Open Day 2022

posted on April 26, 2022
Artweeks 2022

Artweeks 2022 at the Sylva Wood Centre

We are delighted to open the Sylva Wood Centre to visitors once more during Oxfordshire Artweeks.

We are open for 14/15 May from 10am-5pm.

Come and see the craftspeople at work in our Wood Centre and learn about their businesses; visit the Wood School to find out about our courses and see our students’ projects. There is also the opportunity to join the Trees, Timber and Teas event (link) and see the living history society, Wulfheodenas in action at our reconstructed Anglo-Saxon House of Wessex.

Free parking and Free entry to all venues.

Special event: Trees, timber and tea: woodland walk and tea tasting

Join us for a multi-sensory look at some ways that trees make our life richer and how we can support this extraordinary life-form.
Tickets £24. Booking essential


Find us on the Oxfordshire Artweeks website

COVID-19: we will be following government advice to ensure the safety of visitors – many of our spaces are large and well-ventilated. Handwashing and sterilising stations will be provided.


Artweeks 2022 map

Artweeks 2022 map

Artweeks 2022

Artweeks 2022 at the Sylva Wood Centre

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Renovation of the old Grain Store

posted on March 9, 2020

Despite the wet winter we’ve been busy at the Sylva Wood Centre completing the renovation of our old Grain Store. We’ve just completed this timelapse film, taken over several months, which finishes with the fitting of innovative thermally-modified hardwood products, including cladding, windows, and a door. The Brimstone products were provided by Vastern Timber, in turn supported by a grant from the Forestry Commission.

Oxfordshire Leader

Oxfordshire Leader

EU agricultural fund for rural development

EU agricultural fund for rural development

The building is almost unrecognisable from its former state, clad in asbestos and fit only for storage. Most visitors are convinced it is a completely new build.

Our thanks to all those who’ve worked on the building, and to our funders Oxfordshire Leader.


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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

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Course: hurdle-making 23-24 March 2019

posted on November 2, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Anglo-Saxon open weekend 13-14 October

posted on September 12, 2018
Anglo-Saxon weekend poster-image

Anglo-Saxon weekend poster-image

13 & 14th October, 10am-4pm  *FREE ENTRY*

We have a very exciting programme of activities lined up for our first Anglo-Saxon open weekend, as part of our House of Wessex project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Over the two days we will offer opportunities for all the family to come along and experience a wide range of Anglo-Saxon activities.

  • Watch and learn about Anglo-Saxon treewrighting (not ‘carpentry’!) including cleaving and hewing timbers, and timber framing techniques.
  • Have a go at hurdle making and the opportunity to try your hand at mixing wattle and daub!
  • A thatcher will be holding demonstrations on the thatching techniques to be used for our building.
  • Children can join in milling, from start to finish, to help make bread using a rotary quern-stone.
  • International award-winning living history society, the Wulfheodenas, will be demonstrating a wide range of Anglo-Saxon arts and crafts.  There will be textile production, from fleece to fabric, bone carving, antler working, leather working, jewellery and material making and lots more.
  • Children can listen to an Anglo-Saxon storyteller and learn and play games from this fascinating period in history.   Each tent will have a mini display and people can see and ask questions about each activity.

We look forward to welcoming you and your family. See the event on Facebook.

Location: Sylva Wood Centre, Long Wittenham, OX14 4QT (map)

Read more about the House of Wessex project


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Head of Wood School appointed

posted on

Our recently-appointed Head of Wood School, Joseph Bray, introduces himself and his new role with Sylva Foundation.

Joe Bray 2018

Joe Bray, Head of Wood School

I began my career in the furniture industry in 2000, as a designer and craftsman with Richard Williams.  My role progressed from junior craftsman to production coordinator giving me an introduction to the diversity of the industry whilst working on bespoke projects for private clients. Prior to this I studied furniture design and craftsmanship at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University and I went back to complete a masters in furniture design, graduating with distinction in 2010.  

At an early stage I knew I wanted to teach and, benefiting from a very supportive employer, I undertook some teacher training and worked at Rycotewood providing one-to-one woodwork for autistic young adults.  This valuable experience ultimately led me to make the transition between industry and education, taking up a full-time role as a teacher across the full range of programmes at Rycotewood.

Joseph Bray teaching a student

Joseph Bray teaching a student

In 2010, I took responsibility for course leadership of the Foundation degree and BA Hons programmes. I successfully led the validation of the degrees with two university partners; Bucks New University in 2010 and Oxford Brookes University in 2015.  Students and graduates have been incredibly successful, winning national awards, bursaries, and residencies.

My particular interest is in developing industrial partnerships leading to live projects, study trips, work experience, internships, and sponsorship for students.  Recent collaborations include live projects with AHEC (American Hardwood Export Council) exploring the characteristics of red oak, designing public seating for the RAF museum – London, as part of the 100-year anniversary, and live briefs with furniture manufacturers Ercol and William Hands.

My current research interest is to understand better how to upskill furniture graduates making them more employable – considering how to bridge the gap between education and professional life.  I have been successful in an application for funding and was announced as a Churchill Fellow in 2018. I will travel initially to USA in autumn visiting the Centre for Furniture Craftsmanship, North Bennett Street School, Rhode Island School of Design and Rochester Institute of Technology.  Further travel to prestigious European institutions will follow in spring 2019. A report will be published in 2019 sharing the knowledge gained and recommendations for improving the education system here in the UK.   

I am a member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and have served on the council since 2008 – I am currently responsible for the production of their quarterly newsletter.  I am a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

I am passionate about making, and very excited to get stuck into my new role, with Sylva Foundation, which for the first year I will be taking up while also continuing part-time with Rycotewood. My main responsibility is the development of the new Sylva Wood School, and in time I will play a lead role in supporting the delivery of training and courses. I’ll also play a key part ensuring the development of the Sylva Wood Centre as a beacon for best practice.

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Artweeks at the Sylva Wood Centre

posted on May 21, 2018

Artweeks 2018 montage

Artweeks 2018 montage

Now our first weekend is behind us, we’re looking forward to opening our doors to the Sylva Wood Centre again next weekend. We will be open from Saturday 26th to Monday 28th, from 1000 to 1700.

We hope to see you there!


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Crafting a future in wood

posted on May 4, 2018

Sylva Wood Centre craftsman, Alistair Buchan, talks about his journey becoming a furniture designer maker.

Guest blog by Alistair Buchan

Alistair Buchan

Alistair Buchan at his workshop in the Sylva Wood Centre

In 2015, I was working in a standard office job in London, but despite decent prospects and pay, it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I decided that I needed a hobby which would allow me to express my creative side — woodworking and furniture design seemed to fit well.

I enrolled in a five-week night course near my hometown of Oxford, and soon after finishing the course I began researching careers and more formal training. I wanted to be able to make anything, and everything, that my imagination could throw at me. My research led me to the Furniture School run by Williams & Cleal, and after sitting down with Jane Cleal for an informal chat over a cup of tea, I enrolled on an intensive 40-week furniture course

My course started with work on a small puzzle requiring only hand tools, followed by a small dovetailed box which introduced me working with veneers, complex joinery, and design elements. Soon afterwards, I was introduced to heavy machinery, selection of timbers, and more design techniques and software, all of which came together in making a small side table.

Two of my projects won Somerset Guild of Craftsmen Awards, which I am very proud of, but I know these were also a testament to the guidance and nurturing from the team at Williams & Cleal. About halfway through the 40-week course, I started receiving lessons in the business elements of furniture making. My first draft cash flow soon revealed that starting a furniture making business can be quite a significant financial risk.

After leaving Williams & Cleal, I moved back to Oxford. I started meeting with local craftsmen to pick their brains about local suppliers and potential places to start up a business. Someone soon pointed me in the direction of Sylva Foundation and the Sylva Wood Centre in south Oxfordshire. I couldn’t believe my luck.

The Sylva Wood Centre is a perfect place to start a furniture making business. The charity offers workshop space, with access to a shared machinery workshop. I was able to start my fledgling business without investing in my own heavy machines, while paying reasonable workshop rates. The financial burden of starting a furniture making business could be really cut down by starting off my new career at the Wood Centre.

Cherry Blossom Chair

Cherry Blossom Chair by Alistair Buchan

In November 2016, I started ‘hot benching’ — where woodworkers can hire a bench for just a week at a time, in a shared large workspace alongside fellow makers. I started first with a few small commissions for various family and friends, which helped while I found my feet. This continued for the next year, and all the while I kept developing the business and my own personal design and making skills. There are a 13 other wood businesses at the Sylva Wood Centre so there is always someone to bounce ideas off, to ask for a hand with a glue up, or lift a heavy item.

Cherry Blossom Chair close-up

Cherry Blossom Chair close-up, by Alistair Buchan

In the summer of 2017, I decided to take the next step and graduate into my own proper workshop within the Sylva Wood Centre. Because of the popularity of the units, there weren’t any available units at the time, so I put my name to a waiting list. Meanwhile, I kept chugging away and used the time to develop a proper business plan and direction for Ali Buchan Furniture.

In March 2018, a unit became available, so I moved in. I hung my clamps on the walls, set up a few benches for laying out and gluing up, as well as my main bench for doing the dirty work. Three years after I decided to change my career, I’m now where I want to be: a small furniture design and making business, specialising in fine bespoke desks. Who knows what the future holds, but I am excited to see where Ali Buchan Furniture can go. It’s been a whirlwind three years but some of the best years of my life. Williams & Cleal and Sylva Foundation have been right at the heart of it all.  and

Meet more craftspeople at the Sylva Wood Centre

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Does life mean you to do a somersault?

posted on May 1, 2018

“Sometimes you have to check,” writes Ruth Pavey in her book, A Wood of One’s Own, “just in case life means you to do a somersault.” Join us at WoodWords 2018 to hear about her own modest upheaval – buying a piece of land at auction on the Somerset Levels with a view to creating a new woodland.

A Wood of One's Own, by Ruth Pavey

A Wood of One’s Own, by Ruth Pavey

‘Pavey’s love for her small patch of land shimmers off the page [in this] narrative of warmth, honesty and great spirit made all the more beautiful by Pavey’s own lively and accomplished drawings… this lovely book is itself a gift encouraging country-dweller and townie alike to marvel at the infinite possibilities at the heart of a single tree’ The Daily Mail, Book of the Week

‘Practical and full of helpful advice which has been artfully baked-in throughout. If someone asks you what you’d like for Christmas or a birthday don’t hesitate to reply, A Wood of One’s


WoodWords 2018

WoodWords 2018

Ruth Pavey 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)

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.

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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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