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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myForest development news

August 12, 2016

The myForest Service continues to grow and this month the total area of woodlands mapped across the UK using our tools surpassed 50,000 ha.

Behind the scenes we have some exciting development plans for the service including a new ‘prime’ option which could include OS mapping and other news features.

We like to work closely with the users of myForest — now some 4,400 woodland owners — and we’ve created a simple survey to collect views on our proposed developments. If you are a woodland owner, we would like to hear your views: please take part by completing the questions embedded below.


Category: FORESTRY, myForest

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Forest Research in search for Open-Grown Trees

Why are Forest Research looking for your help?

Forest Research are developing a model to predict growth in individual trees in mixed species and/or mixed age stands.  The work aims to create tools to use in the management of Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF).

As part of this process the model needs to be constrained by setting the upper limit for the predicted maximum growth of individual trees. For this we need to collect data from a sample of open grown trees i.e. trees that have grown free from competition and have therefore reached their full potential in terms of diameter and crown development.  If you think you know of an open-grown tree or trees, then you may be able to help us with our research.

What locations and species do we want to sample?

We are looking to select trees from across the whole of Great Britain, to represent different geographical and age ranges.  We are particularly keen to get data on the following list:

  • Douglas fir
  • Scots pine
  • oak (pedunculate/sessile/hybrid)
  • Sitka spruce (above 40cm dbh)
  • Western hemlock

Additional species to be assessed, if present at the same (or close) location as the five listed above, are: beech, birch, Grand fir, Norway spruce and sycamore.

How do we define ‘Open-Grown Trees’?

Trees that have grown free from inter-tree competition throughout their entire life. They can be selected based on the following criteria:

  1. Ideally a crown free of competition by shading on all sides, throughout its life. In practice, trees with up to a maximum of 25% shading and those subjected to competition for a limited period of time at young age could also be accepted (any deviation from the ideal case should be recorded)
  2. Branches extending as low as possible. For some species it could be to the ground (or nearly so), for others allowance should be made for the natural receding of lower branches (e.g. Scots pine or oak)
  3. No forking for the entire length of the tree (this is below the spring of crown in broadleaves)
  4. No evidence of pruning, shearing, browsing, decay, storm or insect damage

What measurements will be taken?

We would like to make an assessment of each suitable open ground tree identified.  This will include measurement of diameter at breast height, total height, height of the live crown and crown width.  We will ensure that any necessary permissions are granted prior to us undertaking any assessment.

If you think you can help please contact Ian Craig  or

Catia Arcangeli

If you would like to know more about our research on the modelling of mixed-age and mixed species stands please visit

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Ignite Woodfuel training at Sylva Wood Centre

July 28, 2016

Ignite logo



We are pleased to announce two Ignite training courses to be held at the Sylva Wood Centre this autumn.

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.

Ignite Firewood Production and Supply is aimed at both existing and fledgling firewood businesses. The course covers firewood as a renewable fuel, sources of timber for firewood, equipment to handle, produce and deliver firewood, units and conversion factors, markets and economics of the supply chain including calculating sales prices from wet and dry weight to loose and stacked volumes. A Lantra Awards certificate of attendance is issued on completion of the course.

Ignite Managing Woods for Woodfuel focuses on planting, managing and harvesting woodlands for use as woodfuel. What timber is suited to what type of woodfuel (logs or chips), assessing woodlands, measuring timber, harvesting, extraction, conversion and the economic modelling of timber harvesting and woodfuel conversion are covered in this one day course. A Lantra Awards certificate of attendance is issued on completion of the course.

Course Dates Location
Firewood Production and Supply Thursday

22nd September 2016

Sylva Wood Centre, Long Wittenham, Oxford, OX14 4QT
Managing Woods for Woodfuel Wednesday

12th October 2016

Sylva Wood Centre, Long Wittenham, Oxford, OX14 4QT


Courses cost £180.00 (including VAT) per person and include Lantra Awards certification fees, handbooks and catering on the day. A 10% discount is offered to members of Woodsure, the Wood Heat Association and the Confor Woodfuel Suppliers Group.  Please contact the office for more details.

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

Full course details are available on the RDI website:


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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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