Annual review 2015-16

July 21, 2016

We have published our Annual Review for 2015-16.

The review can be viewed online or downloaded here, while we are happy to send out a paper copy on request.


Sylva Foundation Annual Review 2015-16

Sylva Foundation Annual Review 2015-16


  • 1,260 ash trees tagged by citizen scientists
  • Climate Change Accord – drafting led by Sylva, signed by 35 partner organisations
  • British Woodlands Survey on resilience, reached 1509 respondents, capturing intelligence for: 257,891ha or 11% of all privately-owned woodland in UK


  • 513 environmental educators supported via myForest for Education


  • 3,983 woodland owners supported by Sylva myForest service
  • 45,458ha of woodland mapped
  • 537 management plans produced


  • 7 new businesses hosted in newly opened
  • 29 workshops & talks delivered to 1,091 people

Writing about the future, Chief Executive Gabriel Hemery said:

“The charity was founded on the belief and investment of a few visionary people who see trees differently. With the support of more far-sighted individuals, trusts and businesses we will continue our work turning this vision into positive, sustainable environmental change.”

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those that support us. We would not be able to fulfill our objectives without the enormous goodwill and enthusiasm of so many wonderful organisations and individuals. Thank you.

If you would like a paper copy (thanks to sponsorship by Freeths solicitors) of the Annual Review 2015-16, please get in touch.


Category: Announcements

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Danish students scoop top prize in timber design competition

A design for a cutting-edge timber structure, inspired by nature, scooped the honours and the £3,000 top prize in TRADA’s National Student Design Competition, which this year was hosted by Sylva Foundation at the Sylva Wood Centre.

This year’s competition – dubbed Arboreal – challenged student designers to explore the science of timber as a modern construction material for a design for an exciting Sylva Wood Centre run by tree and forestry charity, Sylva Foundation.

Sylva Foundation Chief Executive Gabriel Hemery said:

“We are very grateful indeed to TRADA, sponsors and judges for making this competition such a huge success. It was exciting to the competition entrants that the brief was a real one. Now we would like to move forward and consider how we could build a structure like this at the Sylva Wood Centre. We would welcome any expressions of interest.”

The winning design – dubbed The Leaf – was created by students Laila Alawneh and Yliana Cristova from Aalborg University in Denmark. The judges were unanimous in their choice of the winner, which blended the performance characteristics of timber with a highly decorative aesthetic.

Laila and Yliana beat off strong competition from students from the University of Coventry, Wolverhampton University, University of Strathclyde and Edinburgh University, although the judges were so impressed by the standard of entries this year they awarded not one but two ‘Highly Commended’ prizes. University of Coventry’s Piotr A Bieluga and Adam Cross, from Wolverhampton University, both picked up Highly Commended awards, while students from Edinburgh University won Best Use of British Timber for their entry, entitled Group 9.

The design brief included creating a new two-storey timber structure to serve as a multi use building, housing offices, seminar space, exhibition space and a field laboratory. In the new design students had to reflect the ethos and vision of the charity. At the same time, they needed to incorporate cutting-edge materials and technologies throughout to act as inspiration to visitors and users and create a sustainable building both with the materials they propose and long term usage of the new building.

Charlie Law, from Sustainable Construction Solutions Ltd, was one of the judges:

“The winning entry was one of the most striking entries, using CLT (or Glulam) to produce a church-like structure that really caught the judges’ eye.”

“The detail the students had gone into to find the best orientation for the natural lighting of the exhibition space, and modelling of various forms to ensure it would work structurally, was admirable. A very well worked entry, and a unanimous winner from the judges.”

Commenting on their winning entry, Laila and Yliana said:

“The most challenging part [of the brief] was to provide a cutting-edge timber structure that was not only high in performance but also decorative. We wanted to take the design to a height where it would challenge the plasticity of timber with a creative design solution that shows the beauty of natural forms.”

“We clearly understood that this structure was required to stand out as a showcase of how flexible it is to use timber in construction, one that would break the traditional conception most people have of buildings made of timber.”

More information on our National Student Design Competition, please click here.


Category: Announcements, WOOD
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Woodland owners – have your say in the 2017 Charter

July 19, 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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Knife whittling workshop for educators

July 8, 2016

We are pleased to offer two half-day workshops designed for Forest School Leaders and any educators interested to learn new skills with wood. They will be run by Simon Clements, Wood Carver based at the Sylva Wood Centre, supported by the Sylva Foundation.

knife whittling workshop

knife whittling workshop

During this workshop you will:

  • Learn to make your own whittling knife with a wooden handle (blades provided)
  • Learn how to care for knives including sharpening

About the tutor:

Simon Clements is a Wood Carver based at the Sylva Wood Centre, and is keen support Forest School Leaders in developing their skills with wood. He trained as a potter and came to carving via boat building and has a background in education.


The Sylva Wood Centre, Long Wittenham, OX14 4QT (see map)


The course will be run twice, with two dates for you to choose from:

  • Saturday 17th September 10am – 1pm
  • Thursday 6th October 4pm  – 7pm


£30.00 per person

This cost includes all materials, tuition and tea/coffee.

Please bring:

  • Your own penknife or whittling knife.
  • Saturday workshop participants bring a packed lunch.


Book your place online via Charity Checkout



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Shortlist announced for Arboreal competition

June 30, 2016
Arboreal competition shortlist

Arboreal competition shortlist

TRADA has announced the shortlist for this year’s National Student Design Competition, which challenges student designers to explore the science of timber as a modern construction material for a design for the Sylva Wood Centre.

Students from University of Coventry, Wolverhampton University, University of Strathclyde, Edinburgh University and Aalborg University in Denmark will be presenting their designs in the final round of judging at Sylva Foundation on July 5.

Run by TRADA’s University Engagement Programme, the competition – this year dubbed Arboreal – is supported by generous sponsorship from Arch Timber Protection, the Timber Trade Federation and Timbmet.

The design brief included creating a new two-storey timber structure to serve as a multi use building, housing offices, seminar space, exhibition space and a field laboratory.

In the new design students had to reflect the ethos and vision of the charity. At the same time, they needed to incorporate cutting-edge materials and technologies throughout to act as inspiration to visitors and users and create a sustainable building both with the materials they propose and long term usage of the new building.

The judges were impressed with the quality and breadth of this year’s entries. There were plenty of positive comments about the structural concepts presented, use of materials and quality of the models.

Presentations by those shortlisted, final judging and the Awards ceremony for this year’s competition takes place at the Sylva Wood Centre, Oxfordshire on Tuesday 5th July.

For more information, please visit our Arboreal competition page.

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New community orchard funded

June 22, 2016
People's Postcode Lottery

People’s Postcode Lottery

We are delighted that funding has been awarded to help us create a new community orchard on our land at the Sylva Wood Centre.

The Wittenhams Community Orchard will be planted this coming Winter at the heart of the village of Long Wittenham, near to the church and primary school. It will serve as a new entrance to our land for the local community, with free access provided all year round.

Three separate trusts have provided funding that will support the creation of the orchard — including the trees, all-ability path and signage — while we hope to attract a number of ‘cropsharers’ to invest to help ongoing maintenance and in return receive an equal share in the products of the orchard. Fifty apple trees will be planted, alongside a few pear, cherry, walnut, medlar, quince and filberts.

A major grant from the Postcode Local Trust was received, funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Our project received over £14,000 from the Trust to establish the orchard.  Players of the People’s Postcode Lottery can find out more how, by playing the lottery, they can support more charities.


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myForest collaborative management piloted in Argyll

June 6, 2016

In February Sylva’s Director for Forestry, Paul Orsi, visited Argyll to find out how the myForest service could help an innovative group of woodlands owners (read more).  Since then both Sylva Foundation and the Argyll Small Woodland Co-operative have been working hard to develop and test a new collaborative tool.

The co-operative have been collecting and inputting data on behalf of members, as well as encouraging other owners to start to use the myForest service.  Understanding and documenting the forest resource has been a vital first step to collaboration. The tool, once fully developed and tested, will allow the co-operative to query woodland information across its members and therefore allow them to assess opportunities for collaborative woodland management.

myForest client import screen

myForest client import screen

The new Query Tool provides a simple suite of filters, searches and report outputs based on a range of data including species, age and size, or presence of a Felling Licence application.

myForest query tool screen

myForest query tool screen

The Argyll Small Woodland Co-operative will continue to pilot this functionality on myForest over the next nine months with the plan for it to be released to other groups soon after.

If you run a similar co-operative, or would like to, please get in touch with Paul Orsi so that we can discuss how myForest could support you in future.

If you would like to join the Argyll Small Woodland Co-operative please contact Neil Donaldson at:

Our thanks to Forestry Commission Scotland for funding this innovative project.



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Future Forest Friend scheme launched

May 25, 2016

We are excited to launch a new scheme that will not only help support our charitable work through regular giving, but allow supporters to build a lasting affinity with a growing woodland by sponsoring their own plot: the Future Forest Friend scheme.

Future Forest at the Sylva Wood Centre

Future Forest at the Sylva Wood Centre

The new woodland has an original theme and aims to be a demonstration site. When we plant a tree we hope it will live and be healthy for many years – perhaps even beyond our lifetime. But, with climate change, pests and diseases threatening our woodlands, which tree species are best equipped to thrive and stand the test of time? We hope that the “Future Forest” at our Wood Centre in Oxfordshire will help find some of the answers and demonstrate best practice.

The new three hectare woodland will include a range of species in three categories:

  • Natives: old and bold (e.g. birch, oak, field maple, beech, London Lime) from local sources
  • Natives with new genes: from sources matched to our future climate (2-5 degrees South)
  • Exotics: “outlandish, rare, and choice” – trees from far away that may do better than the Natives in future (e.g. tulip tree, Japanese red cedar, deodar, paulownia, Italian alder)

Coppice areas will also be planted including hazel, sweet chestnut and robinia. These shorter trees will produce wood that can be used within five years for products such as walking sticks, hurdles, pea sticks, fencing stakes.

How you can I get involved?

By becoming a Future Forest Friend. Your support will help us plant and maintain one of 325 plots – each measuring 10 × 10m each and containing 25 trees. And you can choose the trees in your sponsored plot, help plant them, and then access the woodland whenever you wish.

You can support the Future Forest by:

  • donating £5/month for three years
  • dedicating a plot as a wonderful unique gift for a new baby, a wedding, a special birthday, a business milestone or CSR project or in memory of a loved one – £180 one-off payment.

Find out more about the scheme and how to become a Future Forest Friend


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ArtWeeks 2016

Oxfordshire Artweeks 2016 at the Sylva Wood Centre was a great success, attracting about 1000 visitors during the nine days, plus a day dedicated for local schools to visit.

We had many very positive comments about the future development of the site and the work of the charity. We launched two regular giving schemes connected to plans for start improving the local landscape: a community orchard cropshare scheme, and Future Forest Friends scheme.

We are grateful to all the exhibitors for their time and contributions. Also to the Woodland Trust for the Wandering Tree, which wowed visitors and introduced the Tree Charter.

Here are a few images taken during ArtWeeks 2016.

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WoodWords™ 2016

May 19, 2016

The very first WoodWords™ event at Sylva Wood Centre last weekend was sold out! 150 people were inspired by our enthralling speakers, all of whom passionate advocates for trees, woodland and the process of making in wood.

The speakers

We owe a huge thank you to authors Richard Fortey, Gabriel Hemery, Rob Penn and Paul Sellers for so generously supporting this fundraising event.

Gabriel Hemery
The New Sylva

Paul Sellers
Essential Woodworking Hand Tools

Richard Fortey
The Wood For The Trees

Rob Penn
The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees


With thanks to Gabriel Hemery, Jezella Piggot, Paul Sellers, and Rokesmith for the photographs.

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