Due to Covid-19, we have reduced personnel at the offices of the Sylva Foundation and our premises at the Sylva Wood Centre. Emails and phone messages are being checked but please allow a little longer than usual to receive a response.
Please do not arrange a formal visit without first checking with us. Members of the public are free to enjoy our network of permitted paths through the Future Forest as usual.

news

A discussion about Wood Culture

posted on July 23, 2020

Recently, Sylva Foundation CEO Dr Gabriel Hemery was interviewed by Tom Barnes, Director of Vastern Timber, about Wood Culture. They discussed public perspectives of forestry and the need to recreate an affinity between society and the natural world.

 

With thanks to Vastern Timber.


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New Woodland Management Resources for Educators

posted on December 11, 2019

Today the Sylva Foundation launches a set of new woodland management resources for teachers, Forest School leaders and other outdoor educators, through the myForest for Education website.

myForest for Education is a free online application that enables educators to produce simple maps and management plans for their outdoor education sites, and has been designed in partnership with the Forest School Association to support Forest School leaders. myForest currently has over 1500 registered education users. In response to recent user feedback, Sylva Foundation have produced a new step-by-step PDF help guide, a guide to ecological impact assessment, and a set of tutorial videos for using myForest for Education.

Watch the video

Explore the new help resources for use with myForest for Education
In a nationwide survey of 1,171 people led by the Sylva Foundation in 2019 [1] , tree health was identified as a key training need area by educators. Together with the Forestry Commission Plant Health Forestry Team, the Sylva Foundation have produced a set of pest and disease factsheets for four common broadleaved trees, directly addressing this need. The resources are designed for use in the field by Forest School leaders and other educators, alone or with older children (9+), helping to spot common tree pests and diseases and providing reporting and management advice. They are the first tree pest and disease resources in England designed specifically for educators.

Explore the new tree health resources

Education resources on myForest for Education

Education resources on myForest for Education

 

Download the leaf insect herbivore ID guide

Leaf insect herbivore identification guide

Leaf insect herbivore identification guide

Sylva Foundation have also produced a leaf insect herbivore identification guide, for use by educators in the field and to plan bug-related activities with children.

We hope you enjoy using the new resources on myForest for Education. These resources have been made possible with funding from the Ernest Cook Trust, and were developed in collaboration with Sylva Foundation intern Elsa Field, a DPhil student from Oxford University whose internship was funded through NERC.


[1] Hemery, G., Hurst, J., Petrokofsky, G., (2019).
Bringing children closer to nature: report of a survey on Forest School and outdoor learning in England. 23pp. www.sylva.org.uk/forestschools


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House of Wessex receives second Royal visit . . . 1300 years later

posted on November 28, 2019

Her Royal Highness, the Countess of Wessex, formally opened our uniquely reconstructed Anglo-Saxon building during a visit yesterday. Named the ‘House of Wessex’, the replica seventh century building has been painstakingly built over a period of two years with the help of experts and hundreds of volunteer days.

In 2016, during preparations underway before planting a new community woodland, environmental charity the Sylva Foundation worked with archaeologists to reveal the remains of an important Anglo-Saxon building on its land in south Oxfordshire. The building’s age, dimensions, and location all pointed to its importance for the Wessex Kingdom, perhaps even a royal residence. Archaeologists believe it will have formed part of a settlement associated with a leading family of the West Saxons in the seventh century. Thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the charity was able to gather together experts and volunteers to design and then faithfully reconstruct the building using tools and techniques from the period.

After months of planning, and the donation of more than 80 trees from the Blenheim Estate, the raising of the timber frame took place this summer. The house was built on the same site, but just one metre removed to preserve any remaining archaeology. The timber frame was constructed by Carpenter’s Fellowship volunteers using simple hand tools, and took more than 500 labour days to complete. By the autumn, the thatching of the roof had been completed and the walls constructed with wattle. With the help of families, the walls were plastered with daub comprising clay, straw and cow dung.

During the reconstruction, the charity held a number of public open days with a living history society, the Wulfheodenas, who impressed visitors with their cooking, weapon making, and weaving skills. With local history groups the charity has also created a heritage trail linking the site of the reconstruction to nearby historic features.

The legacy for the project is the House of Wessex itself which will function as an educational facility. The Wulfheodenas will play an active role in continuing to develop the house and will support the charity in delivering educational activities with the public.

Inviting the Countess of Wessex to unveil an interpretation panel next to the building to mark its opening, Dr Gabriel Hemery, Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation, said:

“On behalf of the Sylva Foundation, and all our incredible supporters, I am delighted to welcome Her Royal Highness, the Countess of Wessex, to formally open the House of Wessex. This reconstruction celebrates the birth of the kingdom of Wessex thirteen hundred years ago on this very spot. Not only is the Countess of Wessex able to lend her title to the occasion, but knowing of her interest in the countryside, it’s been a privilege to introduce her to the charity’s work today.”

For recent press coverage, and for some fabulous images, see:

Visit our webpage for the House of Wessex

 


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Forestry Fieldwork Resources Launched for Secondary Schools

posted on November 13, 2019

Fieldwork in the Forest, our new forestry fieldwork resources for secondary school geography teachers and pupils launches today.

Fieldwork in the Forest

Fieldwork in the Forest

The resources are the culmination of four years of consultation with geography teachers and effective partnerships, working across England’s education and forestry sectors. The Sylva Foundation, with support from Patsy Wood Trust and Forestry Commission, has produced a new set of free teaching resources and an accompanying film designed for secondary school geography teachers and their pupils. The resources and film encourage and enable educators to use nearby wooded areas and forests with their classes.

Visit the Fieldwork in the Forest webpage

The aims of Fieldwork in the Forest are two-fold:

  1. to support secondary schools to do more fieldwork in England’s woodlands and forests, and;
  2. to increase teaching, learning and understanding of British forestry amongst secondary school-aged people in England.
Fieldwork in the Forest free downloads

Fieldwork in the Forest free downloads. Click on image to view resources

Steve Fowkes, Advisor for Business and Markets, Forestry Commission said:

“The Forestry Skills Forum has been aware for a while that there is a significant gap in understanding and awareness of British forestry and woodland management at secondary school level. This is one of the factors leading to poor uptake of forestry careers in England, and it’s great to see the Sylva Foundation, one of the key partners of the Forum, taking action through the Forestry Skills Action Plan to address this. The Fieldwork in the Forest project goes a long way in bridging this gap and inspiring the next generation of foresters.”

Jen Hurst, Sylva Foundation’s Head of Education commented.

“Fieldwork in the Forest is an excellent example of partnership working and collaboration; a strength in all Sylva’s work. Thanks go to the enthusiasm of more than 80 trainee geography PGCE students from the Department of Education, University of Oxford and their tutors who have been willing to try out fieldwork ideas and evaluate them with us over the past four years. Blenheim Estate team and Combe Mill Society have supported the project from the start providing access to a nearby woodland and excellent facilities. Thanks also go to the experts in the Evenlode Catchment Partnership who have provided high-quality input during annual fieldwork training days. We hope geographers will enjoy using these resources as much as we have developing them!”

The fieldwork methodologies and advice sheets can be used in any wooded area or forest to fulfil parts of the geography curriculum fieldwork requirements at GCSE and A-Level in England. These teaching resources may also inspire A-Level pupils to consider forestry related fieldwork for their independent investigations.

Explore the Fieldwork in the Forest resources

 


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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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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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