrates the full circle of interplay of nature and arts, and at the same time allows me to put energy in something that actually matters; helping build a more sustainable future.”

We rely on the generosity of individual volunteers who provide a very wide range of skills, knowledge and experience. Find out more.


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Woodland owners – have your say in the 2017 Charter

September 7, 2016

Woodland owners and custodians across Britain are being asked to take part in a unique consultation in support of the 2017 Charter for trees, woods and people.

Charter for Trees, Woods and People

Charter for Trees, Woods and People

More than 50 organisations, co-ordinated by the Woodland Trust, are leading UK society in a call for a charter that will ensure that people and trees can stand stronger together in the future. This charter, strengthened by support from all corners of society, will provide guidelines and principles for policy, decision-makers, businesses, communities and individuals.

Sylva Foundation is pleased to be hosting a consultation that will enable woodland owners and custodians across the UK to help define the 2017 Charter for Trees, Woods and People.

The consultation is the only activity specifically aimed at ensuring the views of woodland owners or custodians are reflected in the charter. More than two-thirds of woodlands are held in private hands, so it is vital that the voices of woodland owners/custodians are captured. If you are a woodland owner or custodian, or represent a woodland owner, we would like to record your hopes and fears for the future of your woodland, to ensure that the charter speaks for you, and supports you in your vital role as custodian of the nation’s woodland heritage.

The consultation questions should take only five minutes to complete, or longer if you wish to share more stories. The name of your woodland will be officially recorded in the 2017 Charter for trees, woods and people.

To take part visit:

Sylva Foundation CEO Gabriel Hemery has written a blog post for the Charter website: read it here


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Congratulations to Blenheim forester Nick Baimbridge

Congratulations to Blenheim Palace forestry foreman Nick Baimbridge for his recent Long Service Award from the Royal Forestry Society.

Nick Baimbridge long service award on the RFS news

Nick Baimbridge long service award on the RFS news

We worked closely with Nick during the OneOak education project (2009-12). He felled the magnificent OneOak tree while watched by 350 schoolchildren plus invited guests.

Looking back over his 30 years Nick says:

“The reason I took up forestry was that I was an outdoor lad, interested in nature and I didn’t want to be stuck inside working in an office. What I enjoy the most is the variety of work we do – never enough time to get bored but the proudest moment that sticks out is being involved in the One Oak project starting in 2009, which at the time was the most studied oak tree in Britain. I would encourage people to take up forestry, it is a great way of life and woodlands always need managing.”

Read more about Nick’s award

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Welcome to new craftsperson-in-residence

August 24, 2016

We are delighted to welcome a new Rycotewood craftsperson-in-residence to the Sylva Wood Centre. Jan Waterston graduated in July from the Rycotewood Furniture Centre at Oxford City College.

Jan Waterston designer maker

Jan Waterston, designer maker, working at the Sylva Wood Centre studio supported by Rycotewood Furniture Oxford.

Jan has a passion for exploring creative concepts and turning them into tangible objects that are not only visually stimulating but that are functional in use.

Velo RS by Jan Waterston

Velo RS by Jan Waterston

Talking of his arrival at the Sylva Wood Centre Jan Waterston commented:

“I’m really pleased to move into the studio at Sylva. It’s great to be surrounded by such a diverse and inspiring group of crafts people, in such a beautiful setting.”

Make sure you visit Jan Waterston’s website to see more of his beautiful craft.

Read more about Sylva’s relationship with Rycotewood Furniture Centre

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