Due to Covid-19, we have reduced personnel at the offices of the Sylva Foundation and our premises at the Sylva Wood Centre. Emails and phone messages are being checked but please allow a little longer than usual to receive a response.
Please do not arrange a formal visit without first checking with us. Members of the public are free to enjoy our network of permitted paths through the Future Forest as usual.

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Join us for Artweeks 2021

posted on May 7, 2021

We are pleased to be opening up the Sylva Wood Centre again to the public for Artweeks 2021.

We are open for two weekends: 15/16 and 22/23 May from 10am-5pm.

In a change from previous years, we are providing more open workshops that visitors can enjoy seeing the craftspeople at work and talk to them about their work. We are also excited to be able to open up the new Wood School to members of the public, and visitors will be able to meet with our tutor and students.

As always, take advantage of free parking and enjoy homemade cakes plus tea and coffee in the Hardwood Cafe.

Find us on the Oxfordshire Artweeks website: www.artweeks.org/festival/2021/sylva-wood-centre

COVID-19: we will be following government advice to ensure the safety of visitors. Many of our spaces are large and well-ventilated, and any access to any smaller spaces will be limited to 5 visitors at a time. Handwashing and sterilising stations will be provided.

 

Artweeks 2021 (1)

Artweeks 2021 (1)

Artweeks 2021 (2)

Artweeks 2021 (2)

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Mary Barkham Appointed Trustee

posted on March 23, 2021

We are delighted to welcome Dr Mary Barkham as a trustee of the Sylva Foundation. Mary was appointed as a trustee at a board meeting held on 19th March 2021.

Mary Barkham Sylva trustee

Dr Mary Barkham Sylva trustee

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 followed by 14 years with the Research Councils coordinating environmental research in the UK through the Environmental Research Funders’ Forum and the Living With Environmental Change Partnership.

In 2014 she became a Forestry Commissioner for England and Scotland, has sat on the expert Committee on Forest Science and the Forest Research Board. Now retired, Mary continues to Chair the Partnership Board for Observatree (an award-winning citizen science project on tree health), is a Trustee for the William Robinson Gravetye Charity and was until recently a Trustee for the Earth Trust.

Mary lives in Wales where she is doing an eco-renovation of a farmhouse and enjoying walking and gardening.

Read more about Sylva Foundation’s board of trustees

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Pioneering project to safeguard our iconic oaks launched

posted on March 12, 2021

The FUTURE OAK project, comprising scientists at Bangor University, Aberystwyth University, Forest Research and Sylva Foundation, will study how oak microbiomes are affected by environmental change and disease.

FUTURE OAK logo

Visit the Future Oak website

The UK is home to around 170 million oak trees, and more ancient oak trees than the rest of Europe combined. Native oak support over 2000 species of insects, birds, mammals, and fungi, but climate change, human activity, and outbreaks of tree disease are affecting the health of our forests. Acute Oak Decline (or AOD) poses a significant threat to our native oak trees. Trees with AOD are weakened by environmental stresses, like drought, and several different bacteria cause the inner bark tissue to rot. Bark-boring beetles also feed on the inner bark of weakened trees, further increasing bacterial activity. Eventually, the outer bark cracks, releasing fluid from the rotting inner tissue and causing the distinctive stem ‘bleeds’ that are observed on trees affected by AOD.

Like humans, trees have trillions of microbes living on and inside them. This collection of microbes and the part of the plant where they are active is called the ‘microbiome’. Microbiomes are important for plant and animal health – they provide nutrients for growth, regulate immune systems, and protect against pathogens. Beneficial microbes in a tree’s microbiome are essential for fighting diseases.

Prof. James McDonald, the project leader explained:

“The FUTURE OAK project will analyse hundreds of native oaks across Britain to understand which microbes promote health and fight diseases. We’ll then test the ability of these microbes to suppress bacteria which cause disease. This will help us to develop biocontrol treatments for the oak microbiome, to promote healthier trees and suppress the symptoms of AOD. Working with forest managers, we’ll seek to understand how microbiomes fit with established understandings of tree health, and how our research can help.”

Safeguarding our iconic oaks

Prof McDonald added:

“We are delighted to receive funding for this project, and look forward to working with land-owners and forest managers to safeguard our iconic oaks and the ecosystems they provide for future generations.”

Chief Plant Health Officer, Nicola Spence, said:

“It is vital we do all we can to protect our oak trees for future generations. The FUTURE OAK research project will play an important role in finding solutions to make this iconic tree species more resilient. This project is supported by Action Oak – a pioneering, collaborative partnership which is raising funds for ambitious research projects such as FUTURE OAK.”

The research is supported by £1.3M of funding from the Bacterial Plant Diseases programme funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Defra and Scottish Government and is also supported by Action Oak.

Visit the Future Oak website to find out more


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Help Shape Tree Health Policy

posted on February 12, 2021

If you manage trees in England, whether in an urban or rural setting and at any scale, from large woodlands through to individual trees, we want to hear your views on a range of potential tree health policies and interventions. This is a chance for you to help shape future support from government.

The results of this survey, with other research outputs, will feed into the development of a Tree Health scheme, as part of the government’s Agricultural Transition Plan published on 30 November 2020.

Stakeholder engagement workshop in Somerset led by Sylva Foundation

Stakeholder engagement workshop in Somerset led by Sylva Foundation

This survey builds on recent work exploring tree health issues with expert stakeholders across England. A team from Defra, Forest Research, Sylva Foundation, and the Countryside & Community Research Institute, held a series of workshops with landowners, managers and agents. This survey will test the ideas and principles developed in those workshops.

The survey focusses on four ‘host’ tree species at grave risk of attack by pests or pathogens: ash, larch, spruce, and sweet chestnut. For each of the species, we want you to tell us what blend of regulation, financial support, and advice would deliver the best outcomes. In your response we encourage you to choose any combination of tree species that is relevant to you.

The Tree Health Policy Survey launches formally on 15 February and will remain open for 2 weeks until 1 March.

Please take part: http://resilient-treescapes-survey.sylva.org.uk


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Sylva CEO receives Peter Savill Award

posted on January 27, 2021

In 2020, CEO Dr Gabriel Hemery was jointly awarded, with Professor Julian Evans, the Peter Savill Award for contributions to the British forestry industry.

Peter’s widow Michelle Savill recently visited the Sylva Wood Centre to hand over the beautiful prize, turned from a piece of walnut burr. The great silviculturist Dr Peter Savill served as a trustee of Sylva Foundation since the charity’s inception and later as its Chair of trustees. Gabriel first worked with Peter when they collaborated in establishing the British & Irish Hardwoods Improvement Programme (which later became a charity in its own right, the Future Trees Trust), and he supervised Gabriel’s DPhil at the University of Oxford. The pair continued to work closely together, running field trials, co-authoring research papers, and supporting the work of various charities.

Dr Gabriel Hemery, CEO Sylva Foundation, receiving the Savill Award from Michelle Savill

Dr Gabriel Hemery, CEO Sylva Foundation, receiving the Savill Award from Michelle Savill at the Sylva Wood Centre

The prize is awarded each year by Woodland Heritage, and was first awarded in 2007. Read more: www.woodlandheritage.org/awards

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Jim Waterson Appointed Trustee

posted on December 1, 2020

We are delighted to welcome Jim Waterson MICFor MRICS as a trustee of the Sylva Foundation. Jim was appointed as a trustee at a board meeting held on 25th November 2020.

Talking about his appointment, Jim Waterson commented:

“I have the strong conviction that resilient trees, woods and forests are more important than ever at local, national and global levels. They have immense potential to improve lives, provide valuable goods and services and in meeting existing and future challenges that we all face. It is for all these reasons that I am so pleased to be joining the Sylva Foundation, as this unique organisation is transforming the industry through its innovative activities and leadership in sustainable forestry.”

Jim Waterson, Sylva Foundation trustee

Jim Waterson, Sylva Foundation trustee

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. He was able to enjoy challenging work roles and to develop some specialist capability in managing complex, multi-functional woodlands, in development and application of low-impact working methods and in meaningful and productive community engagement.

After twenty years in industry Jim joined Harper Adams University to teach forestry and forest products subjects to undergraduates. He also runs the postgraduate Forestry Management programmes, which he was responsible for developing from scratch some years ago.

His time in education has enabled him to build links with many within the forest and woodland sector and to have a role in introducing large numbers of young people to forestry and forest products. Some have gone on to develop successful and significant careers within the commercial, voluntary and state forest sectors and he says he is fortunate to be able to maintain contact with many of them.

Jim has just finished a term as a member of Council of the Institute of Chartered Foresters and chairing the ICF Professional, Education and Scientific Committee. He continues to sit on the Woodland Trust’s Conservation Advisory Group.

His particular interests are applied silviculture, woodland management for multiple products and outcomes and the development and support of viable wood and woodland-based enterprise. Jim also has an interest in direct seeding as an alternative means of forest and woodland establishment.

Jim’s interests and commitments outside of work are primarily centred on family, and until recently they have been managing a mixed wood on the English/Welsh border.

Read more about Sylva Foundation’s board of trustees

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Annual Report and Accounts 2019-20

posted on October 5, 2020

We have published our Trustee’s Report and Independent Accounts for the year 2019-20.

2019-20 at a glance:

  • deeply saddened by the death of one our founding trustees, Dr Peter Savill
  • appointed two new trustees, including our new Chair of Trustees, Sarah Taylor
  • supported a high-profile research paper on ash dieback, based on the work of our last Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholar Dr Louise Hill
  • partnered with government to explore ways to make treescapes more resilient
  • completed a project aiming to make Forest Schools accessible to all children across Britain
  • launched a suite of resources to support ‘Fieldwork in the Forest‘ at secondary schools
  • with our online auction platform NatureBid, we helped support environmental outcomes with multiple partners, including natural flood management, reducing nitrate fertiliser usage, and supporting the Woodland Carbon Guarantee
  • myForest supported 6,000 woodland owners and managers caring for 100,000ha of woodland across Britain
  • won a contract Defra to develop a new online platform to support woodland creation in the Northern Forest, working in partnership with the Forestry Commission and the Woodland Trust
  • supported 15+ small-medium enterprises working with wood at the Sylva Wood Centre
  • delivered training in woodworking to members of the public and schools at the Sylva Wood School
  • started work converting another large derelict building at the Sylva Wood Centre, including demonstration of novel thermally-modified hardwoods in its construction
  • worked with more than 100 volunteers to design and build an Anglo-Saxon house on our estate and welcomed HRH The Countess of Wessex to open it
Sylva Foundation Annual Report and Accounts 2020

Sylva Foundation Annual Report and Accounts 2020 – click to download

Financial Summary

Sylva Foundation funds 2019-20

Sylva Foundation funds 2019-20

Income

Income (£472,374) was 38% less compared to the last financial year (£766,420). 33% of total income was received in donations, the majority (67%) of which were restricted to specific activities. The majority of income for Charitable Activities (£220,362) came from performance-related grants (£69,380). Income from Trading Activities was £91,535, the majority of which was from business leases at the Sylva Wood Centre.

Expenditure and Additions
Total expenditure was £502,777 which included £253,775 investment (Additions) in ongoing capital building projects at the Sylva Wood Centre. Our overheads (excluding Additions), comprising income generation, admin, and governance, represented 25% of expenditure.

Funds

The charity’s funds were £1,794,617 at the end of the 2019-20 financial year. The majority (84%) of these were designated funds.

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British Woodlands Survey 2020 report published

posted on October 1, 2020

An independent report released today highlights that those who care for woodlands and forests across Britain are increasingly aware of the threats from environmental change, especially drought, wildfires, and pathogens, such as ash dieback and acute oak decline, yet there’s little evidence of action being taken overall to improve woodland resilience.

BWS2020 report

BWS2020 report

The 2020 edition of the British Woodlands Survey, funded by the Forestry Commission and co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation, attracted the views of 1,055 woodland owners, agents, and forestry professionals, representing 3% of privately-owned woodland in Britain. With environmental change as its main theme, the research team from Sylva Foundation and Forest Research explored awareness, action, and aspiration among the private sector which owns 74% of forested land in Britain.

Hand-in-hand with increasing awareness and observation of environmental threats, the report highlighted concerns that many of those who own or manage woodlands are not actively planning or managing in ways which would make woodlands more resilient in future. For example, a minority of respondents had considered local climate change projections or studied the soils that support their woodlands. A key indicator that an owner or manager has considered threats from environmental change while planning to make a woodland more resilient is having a management plan compliant with UK Forestry Standard. The report’s authors highlighted that a minority (31%) of respondents had a UKFS management plan in place.

Looking to the future, many respondents indicated that they might consider creating new woodlands and planting new hedgerows or agroforestry systems in the longer-term. In the short-term, however, complexities of regulations and bureaucratic grants were seen as significant hurdles preventing more landowners from considering woodland creation. This is a concern given ambitious woodland creation plans to plant 30,000ha of trees across the UK by 2025 (see Defra blog).

The report has been published in time to inform government’s England Tree Strategy and the third Climate Change Risk Assessment, and it will underpin the work of the Forestry and Climate Change working group which oversees the delivery of an action plan promoting adaptation and resilience in England.

The report’s lead author Dr Gabriel Hemery, who is also CEO of the Sylva Foundation, commented:

‘There are a huge number of interesting findings in the report, but if I was to pick one to highlight it would be how we have unearthed a very strong relationship between current activity and future intended actions among land managers. This is significant because it points to the importance of investing more in advocacy and support for those who own or manage our woodlands. The benefits will be realised not only in their woodlands, but by nature and by society as a whole.’

Forestry Commission Chair Sir William Worsley said:

‘This independent report, which we commissioned, highlights how important it is that we continue to nurture our woodlands. They are the cornerstone of a healthy environment and crucial in the fight against climate change. We recognise the challenges that landowners face when making management decisions, and we are committed to working closely with them to support long-term management, ensuring healthy and resilient woodlands for the future.’

Simon Lloyd, Chair of the Forestry and Climate Change Working Group (FCCWG) and CEO of the Royal Forestry Society added:

‘This is an immensely useful report in our work promoting adaptation and resilience in the country’s forests. While there are some positive indications of changes in awareness and behaviour, overall it’s clear that the forestry sector is not doing enough nor reacting quickly enough to combat the climate emergency.’

A series of four online workshops during October organised by the FCCWG and hosted by the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) are being held to help support woodland managers in combating climate change. Attendance online is free to all, including ICF non-members – find out more.

The British Woodlands Survey 2020 report is freely available at: www.sylva.org.uk/bws2020

BWS2020 infographic

BWS2020 infographic


British Woodlands Survey   The British Woodlands Survey (BWS) gathers evidence about Britain’s woodlands and those who care for them. The BWS aims to provide an evidence base on which future policies and practice can be developed. The first British Woodlands Survey was held in 2012 which itself built upon an important series of surveys undertaken by the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge since 1963. The intention was always that a major survey was repeated every five years, while any number of additional surveys on specific themes may be run as required. The British Woodlands Survey is coordinated by Sylva Foundation and run in partnership with a large number of organisations. Summary results are always published in a report and made freely available. Where possible data collected is also used to support peer-reviewed scientific research. For more information visit: www.sylva.org.uk/bws


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A discussion about Wood Culture

posted on July 23, 2020

Recently, Sylva Foundation CEO Dr Gabriel Hemery was interviewed by Tom Barnes, Director of Vastern Timber, about Wood Culture. They discussed public perspectives of forestry and the need to recreate an affinity between society and the natural world.

 

With thanks to Vastern Timber.


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Welcome to our new Forester

posted on July 6, 2020

We’re delighted to welcome George Dennison to Sylva as a new member of staff taking up the new role of Forester.

Thanks to grant funding provided by the John Ellerman Foundation the new position of Forester at Sylva will mean we have more capacity to work with landowners, forestry professionals, and partners to support sustainable forestry across Britain.

George Dennison, Forester at Sylva Foundation

George Dennison, Forester at Sylva Foundation

Appointee George Dennison graduated this summer from Bangor University with a Masters in Forestry with International Experience, including a year abroad at the University of British Columbia.

While studying George became a board member of the International Forestry Students’ Association where he was fortunate enough to travel to several countries exploring the world through forestry. Having worked as a part-time arboriculturalist and land manager between semesters, he is keen to begin putting theory and policy into practice across the UK in the years to come.


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