An introduction to forest school

posted on May 1, 2018

Creating forest school standards, benefits for children, and the future of the forest school movement — Sarah Lawfull provides a helpful introduction to forest school.

Willowcroft children at the Future Forest September 2016

Willowcroft children at the Future Forest September 2016

Forest school has been growing steadily in the UK and abroad since staff from Bridgwater College headed out to see the excellent examples in Denmark in 2003. Building on a strong tradition of outdoor learning and holistic approaches to education, forest school has been a grass roots movement. The rich variety of woodland habitats in the UK is matched only by the wide variety of approaches offered by members of the Forest School Association (FSA).

Read the full story on the Woodland Trust’s blog

Sarah Lawfull, Director of Where the fruit is, runs her environmental education business from the Sylva Wood Centre, making good use of our new forest school area to ‘train the trainers’.

Category: Announcements

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Artweeks at the Sylva Wood Centre

posted on April 26, 2018

We’re looking forward to opening the doors to the Sylva Wood Centre during Oxfordshire Artweeks. This year we will be open from 10am to 5pm on the weekends of 19/20 and 26/27/28 May.

Artweeks at the Sylva Wood Centre

Artweeks at the Sylva Wood Centre

The Sylva Wood Centre in Long Wittenham is a community of small businesses and woodworking professionals who design or make in wood and related crafts, run by Sylva Foundation. Meet the resident designers alongside invited craftspeople, and marvel at the fine furniture, unique woodcarving, traditional wooden boats, small pieces in beautiful woods, original soft furnishing, outdoor furniture, screens and buildings in oak, prints and pieces made in mixed media combining wood, metal, resin and textiles.

Meet the makers, tour their workshops, buy gift vouchers for craft courses, and buy or commission individual pieces. Watch live demonstrations during the day, and enjoy the pop-up HardWood Café. Visitors can take a stroll outside in the developing Future Forest and Community Orchard.

Oxfordshire ArtWeeks

Oxfordshire ArtWeeks

For more details about our group exhibition, and to explore a veritable colony of other wonderful galleries nearby in Oxfordshire, visit Oxfordshire Artweeks.

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Trees play a role in every part of human life

posted on April 25, 2018
Around the World in 80 Trees

Around the World in 80 Trees

In his latest book Around the World in 80 Trees Jonathan Drori CBE — trustee of the Eden Project, Ambassador for the WWF and former trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew — uses plant science to illustrate how trees play a role in every part of human life; from the romantic to the regrettable to the downright ridiculous.

WoodWords 2018

WoodWords 2018

Jonathan Drori is one of five top environmental authors talking about their books at our unique WoodWords 2018 event.

Tickets limited and selling fast – buy yours now!

24th May: 6.30pm at the Sylva Wood Centre (Ox14 4QT)

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Tree Charter legacy lives on

posted on April 17, 2018

The Charter for Trees, Woods and People, launched in 2017, continues to result in media interest and actions on the ground. This week is the inaugural meeting of the new Tree Charter UK Board.

Sculptor Simon Clements (based at the Sylva Wood Centre) features this month in the Countryside Magazine, in an article highlighting the best of British craft and focusing on his work creating the Charter Poles. Another of the Sylva Wood Centre craftspeople, Rodas Irving of Oxford Oak, recently returned from Grizedale Forest in Cumbria where he completed installation of seating around the base the ‘Strengthening Landscapes‘ sculpture; one of 11 Charter Pole sculptures located around the UK.

Now that the Tree Charter exists, the next step is to embed it into the fabric of society. A Tree Charter UK Board has been established comprising of organisations which played a key role in developing the Tree Charter to date, and can ensure a broad range of views are represented. We are pleased that Sylva Foundation CEO Gabriel Hemery is one of the Board members, which will meet for the first time this Friday.

Read more about the Tree Charter.


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Inspiring natural companions revealed at WoodWords 2018

posted on April 16, 2018
The Long, Long Life of Trees

The Long, Long Life of Trees

Fiona Stafford’s enchanting book The Long, Long Life of Trees includes intimate, detailed explorations of seventeen common trees, from ash and apple to oak, cypress, and willow. Full of unusual topics and intriguing facts, this book celebrates trees and their long, long lives as our inspiring natural companions.

WoodWords 2018

WoodWords 2018 – a charity fundraising event

Dr Fiona Stafford is one of five top environmental authors talking about their books at our unique WoodWords 2018 event. Fiona was also the author of the Tree Charter in 2017, which Sylva Foundation was proud to support (read more).

Tickets limited and selling fast – buy yours now!

24th May: 6.30pm at the Sylva Wood Centre (Ox14 4QT)

Category: Announcements, events
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WoodWords 2018 tickets now on sale

posted on March 9, 2018


Thursday 24th May, 6:30 – 9:30pm


WoodWords 2018 brings together five authors who share a passion for trees and the environment, and a common fascination in our relationships with nature. At this, our second WoodWords literary evening, they will tell the stories behind their latest books – splinters and all.

This unique event takes place in the Sylva Wood Centre – an exciting hive of creativity in wood that brings fine furniture and industrial woodworking together, set amongst a new community woodland and orchard. Dress down, enjoy drinks amongst the sawdust and wood chips at The Wood Bar, admire the incredible creativity of our resident designer-makers and, of course, meet the authors and buy signed copies of their books.

Tickets are £20 each with all proceeds contributing towards the charitable work of Sylva Foundation. Purchase your tickets here

About the Authors and their books

Around the World in 80 Trees

Around the World in 80 Trees

Jonathan Drori, a former documentary film maker and executive producer at the BBC, has been a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Woodland Trust. He is on the board of the Eden Project and is an Ambassador for the WWF. Around the World in 80 Trees (Laurence King) celebrates trees as one of humanity’s most constant and most varied companions. They offer us sanctuary and inspiration and of course the raw materials for our lives. Jon uses plant science to illuminate how trees play a role in every part of human endeavour, from the romantic to the regrettable.

The Long, Long Life of Trees

The Long, Long Life of Trees

Fiona Stafford is a professor of English language and literature at the University of Oxford. In 2014 she wrote the text for the Charter of Trees, Woods, and People. Fiona’s book The Long, Long Life of Trees (Yale University Press) is a lyrical tribute to the diversity of trees, their physical beauty, their special characteristics and uses, and their ever-evolving meanings. Each of its 17 chapters is dedicated to a common British tree, drawing on folklore, natural science, literature, cultural history, European art, ancient mythology and modern medicine to illuminate each trees’ central place in western civilisation. The book was formerly Sunday Times Nature Book of the Year.

The Last Wilderness

The Last Wilderness

Neil Ansell is a writer and award-winning television journalist. The Last Wilderness: a journey into silence (Tinder Press) explores the experience of being in nature in the context of a series of walks that Neil takes into the most remote parts of Britain. He illustrates the impact of being alone as part of nature, rather than outside it. In the book, Neil explores the coastal oakwoods, northern birchwoods and relic pinewoods of Scotland, and as he walks he reflects on his past, including years spent as a forestry worker in Wales and Sweden. As a counterpoint, Neil also writes of the changes in the landscape, and how his hearing loss affects his relationship with nature as the calls of the birds he knows so well become silent to him.

A Wood of One's Own

A Wood of One’s Own

Ruth Pavey is a gardening journalist and writer based in London. After years spent living amid its urban thrum, Ruth yearned to reconnect with the British countryside and she endeavoured to realise her long-held dream of planting a wood. Touring to the West Country in the late 1990s, she found herself in the Somerset Levels. On seeing this expanse of reclaimed land under its wide, soft skies she was struck by its beauty and set-out to plant a wood, tree by tree. She bought four acres, and over the years transformed them into a haven where woodland plants and creatures could flourish an emblem of enduring life in a changeable world. A Wood of One’s Own (Duckworth) is the story of how Ruth grew to understand and then shape this derelict land into an enduring legacy a verdant landscape rich with wildlife.

Green Gold: the lost journals of John Jeffrey

Green Gold: the lost journals of John Jeffrey

Gabriel Hemery is co-founder and Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation. His first book The New Sylva (Bloomsbury) was published to wide acclaim in 2014. His latest book Green Gold (Unbound Publishing) is a fictional biographical novel based on a true story. In 1850, young Scottish tree-hunter John Jeffrey is despatched by an elite group of Victorian subscribers to seek highly-prized exotic tree species in North America. Three years after setting out, after traversing British Columbia, Oregon and California, John Jeffrey disappears without a trace. Was he lost to love, violence or the Gold Rush? The discovery of his missing journals finally reveals the truth behind an extraordinary adventure.

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Trees and Wellbeing: Past, Present and Future

posted on March 2, 2018

Sylva Foundation CEO Gabriel Hemery will be speaking at a conference titled Trees and Wellbeing: Past, Present and Future on 18th May, and on the following day delegates will get the chance to tour the Sylva Wood Centre to meet with craftspeople. The event is organised by Oxford Brookes University (read more).

Friday, 18 May 2018, 10:00 to 19:00

Trees and Wellbeing: Past, Present and Future - 18th May

Trees and Wellbeing: Past, Present and Future – 18th May

Who this event is for



Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site, Oxford


A conference organised by Christiana Payne and Fiona Stafford. Supported by TORCH, the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities and Somerville College, Oxford.

In recent years, town planners, educationalists, environmentalists and psychologists have become increasingly aware of the beneficial effect exercised by trees and woodland on human development, happiness and mental health. There is a growing recognition of the importance of trees in urban areas, for encouraging sociability, play and physical exercise, as well as improving air quality. New practices, such as forest schools and forest bathing, have highlighted the contribution trees can make to learning and stress relief.  But there is also a long history of people finding solace in the woods, and expressing their responses through art and literature. This conference aims to bring together researchers and practitioners from a wide variety of disciplinary and professional backgrounds to discuss how, and why, trees, forests and woodland can make us all feel better.

Speakers include

  • Dan Bloomfield, NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow in Environment and Health, University of Exeter
  • Sarah Dandy, Programme Lead, NHS Forest
  • Ray Hawes, Head of Forestry, National Trust
  • David Boyd Haycock, freelance writer
  • Gabriel Hemery, co-founder of Sylva Foundation
  • Simon Kövesi, Professor of English, Oxford Brookes University
  • Alice Mayne, Head of Recreation and Visitor Experience, Forest Enterprise England
  • Liz O’Brien, Head of Social and Economic Research Group, Forest Research
  • Christiana Payne, Professor of History of Art, Oxford Brookes University
  • Kate Sheldon, Development Director, Trees for Cities
  • Fiona Stafford, Professor of English, University of Oxford
  • Nikki Williams, Head of Campaigning, Woodland Trust
  • Sally York, Education Policy Advisor, Forestry Commission Scotland

Conference fee: £20 (includes tea, coffee, lunch and wine reception)

To find out more and book you place, visit the Oxford Brookes University website

Category: Announcements

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Make a canoe paddle course 8th June 2018

posted on February 14, 2018

Make a canoe paddle

8th and 9th June 2018

9.00am to 5.00pm

During this two-day course with award-winning boat builder Colin Henwood, you will learn how to shape a single canoe paddle from Ash using hand tools.

“I can’t think of anything that could have improved a perfect couple of days – I will signing up for another one soon.”
Student on Paddle making course, January 2018.

Colin was fantastic; his attention to detail and support ensured we all left with a paddle I think even he was happy with!
Student on Paddle making course, January 2018.

Make your own canoe paddle at the Wood Centre

Make your own canoe paddle at the Wood Centre

  • Working with ash – our superior native hardwood.
  • Using traditional skills and tools you will produce a complex shape with hand and eye.
  • Learn how to finish your smooth and elegant design.
  • Take home a unique and usable canoe paddle ready for a varnish or an oil finish.
  • Tools and materials included (if you wish to bring your own tools please discuss this with the tutor).

Cost: £225 per person (materials included)

Venue: Sylva Wood Centre, Oxfordshire, OX14 4QT

Tutor: Colin Henwood


Book your place


About the tutor

Colin Henwood founded his boatyard, Henwood and Dean Boatbuilders, in 1982 specialising in restoring and building wooden Thames launches. The boatyard received many awards in the UK and abroad, and in 2014 Colin was awarded Maker of the Year by the Heritage Crafts Association. In October 2016 Colin handed the boatyard over to two of his team who are successfully continuing the tradition he began 35 years ago. Not one to retire, Colin has established a workshop at the Sylva Wood Centre where he is currently re-building a 1920 Thames motor canoe.

Colin Henwood with students making a canoe paddle at the Sylva Wood Centre

Colin Henwood with students making a canoe paddle at the Sylva Wood Centre

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Forestry Yard opens at Sylva Wood Centre

posted on January 29, 2018

Sylva Foundation is delighted to announce the opening of the Forestry Yard at the Sylva Wood Centre. The Forestry Yard will be occupied and run by Face North Forestry, a local and expanding forestry contracting company.

The Forestry Yard at the Sylva Wood Centre

The Forestry Yard at the Sylva Wood Centre, with Nick Keighley of Face North Forestry

The Sylva Wood Centre is a growing hub of wood-using businesses: currently 13 wood-based businesses operate from the site; from boat builders, to woodcarvers and fine furniture makers. The focus of the Sylva Wood Centre is to support the growth of wood-based businesses and in particular the use of home-grown timber. The addition of the Forestry Yard will help the Sylva Wood Centre to achieve this last goal, shortening the supply chain between woodland and end use.

Nick Keighley - Face North Forestry

Nick Keighley – Face North Forestry

Thanks to a Countryside Productivity Grant, Face North Forestry purchased a new mobile sawmill. This will allow the business to select timber to be milled, which may have previously been used for firewood, adding value and locking up carbon for the long term. This timber will be available for use by the businesses at the Sylva Wood Centre; in fact Face North Forestry are already collaborating with two of the businesses.

Meanwhile, the new forestry building was part-supported by a capital grant to Sylva Foundation from LEADER, whose funds are distributed by the Oxfordshire Leader Action Group (LAG) made up of representatives from local trusts, organisations and district councils. The LAG is chaired by South Oxfordshire district councillor Elizabeth Gillespie, who said:

“Our group visited the forestry yard and we were all impressed to see how the funds are supporting the local environment and small wood businesses based at the Sylva Wood Centre.”

Nick Keighley of Face North Forestry said:

“Moving into the Forestry Yard at the Sylva Wood Centre will allow me to grow my business. I have always been frustrated by good quality timber not being used to its full potential, but local supply chains have been decimated over the last few decades with the closure of many small sawmills. The yard will allow me to add value to the timber I fell, while being based at the Sylva Wood Centre means there is a readymade customer base for my products”

Paul Orsi, Director for Forestry at Sylva Foundation said:

“The addition of the Forestry Yard at the Sylva Wood Centre is crucial to seeing more local timber being used by the businesses we support. The development of the Forestry Yard was supported by a LEADER grant which was vital to allow us to take this project forward”

More information:

£1.55 million available to boost rural areas in the county

Grants of up to £100,000 are available to community groups, small businesses farmers and foresters for projects that support the rural economy.

The Oxfordshire LEADER fund aims to support a wide range of activities in the countryside such as assisting local small businesses, supporting local heritage and cultural events, attracting tourism and visitors increasing foresters and farmer’s productivity and helping to diversify services.

Contributions are available for capital costs such as building work, equipment and for projects located in the Oxfordshire LEADER area until September this year.

Oxfordshire LEADER is welcoming expressions of interest for support until September this year and all funds will be allocated by March 2019.  For further information on the programme and criteria for funding, visit the website

If your project is eligible, you can contact Sophie, programme manager, on 01235 422245 or email for further guidance.

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Last remaining forest plots available to sponsor

posted on November 21, 2017

There are just SIX plots left to plant in the Future Forest – sponsor one now and you can help plant it before Christmas.

By becoming a Friend of the Sylva Future Forest your support will help us plant and maintain one of 325 plots – each measuring 10 x 10m and containing 25 trees.

Forest Friends tree planting

Forest Friends tree planting

You can support the Future Forest by:

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

Find out more

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