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Raising the House of Wessex

posted on July 9, 2019

Last weekend we held an Anglo-Saxon Spectacular at the Sylva Wood Centre with the raising of the timber frame for the House of Wessex.

Following many months of planning and hard work preparing the timber frame with dozens of volunteers, work got underway on Wednesday last week in raising the frame. Just five days later, the frame was up. About 60 volunteers from the Carpenter’s Fellowship worked on the beautiful frame of oak, sweet chestnut, ash, and birch.

On Saturday evening we invited many of the volunteers involved in the project to join us in celebrating the raising of the frame, including archaeologists, local historians, local people, and the craftspeople for the next phases of wattling, daubing, and thatching. At the end of the fifth day, as tradition dictates, we added a sprig of oak to the ridge in a topping out ceremony.

We hope you enjoy this short timelapse film, which captures the digging of the trench foundations with an archaeological watching brief, the raising of the frame, and the filling back in of the trenches at the end.

Over the coming weeks we will be installing the hazel hurdles and begin the thatching. If you are interested in the project, make sure you visit the House of Wessex webpage to find out more.

Our thanks to all the amazing volunteers for their hard work, and to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding the project.

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund


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Bringing Children Closer to Nature

posted on July 8, 2019

In a report published today, educators and woodland owners from across the UK provide a much-needed snapshot of how they are bringing children closer to nature through Forest School practice and outdoor learning. This report reveals how practitioners overcome significant barriers to bringing children closer to nature and how this can be sustained.

Forest Schools for All report

Forest Schools for All report – visit the webpage

The report is the result of an online survey undertaken in late 2018 by adults who work with children outdoors, particularly Forest School practitioners. A total of 1,171 people took part, mostly educators (1,080), alongside private woodland owners (94) with an interest in bringing children closer to nature.

The most common barriers to sustaining Forest School described by educators were funding, time, and access to woodland sites. Contributions from parents were important for funding in many schools, except among deprived schools, indicating that greater targeted support is required to ensure all children are brought closer to nature. Challenges of the school timetable and curriculum can be overcome when the Head Teacher and senior leadership understand and make Forest School a priority. For sites, the majority of schools in the survey used their own school grounds for Forest School, therefore reducing barriers arising from location and cost. Woodland owners in this survey were found to play a critical role in providing free access to woodland for educators not based in schools.

FSFA report infographic

FSFA report infographic

The report authors recommend seven key outcomes as a result of their findings.

  1. Schools with successful Forest School and/or outdoor learning should be advocates and share experience with schools that do not have Forest School and outdoor learning programmes.
  2. Government should consider the significant societal and financial benefits arising from embedding the provision of outdoor learning in the curriculum.
  3. The outdoor learning sector should be proactive in advancing further the school curriculum by working closely with government.
  4. The forestry and arboricultural sector should explore how best to support educators in providing tree and site management advice.
  5. New grant schemes should be designed and tested that would help overcome barriers to outdoor learning, and support sought from grant providers.
  6. A new online platform could be designed to support outdoor learning among practitioners and woodland owners, and funding sought for its delivery.
  7. Further research commissioned to increase understanding of the needs of deprived schools, and how barriers may be overcome.

Jen Hurst, Head of Forest Education, Sylva Foundation said:

“We are so pleased to have had such an overwhelmingly positive response to the survey. Sylva Foundation and its partners are proud to have given hundreds of educators and woodland owners across the country a voice at national level. We believe that the results of the survey will carry significant weight and we urge everyone who wants to bring all children closer to nature to read this report and support its recommendations.”

Victoria Edwards, Chief Executive, The Ernest Cook Trust, said:

“This report is really helpful in directing how we can broaden our reach at The Ernest Cook Trust. We are already using it to fine tune our work in supporting an environmentally engaged society. We are grateful to Sylva for identifying some key barriers to outdoor learning and look forward to piloting new ways of working identified by the report.”

The survey was part of a the Forest School for All project led by Sylva Foundation, an environmental charity, with funding and support provided by The Ernest Cook Trust.

The full survey report and further information about the Forest Schools for All project can be found at: sylva.org.uk/forestschools/report

ENDS


Notes for Editors

For more information and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Jen Hurst, Head of Forest Education, Sylva Foundation: jen@sylva.org.uk or 01865408018
See also: www.sylva.org.uk/forestschools

The Forest Schools for All project is a bold education initiative led by Sylva Foundation, in partnership with the Forest School Association, and The Ernest Cook Trust, which is also the main funder of the project. The three leading environmental education organisations have come together with the ultimate aim of increasing and sustaining access to Forest Schools for all children.

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity working to help trees and people grow together. Founded in 2009, the charity works with thousands of woodland owners managing in excess of 80,000 hectares across Britain, and has projects with many government agencies, major NGOs, and businesses. The Forest Schools for All project is among a number of education initiatives led by the charity, including Timber! which offers free resources on trees and wood, and myForest for Education which helps educators manage their sites to ensure the best outcomes for children and nature.

The Ernest Cook Trust (ECT), based in Fairford, Gloucestershire, is one of the UK’s leading educational charities, inspiring young people to achieve better educational and life outcomes by learning from the land and is rooted in the conservation and management of the countryside. It owns and manages more than 8,900 hectares of landed estates across five English counties. The Ernest Cook Trust actively encourages children and young people to learn from the land through education initiatives (including Forest School) on its own estates, through partnerships with other organisations, and through its dedicated grant-giving programme. Each year its Trustees distribute around £2m to a range of education initiatives. www.ernestcooktrust.org.uk


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Anglo-Saxon Spectacular 6-7 July

posted on June 11, 2019

Public Open Weekend

Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th July

10am – 4pm

As part of our House of Wessex project, we’re excited to announce that our next public open weekend will take place during the first weekend of July. Watch the House of Wessex being constructed, plus have a go at Anglo-Saxon thatching, play traditional games, and see other traditional crafts on display. Free parking, and free entry.

July House of Wessex open weekend posterOver the last six months, the timber frame for our reconstruction of an important Anglo-Saxon house has been created by dozens of volunteers. Over 80 logs of oak, sweet chestnut, ash, and birch have been split, shaped, and carved by hand using nothing more than wedges and axes. We are now ready to raise the frame.

During the open weekend you will be able to watch the final shaping of the timbers with axes and the raising of the House of Wessex.  A variety of traditional techniques will be used to carry the timbers to the site and raise the timber frame, including a gin pole and derrick.

Come and meet members of the Wulfheodenas, a living history society, to see and join in with Anglo-Saxon crafts, play traditional games, learn about bone carving, cookery skills and much more.

You can even learn thatching skills from our master thatcher and he will show you how to make bread using the wheat being used to thatch the roof

It will be a great family weekend and a major milestone in the project.

Free parking. Free entry. No booking required. Sylva Wood Centre, Long Wittenham. OX14 4QT.


If you would like to get more involved, we still have some places available for the public to receive training in timber-framing and traditional thatching. We are offering a series of one-day courses in July and August. Course-fees from attendees will be used to match-fund the funding received from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Find out more about the courses

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

 


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Artweeks 2019

posted on May 9, 2019

We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors, friends old and new, to the Sylva Wood Centre during the next two weekends for Oxfordshire Artweeks. Open each day from 10am-5pm. Free parking. Café, with lots to see and do for all the family.

Artweeks flier 2019

Artweeks flier 2019

We have a webpage dedicated to the exhibition at www.sylva.org.uk/artweeks


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Managing Woodland for Wildlife

posted on February 28, 2019

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 1030-1530

Teaching Barn, Sylva Wood Centre

Learn how to manage your woodland for wildlife.

Woodland Wildlife Toolkit

Woodland Wildlife Toolkit

The day will include:

  •  General background on wildlife associated with your woodland
  • How to manage your woodland to encourage wildlife
  • How to deal with potential conflicting needs between species
  • Using the Woodland Wildlife Toolkit
  • Use the Woodland Wildlife Toolkit to create an action plan for your woodland.
  • Walk through a local woodland assessing its value for wildlife

There will also be an opportunity to have a tour of the Sylva Wood Centre and hear more about the Making Local Woods Work project.

book-now

book-now

Cost:                    FREE –  18 places.  Book here

Venue:                 Sylva Wood Centre, Oxfordshire, OX14 4QT

Tutor:                   Nigel Symes (RSPB) and Paul Orsi (Sylva Foundation)

Bring:                   Laptop (if possible) for practical session. Boots/waterproofs for woodland walk.

Making Local Woods Work

Funded by Making Local Woods Work

 

 


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Forestry Skills Plan published

posted on February 12, 2019

The Forestry Skills Forum has produced a five-year plan to promote education, skills, learning and development across the forestry sector in England and Wales, while maintaining close links with the equivalent group in Scotland.

The Forestry Skills Plan identified four key themes for action:

  1. talent attraction
  2. employer support
  3. education provision
  4. skills and technical knowledge.
Forestry Skills Plan 2019

Forestry Skills Plan 2019 – click to download

Each theme has several work strands. The plan takes each theme in turn and develops their work strands into action plans.

Sylva Foundation’s Head of Forest Education, Jen Hurst, who currently chairs the Forest Education Network for England, commented:

“The Forestry Skills Action Plan is the successful result of research, collaboration and partnership between many forestry skills and forest education organisations in England. England’s forestry sector urgently needs more people all ages and backgrounds to choose a rewarding and exciting career pathway in our woodlands and forests; this action plan identifies clearly how this will be done.”

The plan is owned by the Forestry Skills Forum, and delivered by the Forum members. It is hosted on the website of the Royal Forestry Society.

About the Forestry Skills Forum

The Forestry Skills Forum is dedicated to promoting education, skills, learning and development across the forestry sector in England and Wales, and maintains close links with the equivalent group in Scotland. Members comprise the sector’s leading authorities, charities, companies, educational institutions and training providers. They represent all areas of the sector, including employers, trade associations, education providers, funders, research centres, and include specialists in all age groups: early years, primary, secondary, further and higher education. The FSF is an independent group, supported by Forestry Commission England.

Category: EDUCATION
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Timber-framing and Raising courses July 2019

posted on February 4, 2019

We are running a series of one-day timber-framing and raising courses at the Sylva Wood Centre, run by the Carpenters’ Fellowship. Come and learn jointing, framing-up, hand-rearing roof trusses, and fitting purlins and ridge pieces using traditional tools and techniques.

House of Wessex timber frame

House of Wessex timber frame

During this unique timber-framing and raising course you will develop skills and knowledge in the making and raising of a timber-frame using traditional tools and techniques.

You will be working alongside highly-skilled craftspeople, helping to make and raise the timber frame of the House of Wessex during the course. Each one-day course is one of five courses being run between 3rd and 7th July. You may book on more than one day by simply registering separately for each day. Please note that the work will be physically demanding, so please take this into account before booking multiple days!

Teaching will be provided by highly experienced craftspeople in the Carpenters’ Fellowship. Learning will include a selection of the following, catering for a wide range of skill and experience :

  • Completing treewrighting on parts of the timber frame
  • Fitting of wall plates onto posts which will be set into the ground
  • Jointing and framing-up the roof trusses
  • Hand-rearing the roof trusses
  • Fitting pulins and ridge pieces
Treewrighting and timber framing

Treewrighting and timber framing

At the conclusion of the five days, the frame will be complete and ready for fixing of wattle hurdles on the roof, and other stages of construction including thatching (also offered as a course).

Full training will be provided (no prior experience necessary). The course will be outdoors in all weathers, so you will need to wear appropriate clothing (sun and rain).

Drinks and hot food will be provided, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overnight camping (bring your own tent) may be available on the site, or locally. More details will follow your booking.

In addition, a programme of evening events (i.e. beyond the end of the formal course) will take place across the five days (3-7 July). The exact nature of these on any particular day will vary, but may include a range of talks on relevant craft and history, and social events.

 

Date

 

Book here

 

Wednesday, 3rd July 2019 book-now
Thursday, 4th July 2019 book-now
Friday, 5th July 2019 book-now
Saturday, 6th July 2019 book-now
Sunday, 7th July 2019 book-now

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Traditional thatching courses

posted on January 28, 2019

Learn about traditional and sustainable early thatching methods, including those to be used on the live reconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon, House of Wessex. 

10th-14th August 2019 (five one-day courses)

Led by Alan Jones, Conservation Carpenter and Master Thatcher, a leading thatcher in experimental archaeology and historical reconstructions since the early eighties. Each of the five one-day courses is centred on the thatching on the newly reconstructed timber House of Wessex at Sylva Foundation, south of Oxford.

 

Thatching with Alan Jones

Thatching with Alan Jones

You will learn how to use the materials and techniques to be used on the roof including laying turf over wattle hurdles, processing straw into yelms and bundles spar coating the thatch, dressing with a Leggett and gaining the required depth of fixings and overall depth of coat work.

The course will also include slide show and talk about evolution of our relationship with cereals as a food and shelter crop.  There will be the opportunity to mill grain into flour and taste bread made from the wheat straw from the roof.

Course content

  • Lecture of history and development of thatching in the UK.
  • Handling and processing the straw.
  • Applying turf to the hurdles.
  • Learning techniques for applying thatch to the roof at required thickness.
  • Spar coating the straw securely into position.
  • Dressing of the thatch to gain the desired shape.

Details

  • Small groups to allow for an intimate learning experience
  • Delegates can complete one or more days at £75 per day (discount for all five days, see below)
  • Delegates that complete 5 days may be invited to volunteer and complete the thatch on the House of Wessex reconstruction

Essential Requirements

Delegates are required to:

  • Have a good level of fitness
  • Be able to work at heights
  • Provide their own clothing suitable for work outdoors in all weathers
  • Provide their own safety boots
  • Provide your own food and drink

We are offering five one-day courses, run back-to-back.

Cost £75 per day. Click to book:

Saturday, 10th August

Sunday, 11th August

Monday, 12th August

Tuesday, 13th August

Wednesday, 14th August

We are pleased to offer a special discount if you want to attend all five days.

Five days for the price of four, at only £300. Offer only available by phoning us.

Please contact us on 01865 408018 to book for all 5 days, and have your payment card ready.

Location
Sylva Wood Centre
Little Wittenham Rd
Long Wittenham, OXF OX14 4QT
United Kingdom
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund


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How can more children get closer to nature?

posted on November 14, 2018

Three of England’s leading environmental education charities have joined forces to explore how more children could be better connected with nature. Our interest is in outdoor education in wooded areas and forests, particularly Forest School practice, and we welcome a wide range of views from all outdoor educators and woodland owners.

Survey partners Sylva Foundation, Forest School Association, and The Ernest Cook Trust are running this survey as part of the Forest Schools for All project funded by The Ernest Cook Trust. The project is focussed on delivery in England, while for this survey the researchers are interested in receiving responses from the whole of the UK. This will allow comparison between countries, and provide valuable data for use by others in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Bringing Children Closer to Nature national survey

Bringing Children Closer to Nature national survey

Enabling children to be closer to nature, especially by learning and exploring in wooded areas and forests, was recognised as a key action in the government’s 25-year Environment Plan, published earlier this year. Yet despite the well-proven benefits of children spending regular time outdoors—including health and wellbeing, attitudes to learning, and environmental awareness—there is poor understanding about the current level of outdoor activities for young people across England, particularly in wooded areas and forests.

The Bringing Children Closer to Nature survey aims to explore barriers and opportunities to activities in wooded areas and forests, including the practice of Forest School, and it will quantify any issues preventing development and growth. Its three main aims are to:

  1. acquire basic information, including the number and distribution of schools and other organisations who do forest education activities including Forest School, and the levels of training and skills among practitioners;
  2. understand more about barriers and opportunities to establishing and sustaining forest education, including Forest School, among host organisations (e.g. schools, early years nurseries) and practitioners, and explore how these could be overcome;
  3. explore potential interest among woodland owners in providing greater access to woodland sites to support forest education, including Forest School.

This national survey forms part of the Forest Schools for All project, a partnership between Sylva Foundation, The Ernest Cook Trust (funder) and The Forest School Association

Chief Executive of Sylva Foundation, Dr Gabriel Hemery, said:

“Efforts to enable, increase, and sustain activities for young people in our woodlands and other outdoor areas across England have been held back by a poor evidence base. This important survey will provide a powerful voice for those with an interest and expertise in bringing children closer to nature. The survey outcomes will help inform delivery, funding opportunities, and policy development and will be freely available.”

Chief Executive of The Ernest Cook Trust, Dr Victoria Edwards, said:

“It’s been invaluable to work alongside experienced professionals at Sylva Foundation and Forest School Association to produce such a targeted research survey. The outcomes will influence decisions on how we work at The Ernest Cook Trust in broadening our reach to inspire young people to learn from the land.

The survey was launched in November 2018 and will remain open until the end of the year. Research outcomes will summarised in a freely-accessible report in early 2019. Those people interested in taking the survey can read more and follow a link to it here: www.sylva.org.uk/survey

click here to take part in the British Woodlands 2012 survey

click here to take part in the survey

Download the press release

ENDS


Notes for Editors

Contacts:

For media enquiries and to arrange interviews please contact Jen Hurst, Head of Forest Education, Sylva Foundation.  jen@sylva.org.uk or 01865 408018

Images:

Images are available to download (reproduction free). Please contact us for further information. All images © Sylva Foundation.

About the partners:

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity helping trees and people grow together. From its base at the Sylva Wood Centre in Oxfordshire, it works across the UK supporting sustainable forest management with thousands of woodland owners. It works widely in partnership with other organisations in delivering environmental and educational projects, under the themes of science, education, forestry, and wood. www.sylva.org.uk

The Ernest Cook Trust, based in Fairford, Gloucestershire, is one of the UK’s leading educational charities, inspiring young people to achieve better educational and life outcomes by learning from the land and is rooted in the conservation and management of the countryside. It owns and manages more than 8,900 hectares of landed estates across five English counties. ECT actively encourages children and young people to learn from the land through education programmes (including Forest School training) on its own estates, through partnerships with other organisations, and through its grant-giving programme. Each year its Trustees distribute around £2m in dedicated grants to a range of education initiatives. www.ernestcooktrust.org.uk

The Forest School Association is the National professional body for Forest School, running the recognised providers and trainers’ scheme to ensure high quality Forest School. It has more than 2,000 members. www.forestschoolassociation.org


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Courses: Treewrighting and timber-framing March 2019

posted on November 2, 2018

One-day courses, 20th-24th March 2019

We are pleased to offer five one-day courses in treewrighting and timber-framing, from 20th to 24th March.

House of Wessex timber frame

House of Wessex timber frame

During this one-day course you will learn and develop skills in the making of a timber-frame using traditional tools and techniques. Teaching will be provided by highly experienced craftspeople in the Carpenters’ Fellowship. Learning will include a selection of the following, catering for a wide range of skill and experience :

  • Axe jointing “treewrighting”
  • Cleaving and dressing logs
  • Converting timbers
  • Shaping timbers
  • Carving wooden tree nails
  • Hewing logs by axe

Full training will be provided (no prior experience necessary). Although you will be working undercover, the course will be ‘outdoors’, so you will need to wear appropriate clothing.

Drinks and hot food will be provided, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overnight camping (bring your own tent) may be available on the site, or locally. More details will follow your booking.

A programme of evening events will also be on offer, including a range of talks on relevant craft and history, and social events.

You may book for more than one day. Please note that the activities will be physically demanding, so please take this into account before you sign up to all five days!

Carpenters Fellowship

 

Date

 

Book here

 

Wednesday, 20th March 2019 book-now
Thursday, 21st March 2019 book-now
Friday, 22nd March 2019 book-now
Saturday, 23rd March 2019 book-now
Sunday, 24th March 2019 book-now

 

 


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