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Anglo-Saxon Open Day 20 October

posted on September 10, 2019

On Sunday 20th October, Sylva Foundation will be celebrating the completion of the reconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon ‘House of Wessex’ at the Sylva Wood Centre by holding a public open day.

Wulfheodenas at the House of Wessex, July 2019

Wulfheodenas at the House of Wessex, July 2019

Come along to marvel at the amazing hand-crafted building whose timber frame used 80 trees donated by Blenheim estates before being shaped by dozens of volunteers earlier in the summer. During August, families came to help complete the wattle and daub walls, before work could start on the thatched roof.

Living History Society the Wulfheodenas will be moving into the house, and able to talk with visitors about their plans to turn the empty house into a living breathing reconstruction of Anglo-Saxon society. Also on display will be metal work, weaving, and perhaps a little cooking on the open fire.

Open 10am-3pm, Sunday 20th October.
Free entry.

Read more about the project: www.sylva.org.uk/wessex

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

 

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A Thatching Day

posted on September 4, 2019

Master thatcher Alan Jones Pembrokeshire Thatch and Carpentry Services is making good progress completing the roof of the House of Wessex, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

We’ve made a short time-lapse film which shows Alan working on the complex rise in the thatch over the main door way. The film is made up of hundreds of images taken at one-minute intervals over the space of one day.


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Annual Report and Accounts 2018-19

posted on August 29, 2019
Trustees' Report and Annual Accounts 2018-19

Trustees’ Report and Annual Accounts 2018-19. Click to download a pdf version.

We have published our Trustee’s Report and Independent Accounts for the year 2018-19.

Some highlights of the year:

  • authored a number of high-profile research papers on ash dieback, based on the work of our last Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholar
  • supported the development of a reverse-auction tool, NatureBid, to support natural flood management
  • launched a major new education initiative: Forest Schools for All
  • via myForest, supported 5,000 woodland owners caring for a total woodland area greater than 80,000ha
  • launched myForest Premium, offering advanced tools for users
  • developed the Woodland Wildlife Toolkit with multiple partners
  • launched the Sylva Wood School

Financial summary:

Income
Total income for the year was £766,420 (2017-18: £492,644). £390,892 (51%) of income was received as Donations, of which 90% was restricted to specific activities. The majority of income for Charitable Activities (£290,022; 38%) came from performance-related grants. Income from Trading Activities provided £83,458 (11%), including £53,202 from business leases/rentals at the Sylva Wood Centre.

Expenditure and Additions
Total expenditure was £397,946 (2017-18: £345,871) which included £175,030 investment (Additions) in ongoing development of the Sylva Wood Centre. Our overheads (excluding Additions), comprising income generation, admin, and governance, represented 24% of expenditure.

income & expenditure 2018-19

income (left) & expenditure (right) for the year 2018-19


The full report is available to download, and provided alongside those of previous years on our website at www.sylva.org.uk/about#reports

Thanks as always to our amazing partners and supporters during the year. See: www.sylva.org.uk/partners

 

 

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Updates to Management Plans and Felling Permissions in Scotland

posted on July 18, 2019

From today both the Management Plan template and Felling Permissions application have been updated in myForest. If you have previously created a management plan or generated a felling licence application, the information and data entered will now be in these new templates.

Scottish Forestry logo

Scottish Forestry logo

On 1 April 2019, the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018 came into effect, completing the devolution of forestry to Scotland.

This has led to the creation of two new Scottish Government forestry agencies. One of them, Forestry and Land Scotland, is now responsible for managing the National Forest Estate. The other, Scottish Forestry, replaces Forestry Commission Scotland, and is responsible for forestry policy, regulation, support and the awarding and payment of forestry grants.

As part of these changes Scottish Forestry have updated their Woodland Management Plan template and Felling Permissions application form.

screen shot of new management plan editor

A screen shot of new management plan editor in myForest

Management Plan

Although this is mainly the same as the previous template, Scottish Forestry have added the ability to generate felling permissions through the management plan approval process for thinning. Other forms of felling will still need to go through the Felling Permissions applications process.

Felling Permissions

To comply with the new Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018, Scottish Forestry have updated the Felling Permission (previously known as Felling Licence) application form. Again, the information you are required to provide is almost the same as before, but with the addition of a few additional fields.


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Course: hurdle-making 23-24 March 2019

posted on November 2, 2018

Learn and practise how to split hazel and make hurdles with coppice worker and craftsman Simon Farndon during this two-day course at the Sylva Wood Centre.

Students will be taught hazel splitting and how to make hurdles on the Saturday and then will practise making hurdles on the Sunday.

Hazel hurdles are a very popular and attractive alternative to garden panels or garden screens and wind breaks. Split (cleft) and round hazel rods are woven around hazel uprights (zales). There are slight variations on design between different regions, but students will learn to make the most robust hurdles using good quality graded split hazel, which is twisted around end posts to produce a very strong and robust hurdle.

The hurdles that students make will be used in the Anglo-Saxon reconstruction of the House of Wessex, to be built over the summer of 2019. If they wish, students on this course will be welcome to volunteer to help with this by making more hurdles later in the year, or by helping fix hurdels to the wall annd roof structure of the building.

By taking part, students will not only help in this exciting volunteer project, but leave with the requisite skills to make their own hurdles at home.

Cost £200. Lunch provided. Maximum of 8 places.

 


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Course: Saxon Building Woodwork, or ‘Treewrighting’

posted on October 10, 2018

Saxon Building Woodwork, or ‘Treewrighting’

9am-4pm, Saturday 23rd March 2019

Led by Damian Goodburn BA PhD, a leading archaeological woodwork specialist, this workshop will be held in our new purpose-built Education Barn at the Sylva Wood Centre.

Saxon broad axe work

Saxon broad axe work. Damian Goodburn demonstrating.

Learn about Anglo-Saxon building woodwork, based mainly on the study of surviving wooden remains, including a review of relatively new evidence, with live demonstrations of tools and techniques, and opportunities to watch treewrighting in action.

Morning activities will include illustrated talks covering the themes below, starting with evidence for how woodland resources were managed. Samples of books and publications will be discussed, including many rare items.

  1. The variation in woodland materials from ‘wildwood’ to intensive coppiced woodland.
  2. An overview of the range of waterlogged building woodwork remains found in Saxon and Saxo-Norman period England c.500-1180 AD when ‘carpentry’ and formal ‘timber-framing’ arrived from France.
  3. Evidence for basic techniques carried out without saws, including felling, bucking, radial, tangential cleaving, hewing various shaped timbers, styles of wattlework.
  4. Evidence for the range of joints and fastenings used, taps and locks, tusk tenons, laft joints, tongue and groove, scarfs, treenails and rove nails.
  5. Tool marks and tool kits, narrow axes, broad axes, ‘groping irons’.
  6. Evidence for ‘built-in’ furniture and fittings such as beds, benches, hearths, storage bins, and coops, doors and windows.
  7. Relevant ethnographic evidence from later timber buildings in the ‘Homelands’ areas on the east side of the North Sea, less influenced by French-style timber-framed carpentry, and how that can be used to extend archaeological evidence from England.

Afternoon activity will involve handling real samples of Saxon woodwork, and high-quality replica tools and fastenings.

Throughout the day demonstrations will be used to illustrate some basic techniques essential to treewrighting, including cleaving a small straight green log (oak or ash c. 150-200mm diam by 1.8-2m long) using wooden wedges, hewing with a narrow-bladed and broad-bladed ‘T’ axe, simple Saxon joint cutting, and willow treenail (wythenails) making.

While the course is underway, delegates will be able to to witness a range of related treewrighting activities nearby, thanks to members of the Carpenters’ Fellowship working on the frame of the House of Wessex.

Cost £75.00. Lunch provided. 20 places maximum. Safety boots essential.

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Timber secured from Blenheim Estates

posted on October 8, 2018

We had a fantastic day recently on Bladon Heath, in the woodlands on Blenheim Estate, carefully selecting the timber for the training courses this weekend, plus marking out timber for the next year’s reconstruction of the House of Wessex. 

We have chosen a variety of species, 40 trees in total, a mix of ash , sweet chestnut, oak and silver birch. The oak and sweet chestnut are of similar age, around 100yrs and 70 ft in height. The ash are younger at 40 -50 yrs, and again 70ft. The birch are younger at 25yrs and are 50ft.

The trees required for the event on 13-14 October (read more) have been felled and delivered to the Wood Centre. The timber will be used for the formal training course and for the general public to see Anglo-Saxon techniques in action such as hewing, cleaving and making treenails. The work will help prototype some of the techniques to be used in next year’s reconstruction of the House of Wessex.

Many thanks to John, Henry, and Joe from Carpenters’ Fellowship for their time selecting the trees, and Nick Baimbridge and his forestry team of Blenheim Estates for felling and preparing the timber.

Read more about the House of Wessex


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Birth of the House of Wessex project

posted on September 12, 2018

Professor Helena Hamerow, from the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, has provided much of the academic expertise for the House of Wessex project. We asked Helena to summarise how the House of Wessex project came about.

Archaeological excavations at Sylva Wood Centre September 2016

Archaeological excavations at Sylva Wood Centre September 2016

Sylva quotes

Helena Hamerow said

The idea for the ‘House of Wessex’ project came about as the result of an archaeological excavation by the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology and Department of Continuing Education on land owned by the Sylva Foundation. The aim of the dig was to establish whether a rectangular cropmark identified in aerial photographs was the footprint of a rare type of building: an Anglo-Saxon hall.  The excavations — directed by DPhil student Adam McBride and Dr Jane Harrison in 2016 – were part of a wider investigation led by Professor Helena Hamerow called ‘The Origins of Wessex’. The project aims to gain a better understanding of the emergence in the Upper Thames valley of a leading dynasty referred to by Bede as the Gewisse, who later became known as the West Saxons.  Long Wittenham seems to have been a key centre of the Gewisse, as indicated by two richly furnished cemeteries excavated here in the 19th century, and a group of cropmarks indicating the presence of a ‘great hall complex’, of which the excavated building appears to be an outlier.

The dig uncovered the foundations of a large timber hall, radiocarbon dated to the seventh century. This period is sometimes known as the ‘Age of Sutton Hoo’ and is the time when the first Anglo-Saxon kingdoms emerged. The dig led to conversations about the importance in the Anglo-Saxon world of timber (an Anglo-Saxon word that referred not only to the building material, but also to building itself). This in turn led the Sylva Foundation to pursue the exciting possibility of reconstructing the building in its original setting.  The project offers researchers as well as the local community an exceptional opportunity to learn more about the resources needed and methods used — as well as the challenges faced — by those who constructed these extraordinary buildings.

Read more about Professor Hamerow on the School of Archaeology pages


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We’re hiring

posted on September 5, 2018

Web Software Developer (mid-level)

Join our dynamic and creative team, working in a stunning countryside location, providing cutting-edge software solutions to help protect and improve the natural environment.

As our Web Software Developer you will play an important role in the development of online tools that benefit the natural environment, for example by improving the conditions of woodlands and the planting of more trees across the country. You will develop and maintain databases and web applications that are central to our charitable activities, supporting positive environmental outcomes.

You will have a strong selection of skills and experience in the following essential requirements:

  • Knowledge / experience of the following web development languages: HTML/CSS/Sass, PHP, Node.js, MySQL / PostgreSQL / PostGIS, frontend Javascript, jQuery / Bootstrap
  • Knowledge and practical experience of source control and build tools. We use git and gulp.
  • A solid understanding of database design and data manipulation.

Location: South Oxfordshire

Position: Full-time or part-time. Flexible working hours, and some home-working, may be agreed.

Salary: £30-35,000 dependent on experience.

Full job specification available: https://sylva.org.uk/jobs

Category: Admin, Announcements
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Model of the House of Wessex

posted on August 13, 2018

A realistic model of the House of Wessex has been made by volunteer Brian Hempsted.

Brian Hempsted has been volunteering with Sylva Foundation for the last year, offering his considerable woodcarving skills in helping resident sculptor Simon Clements complete the Tree Charter poles. When he heard about the House of Wessex project, Brian admitted that he was also a keen model maker and offered to make an accurate model of the proposed building at 1:50 scale.

We’ve made a short film showing the model, which he’s just completed. We think it’s just fantastic!

The House of Wessex project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.


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