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.


Good Woods advice for a Site of Special Scientific Interest

posted on October 1, 2013

Jen Katan from B&Q and Jude Hassall from Lantern visited Carol and Dominic Kinsella’s woodland near Goudhurst, Kent as part of the Good Woods project. Their plot is part of the bigger Combwell Wood, which has been split into lots and sold. As a result there are many owners of this one large woodland.

Providing coppice management advice during a Good Woods visit

Providing coppice management advice during the Good Woods visit to the Kinsella’s SSSI woodland

The Kinsella’s wanted some advice and guidance as to how to manage their woodland as active management hadn’t taken place for quite some time.  Ian Johnstone from the Kent High Weald Partnership was the advisor for the day.

The woodland is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), designated for its uncommon Atlantic bryophyte communities (mosses and liverworts) found in the ghylls and is a mix of largely chesnut coppice with oak standards, some of which are now reaching maturity. Ian talked about how those trees might be harvested to provide timber into the local market, a good revenue source for the owners and to maintain the character and habitat of the existing woodland. Ian also discussed coppicing practice with the Kinsellas and gave them an introduction to the local coppicing group working in Combwell Wood.

Mosses and fungi on an old birch stump in the SSSI woodland

Mosses and fungi on an old birch stump in the SSSI woodland

In a walk of the woodland we identified an ancient earth bank that probably formed part of an old boundary or pathway through the wood that the owners hadn’t known existed, some beautiful old conifers and heather in one section of the woodland and a disused charcoal burner in a clearing near the centre of the plot.  In the far corner of the woodland is a naturally draining pond, which fills up with winter rain and stays full for a large part of the year. This pond provides a habitat for frogs and newts, which the owners have spotted when visiting the woodland.

The owners were also keen to get involved in a local dormouse audit as these creatures have also been seen in their patch of woodland and Ian was able to pass on the details of this local initiative.

The visit was really well received by the owners; priority actions were identified and the report that Ian will produce as a result of his visit will give them a clear vision for their woodland and some steps to begin to achieve it.  The Good Woods visit has enabled these owners to take a fresh look at their woodland, give them a deeper understanding of how to sustainably manage it and real practical advice and help with how to do it.

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Good Woods helps nurture the next generation of veteran trees at Kingston University

posted on September 18, 2013

A Good Woods advisory visit to Kingston University has helped advise on the management of the next generation of veteran trees in woodland surrounding the Kingston Hill campus.

Alistair Yeomans of the Sylva Foundation met with Rachel Burgess, Biodiversity and Landscape Administrator at the university, who is responsible for woodland and other landscape features. Over half of the 16ha Kingston Hill campus is closed canopy semi-natural deciduous woodland. Growing throughout the woodland are many mature trees which form one of the most notable features of the predominantly wooded landscape that greets you when you arrive at the campus.

Woodland Nature Trail at Kingston University

The Woodland Nature Trail at Kingston University – information boards explaining the value of veteran trees

One of the principal aims for the woodland is to enable students and staff at Kingston University to learn about trees, and a woodland walk with information boards has been created to help fulfil this aim. Additionally Rachel organises volunteer groups of staff and students to carry out work in the woodlands.

Veteran trees and UK Forestry Standard

Promoting the United Kingdom Forestry Standard (UKFS) to woodland owners is an integral part of the Good Woods advisory visits. The UKFS offers guidelines for the management of veteran trees:

Retain and manage existing veteran trees and select and manage suitable individuals to eventually take their place’.

There are two elements to this guidance, firstly the identification and management of existing veteran trees and importantly, and often overlooked, the identification and management of the next generation of veteran trees. Compared to many historic environment features, veteran (or ancient) trees are often forgotten parts of our cultural heritage and many are not recorded or actively managed.

What is a veteran tree?

The term veteran tree is not precisely defined, however a tree may be regarded as a veteran due to:

  • great age;
  • great age relative to others of the same species;
  • existing in an ancient stage of life or due to its biological, aesthetic or cultural interest.

Size alone does help identify veteran trees, however different species may have different rates of growth or natural life spans. Management practices such as coppicing may make the identification of the true age of the coppice stool difficult to gauge. For this reason, the species, relative ages, management practice, aesthetic, cultural and biological importance should all be taken into account when surveying or assessing potential veteran trees. Natural England have produced helpful information on how to identify a tree with veteran status (see below).

Woodland management and veteran trees

mature oak growing in the Kingston Hill woodland

Rachel Burgess, Kingston University’s biodiversity and landscape administrator, pointing out a mature oak growing in the Kingston Hill woodland.

Given the high value of the Kingston Hill woodland, especially given its urban location, many of the trees in the woodland have Tree Preservation Orders and as such have been identified, carefully mapped and recorded by Rachel. During the Good Woods advisory visit Alistair and Rachel discussed the benefits of creating a woodland management plan through the myForest service. The myForest planning template is based on Forestry Commission England’s woodland management planning grant requirements. The planning approach should take into account and detail management prescriptions for the veteran trees growing in the wood. Such prescriptions may include ‘halo thinning’ of trees, which involves the removal of younger competing trees from the immediate area surrounding the selected tree so that it continues to receive the light and space needed to thrive.

All of the woodland areas were briefly surveyed, a process which identified characteristics that indicated that some areas of the woodland were once managed as coppice-with-standards, and other areas where trees possibly grew in a more open parkland environment. This seems to be the case when looking at older maps for the site which showed a more open pasture habitat in some of the sub-compartments.

Significant areas of the woodland have rhododendron and holly growing in them. Kingston University is reducing the amount of rhododendron in particular as they can be detrimental to veteran trees when the bushes become large enough. Being shade tolerant they can grow very close to the trunk of the veteran and compete for water in dry years. They are also serious competitors for light when tall. As they cast a deep shade all year round. However it is worth noting that care is required when removing vegetation from around a veteran so that sudden removal does not result in excess desiccation of the trunk.

The next generation of veteran trees

Alistair and Rachel considered long-term management of veteran trees on the site. This might involve identifying the next generation of veteran trees across the compartments and ensuring that the conditions surrounding them promotes their growth.

The Kingston Hill woodland is principally managed for biodiversity and amenity value, however within broadleaved woodlands that have a more productive focus, considering the following points will help ensure that trees are selected to grow into the veterans of the future:

  • Aim for  5 – 10 veteran trees per hectare.
  • Keep trees that will not be in the way or become hazards to the public in the future, will not become over-topped by crop trees and are close to areas with conservation interest, e.g. plentiful dead wood, glades.
  • Encourage the trees to develop a full crown.
  • Consider creating pollarded trees, if a full crown is not appropriate, but remember that they will need to be managed in the future.
  • Select native, longer-lived species such as oak, ash and beech. Retain some others such as, willow, wild service and other fruit trees, which are valuable as nectar sources or have a distinct invertebrate fauna. Bear in mind that the harvesting of the crop trees will have a large impact on retained trees, especially if the crop is coniferous.

Further reading

Good Woods - for people, for nature

Visit the Good Woods web page

The Good Woods project is a novel project aiming to breathe new life into UK woodlands. The project—a joint initiative between DIY giant B&Q, sustainability charity BioRegional and forestry charity The Sylva Foundation—will revive woodlands to provide environmental, social and economic benefits. For more information contact Amy Hammond: amy@lantern.uk.com

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Good Woods advisor uses heavy horses to transform sensitive woodland sites

posted on September 5, 2013

One of the B&Q Good Woods project advisors, Matt Waller, explains how heavy horses can help in managing sensitive woodland sites.

Matt Waller working a heavy horse in woodland

Matt Waller of Hawthorn Heavy Horses working a heavy horse in woodland, here extracting a small log.

As a woodland advisor for Good Woods, Matt is helping woodland owners to develop an initial vision for their woodland and advise how this can be achieved through the development of a woodland management plan. He’s an experienced forester, who understands the need for good woodland management in helping woods to provide us with clean air and water, good habitat for plants and wildlife, and beautiful spaces for exercise and relaxation.

To do these jobs, modern foresters typically use heavy machinery—such as tractors or forwarders. Under certain circumstances, however, these types of machines can be inappropriate. Matt Waller has faced such circumstances in the past when managing a woodland on behalf of Harlow Council in Essex, which was designated as an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). He needed to cut down and extract a large oak tree as part of the woodland’s management programme but heavy machinery was banned from the site as it could put ruts in the forest floor or contaminate the area with harmful pollutants. The oak was too heavy to move by hand, so Matt began searching for alternatives.

Stacking logs rideside, extracted from woodland by a heavy horse

Stacking logs rideside, extracted from woodland by a heavy horse

After considering options as unusual as ‘an Egyptian log-rolling technique,’ he eventually settled on one of Britain’s oldest logging methods—using heavy horses. They offer a great solution that is both environmentally sound and sympathetic to local users and wildlife. Matt tracked down one of the few remaining horse-logging operators in the country and hired him for the job. As he watched the horse removing the oak while standing with his wife, Claudia—who had experience with heavy horses—he realised there was nothing stopping them from starting a horse-logging company of their own. As Matt puts it, “I knew about cutting down trees and she knew about horses.”

The Wallers began undergoing additional training in horse logging, including experience working with a professional horse logger in Finland. In 2008, they were able to start their business, Hawthorne Heavy Horses, with the help of their first major contract, the Hylands Heavy Horses Project.

A joint venture between Chelmsford City Council and Chelmsford’s Writtle Agricultural College—the Heavy Horses Project was looking to return working horses to Hylands House, a 574-acre heritage estate located on the outskirts of the Essex town. Hawthorn Heavy Horses entered an agreement to provide the project with technical expertise in exchange for stable facilities, and the first horses—two Suffolk Punches — arrived at the estate in June 2008.

Though initially the horses were used primarily as a visitor attraction, providing demonstrations and carriage rides, over the past few years they have been increasingly used for grass cutting, harrowing and timber extraction in the estate’s 70 acres of woodland. Today, timber from the estate is used for firewood or charcoal sold locally. This has a triple benefit—providing the estate with additional revenue, the Wallers with employment, and local wildlife with a better habitat. Since coppicing and felling activities began on the estate three years ago forest floors that were once overgrown with brush and shadowed by the forest canopy are now covered with thistles and bluebells.

With the help of skilled forestry professionals, like Matt Waller, Good Woods is focussing on reaching out to owners of under-managed woodlands, starting in the South East and East of England. The project is promoting the benefits of woodland management planning; help to strengthen links between communities and woodlands; build forestry skills, and develop markets for woodland products.

For more information on Hawthorn Heavy Horses visit their website

If you are a woodland owner in the southeast or east England, and would like to be considered for a free visit, please contact us (see the links below).


Good Woods - for people, for nature

Visit the Good Woods web page

The Good Woods project is a novel project aiming to breathe new life into UK woodlands.  The project—a joint initiative between DIY giant B&Q, sustainability charity BioRegional and forestry charity The Sylva Foundation—will revive woodlands to provide environmental, social and economic benefits. For more information contact Amy Hammond: amy@lantern.uk.com


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Good Woods supports Nonsuch Voles community volunteer group

posted on August 28, 2013

Nonsuch Park, situated between Cheam and Ewell in a large residential area of London, was historically an estate of Henry VIII. Earlier this month it received an advisory visit under the B&Q Good Woods project, to help secure its future in the 21st Century and beyond.

Owned by Surrey County Council and leased to Epsom & Ewell Borough Council and the London Borough of Sutton, the park is managed through a joint management committee comprising the Councillors from both boroughs and, in an advisory capacity, by a number of local stakeholder groups.

One of the strategic aims of the Nonsuch Park management team was to establish a volunteer group.  In 2011, Nonsuch Voles was established as a voluntary association, with the four founding members forming the group’s committee. Today there are nine members, although the number fluctuates as people join the group and others move on. The group meets two days a week. Activities currently include woodland management, woodland craft, firewood production in the woodlands and gardening maintenance, pruning and planting in the formal gardens.

Nonsuch Voles

Nonsuch Voles community volunteers working in the woodland

The vision for the woodland at Nonsuch is to “bring the woodland to life, making it accessible and sustainable”. With this in mind, the aim has been to increase levels of woodland stewardship at Nonsuch, re-introducing sustainable woodland practices. Activities to date have included undertaking thinning and coppicing activities for two woodland parcels over the last two autumns/winters. Over 1,000 Hazel saplings have been planted in these areas to provide future coppice produce. Future activities include completing the woodland management plan and working on thinning, coppicing and planting over other areas in the woodland. In order to monitor the impact of re-introducing management activities in the Nonsuch woodlands, ground flora and butterfly surveys were undertaken prior to any work starting in the area. Annual surveys and photographic records have demonstrated a significant increase in the number of species of ground flora and butterflies following the coppicing work.

Good Woods visit to Nonsuch

Discussing the finer points of woodland management during the Good Woods advisor visit

John Armitage, a resident independent coppice worker, manages the wood yard and provides overall co-ordination of the woodland activities, in line with a management plan to be developed with the Forestry Commission.

The Nonsuch Park joint management committee provides a good example of multiple stakeholders groups working together to achieve a mutual vision. As well as councillors and staff from the two councils, the group includes three voluntary interest groups including the Nonsuch Voles.

Good Woods advisor Laurence Crow provided an advisory visit. Being involved with the Good Woods project has benefited the Nonsuch Voles and joint management committee by:

  1. Introducing the myForest tool to enable the group to map the woodlands and document their management plans;
  2. Establishing how the woodland and the management activities currently perform in relation to the UK Forestry Standard and the provision of ecosystem services, and what steps can be taken to improve this, through the Woodland Star Rating assessment;
  3. Helping spread the word about the group’s woodland activities and connecting the group with other groups and experts involved in woodland management.

The Nonsuch Voles are always interested in hearing from anyone with a keen interest in woodland management or gardening at Nonsuch Park, and who can spare a few hours to help with the group’s tasks.  Information can be found at www.nonsuchvoles.org.uk, by emailing nonsuchvoles@gmail.com or by going to the group’s Facebook page.

Good Woods - for people, for nature

Visit the Good Woods web page

The Good Woods project is sponsored by B&Q with the aim of promoting good woodland stewardship. For more information contact Amy Hammond: amy@lantern.uk.com

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Good Woods supports dormouse habitat in Kent woodland

posted on August 19, 2013

The Heaths Countryside Corridor received a visit from woodland advisor Mike Phillips on 14th August through the Good Woods project. The charity, local to the villages of Charing Heath and Lenham Heath in Kent, purchased Hurst Wood from the company that owns High Speed 1 after the woodland had been dissected by the building of the new railway. It was bought with the intention of allowing responsible public access and to safeguard the wildlife that has made Hurst Wood its home.

Jon Heuch (Chairman of Heaths Countryside Corridor) with dormouse sculpture and mushroom seats

Jon Heuch (Chairman of Heaths Countryside Corridor) with dormouse sculpture and mushroom seats

The woodland is unique as it comprises roughly equal areas of Ancient Semi Natural Woodland as well as newly planted secondary woodland that was planted on ancient woodland soil translocated during the construction of High Speed 1. The current management of the woodland is primarily for the dormouse which receives a high level of protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2010). Dormouse survey work over recent years has shown that increasingly, dormice are now favouring the area of secondary woodland over the ancient woodland. During the visit, this phenomenon and the reason for its occurrence was discussed at length and advice was given about coppicing the ancient woodland to improve the structure and species diversity of this area that is a requirement for top quality dormouse habitat.

In Kent Good Woods is being delivered by the Kent Downs AONB Unit and the Countryside Management Partnerships. Woodland owners in Kent interested in receiving a visit should contact Mike Phillips: Mike.Phillips@kentdowns.org.uk.

Further information and advice on management in woodlands for dormouse habitat: read more


The Good Woods project is sponsored by B&Q with the aim of promoting good woodland stewardship. For more information contact Amy Hammond:  amy@lantern.uk.com

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Good Woods at the Royal Norfolk Show

posted on July 2, 2013

Last week the Good Woods project was at the Royal Norfolk Show.

Goods Woods at the Royal Norfolk Show

Goods Woods at the Royal Norfolk Show

Good Woods network member in Norfolk & Suffolk, Nicky Rowbottom, was on the stand talking to woodland owners. Nicky is working with Gary Battell from Suffolk County Council across the two counties to deliver the project.

She shared a stand with the Forestry Commission (thanks to the FC).  The weather was great, the event was busy. There was lots of interest in the Good Woods project which is offering free support to woodland owners in the region. Nicky spoke to 15 woodland owners.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the support available in Norfolk & Suffolk, Nicky’s email address is nicky.rowbottom@btinternet.com. For other areas in the southeast and east of England please contact amy@lantern.uk.com

Goods Woods at the Royal Norfolk Show

Nicky Rowbottom talking about Good Woods at the Royal Norfolk Show

Read more about the B&Q Good Woods project

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Woodland Star Rating scheme launched

posted on May 21, 2013

A new scheme has been launched that we hope will encourage sustainable forest management in all woodlands, and promote greater understanding of good woodland stewardship among the general public.

The Woodland Star Rating is a self-assessment scheme based on the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS).  The scheme has been developed by the Sylva Foundation as part of the B&Q Good Woods project, with the support of BioRegional, B&Q, Lantern and others in the forestry sector.

Why has the scheme been created?

Attaining the best standard of management, measured against the UKFS, can seem a daunting prospect for many woodland owners. The Woodland Star Rating scheme is a light-touch approach than enables woodland owners to get a feel for what the UKFS involves and encourages them to identify areas of management that they should focus on in order to move in incremental steps towards a UKFS-compliant management plan.

The Woodland Star Rating scheme also provides a measurable indicator of the standard of woodland management being practised. Not only might this encourage woodland owners to improve their own standards, but allows others to understand the level of management being undertaken in a woodland.

How the Woodland Star Rating works

Woodland Star Rating form

Woodland Star Rating form, accessible online in the myForest website

The Woodland Star Rating scheme comprises thirty questions that a woodland owner must answer. The application process is accessible to any one who has a woodland owner account in myForest. More details are available online at www.sylva.org.uk/myforest/wsr

The questions, developed following a review of scientific evidence, are based directly upon the UK Forestry Standard, and these are matched to the ecosystem services (e.g. carbon storage, habitat provision, flood alleviation, products and other public benefits) that each of the specified management actions are deemed to enhance. A complex scoring system was developed that took all these factors into account, which was then simplified and is now presented in a user-friendly interface on the myForest Service website. The scheme is self assessment only and is not an assurance scheme in its own right as there is no independent verification in place.

Spreading the word

Woodland Star Rating certificate

An example of a Woodland Star Rating certificate

When the Woodland Owner has completed the questions, they are able to submit their data and can print their own certificate showing the Woodland Star Rating that they have achieved. This could be hung in the owner’s office or on a noticeboard near the entrance gate to the woodland.

The Woodland Star Rating scheme was developed as part of the Good Woods project.

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Good Woods project film released

posted on March 27, 2013

A film about the B&Q Good Woods project has been released. It features Sarah Greenaway from B&Q and Pooran Desai from our partners BioRegional who explain the ideas behind the project and our work objectives during 2013. They visit brickmaker Jim Matthews of H. G Matthews who uses timber to fire his kiln, harvested both from his own woodland and from an increasing number of local woodlands. The film is narrated by our Media Associate, and presenter of the 2012 BBC hit series Tales from the Wild Wood, Robert Penn.

[vimeo video_id=”60726019″ width=”700″ height=”550″ title=”Yes” byline=”Yes” portrait=”Yes” autoplay=”No” loop=”No” color=”00adef”]

Read more about the B&Q Good Woods project at www.sylva.org.uk/goodwoods


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Sylva supports Grown in Britain

posted on March 22, 2013
Grown in Britain

Grown in Britain

Sylva is pleased to lend its support to a new movement known as Grown in Britain that has been launched with cross-Government support and the involvement of all parts of the forestry sector across Britain.

Its aims are to:

  1. Create a new and stronger market ‘pull’ for the array of products derived from our forests and woodlands.
  2. Develop private sector funding that supports the planting and management of forests and woodlands through funding from corporates as part of their corporate social responsibility.
  3. Connect together and harness the positive energy and feelings towards our forests and woodlands that many in our society share to create a strong ‘wood culture’.  A wood culture that captures personal health and fitness, well-being, community and encourages use of more wood and forest products.

Sylva is pleased to endorse the movement, and in particular are pleased that its work with partners B&Q and BioRegional (read more) can offer an early and practical example of how the sector can work together to make a lasting impact on the future of Britain’s forests. It also chimes perfectly with Sylva’s mission to ‘revive Britain’s wood culture‘, that we have been working hard towards since our inception five years ago. We look forward to supporting the movement in every way that we can.

Read more about Grown in Britain

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Realising nature’s value in our woodlands

posted on March 5, 2013
Realising nature's value

Realising nature’s value – report from the Ecosystem Markets Task Force. Click to download from the Defra website

The final report of the Ecosystem Markets Task Force was published today entitled: Realising nature’s value

The report includes (on page 21) the B&Q woodland project that we announced recently (read more). It says:

Bringing neglected woodland into an appropriate management regime is challenging, and woodland owners often lack a route to market. The B&Q UK Forest Friendly Woodland project is run by the charities BioRegional and The Sylva Foundation, and helps woodland owners and managers understand their woodland resource and create a Forestry Commission compliant management plan. A network of local woodland trainers will visit 200 woodlands across the South East and East of England, representing approximately 10,000 hectares of woodland and provide training to woodland owners on The Sylva Foundation’s MyForest mapping service.

The Ecosystem Markets Task Force was established as a practical, business-led review of the economic opportunities that arise from valuing nature correctly . The work of the Task Force is a key commitment in the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper, ‘The Natural Choice’ , which seeks to create “a green economy, in which economic growth and the health of our natural resources sustain each other, and markets, business and Government better reflect the value of nature.”

Download the report from the Defra website


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