Sourcing and Using Home-Grown Wood Products

posted on June 27, 2022

Sylva Foundation’s views on sourcing and using home-grown wood products.

Using more wood products sourced from UK forests will stimulate our economy while improving the environmental condition of more woodlands, reducing wood-miles (carbon footprint of importing timber), and help reconnect people with the benefits of a working countryside.

Sylva Foundation has set out its views on sourcing and home-grown wood products, and articulated how these link to its charitable purpose in a new position statement: Sourcing and Using Home-Grown Wood Products. The position statement also sets out a number of actions which it commits to following and will advocate to others. The position statement can be downloaded here.


Home-Grown Wood Procurement - decision tree

Home-Grown Wood Procurement – decision tree


  • Sylva Foundation’s vision is for a society that cares for nature while living in harmony with it.
  • Much of the UK’s wildlife has adapted to thrive in managed forests.
  • Currently there is low awareness of the provenance of wood products among users and consumers, and therefore a lack of awareness of the resulting consequences for the environment and economy.
  • There is a perception among UK users of wood products that supply is limited and/or that quality is poor.

Our Actions

Sylva Foundation position statement on sourcing and using home-grown wood products

download the position statement

Sylva Foundation will:

  1. advocate a hierarchal approach, placing a preference for home-grown wood products above some certified wood products.
  2. develop and make freely available a decision support tool to aid good environmental and ethical decision making by users of wood products (see below).
  3. be proactive in supporting the mission and activities of Grown in Britain.
  4. explore how best to improve the UK woodchain.

Home-grown Wood Product Selector tool

Sylva Foundation has developed a beta version of a Home-Grown Wood Product Selector decision support tool. This tool is provided free to use and aims to guide wood product users in decision making for sourcing timber and wood products in the UK. Sylva Foundation aims to develop this tool further with support from partners, and if investment can be attracted, develop a simple mobile application to improve accessibility and user experience.

home-grown wood product selector tool

home-grown wood product selector tool



The area of woodland in the UK is estimated to be 3.2M hectares (13%); meaning that it is the second least-wooded country in Europe. A significant proportion of woodland area (44%) has been certified under the UK Woodland Assurance Scheme. However, a similar area of woodland (e.g. 42% in England) is without a management plan compliant with the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS). Such non-compliant UKFS woodlands may be failing to deliver benefits to society, the environment, and to the UK economy.

The UK is the second largest importer of timber of any country in the world (second only to China), including 7.2M m3 of sawnwood and 5.3M tonnes of pulp and paper, amounting to £7.5 billion worth of imports . From its own forests, the UK produces 3.3M m3 of sawnwood, 3.0M m3 of wood-based panels, and 3.6M m3 of paper product.

It may seem obvious that a country with low woodland cover may be reliant on timber imports for much of its needs, however the current low level of woodland management in the UK is a real concern. Not only does a reliance on wood product imports leads to significant carbon footprint due to transportation (‘wood-miles’), but the under-performance of the UK timber market means that woodland owners may remain unmotivated to improve the condition of their woodlands, or even to invest in creating new woodland. Good woodland management (as measured against the UKFS) is closely linked not only to the economy, but also to the environmental condition of our woodlands.

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Applications Open for Summer School 2022

posted on June 20, 2022

The V&A and Sylva Foundation are hosting a summer school and inviting creative practitioners to take part. The Field Notes project will provide a unique opportunity for those with an interest in wood as a material, and in forests and woodlands as a place for learning and growing.


Summer School 2022

For Sylva Foundation, the collaboration is an extension to its ongoing support of a Summer School. Head of the Sylva Wood School, Joseph Bray, commented:

“We are excited to be collaborating with the V&A this year, especially because of the amazing opportunity it will provide to the creative participants in having their work displayed at the museum. The Field Notes project will help meet some of our core aims at the Wood School in creating inspiring experiences and opportunities for young people to experience making with home-grown timber.”

For the V&A, the collaboration supports the second iteration of Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures programme. Curator of Twentieth Century and Contemporary Furniture and Product Design at the V&A, Johanna Agerman Ross, said:

“We are delighted to continue the 10-year Make Good programme with this summer school in collaboration with Sylva Foundation. It will be exciting to see what this summer school will bring in terms of interrogating the use of wood and natural materials in design and how the participants will reflect in the themes and questions we have proposed as a starting point.”

The outcome of the Project will be an object or series of objects made from underutilised homegrown timber and other natural materials, sourced locally on the Sylva Wood Centre site. These will be contextualised with reflections on the summer-school learning process in the form of imagery, spoken or written word, film or performance.

Sylva Summer School

Sylva Summer School

The Field Notes summer school is open to anyone over the age of 18 with an interest in making. As the Wood School at Sylva Foundation is equipped with industry- standard wood working tools this is a great environment for people to further develop professional making skills. Some prior experience of using wood working tools being would be a benefit to participants. There are eight places available for makers wishing to explore making in wood. This is an opportunity suitable for students, recent graduates, or early-career practitioners.

There are a further four places for embedded observers, to learn from and capture the programme in some format other than making in wood, for example through writing, sketching, podcast making, film making, or photography. This is an opportunity suitable for students, recent graduates, or early-career practitioners. Mentors will be available to all participants, to help realise the different projects.

Field Notes

Field Notes

All applications will be treated equally, regardless of age, disability, gender identity or gender expression, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, or any other equality characteristic. We encourage applications from disabled people and people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and from people who identify as queer or female as these groups are currently under-represented in the fields of forestry, design and making in wood.

For an overview of the Field Notes summer school, please read the full call-out here.

An application form is available below. If you have any difficulties viewing the application form, you can also access the form here.

DEADLINE 11th JULY 2022.



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Wood School Assistant Appointed

posted on May 26, 2022

We are delighted to welcome Phillip Gullam as our new Wood School Assistant.

Phillip Gullam - Wood School Assistant

Phillip Gullam – Wood School Assistant

Phil previously taught at Rycotewood for a number of years, teaching various furniture-making courses. He brings to the role a breadth of experience gained over the years.  Phil has been involved in the teaching and assessing qualifications for wood occupations for more than 15 years. Most recently this was as the nationwide quality assurer of furniture qualifications and as an assessor of furniture-making apprenticeships. Prior to this, he was a workshop manager for several high-profile furniture/kitchen makers, and has successfully run his own workshop.

Commenting on his appointment, Phil said:

‘I am excited by the opportunity to work with Sylva’s students and help develop their furniture making skills and knowledge, using homegrown timbers, and to be involved in Sylva Foundation’s wider projects.’

Read more about the Sylva Wood School

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Summer School 2021

posted on October 12, 2021

In September, Sylva Foundation hosted a Summer School for young creative people to promote design and craft using home-grown timber. The inspiring report from the workshop is published today to coincide with Grown in Britain week.

Sylva Foundation cares passionately about trees and people, and at its Wood School in south Oxfordshire it has set out to nurture a wood culture, enhancing the potential of a home-grown timber supply while promoting the benefits of managing woodlands for people and nature. It is promoting excellence in creativity and craft using home-grown timber, and this year’s week-long Summer School was no exception. This inspiring event was the perfect vehicle to educate, collaborate, and innovate.

The concept of the 2021 Summer School was to bring together a group of passionate creative people and provide them with all of the necessary ingredients to explore, design, and create prototypes in the charity’s professional workshops.

Summer School 2021

Summer School 2021

A series of talks by industry leaders inspired and educated delegates about the potential of under-utilised home-grown timber, providing context for the fast-paced design-and-make experience which followed. The delegates were then encouraged and fostered a ‘thinking through making’ approach, supported by a brilliant team of tutors.

The added dimension of the group was that all identified as women or non-binary, creating a community of makers that went against the grain of most furniture craft courses, and indeed the wider industry. This led to some supportive conversations about gender and hopefully a group that will continue to support one another into the future.

Head of Wood School Joseph Bray commented:

Everyone involved was blown away by the experience and certainly, everyone involved went home exhausted yet inspired. The results were incredibly impressive and represent the hard work of this remarkable cohort.

Download the report

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Launch of the Sylva Wood School Fellowship Fund

posted on August 27, 2021

Could you help support a young craftsperson by making a donation to our new Sylva Wood School Fellowship Fund?

We are pleased to launch a new campaign aiming to establish a fund to support young craftspeople who graduate from our Professional Making Course. The Sylva Wood School Fellowship Fund will allow us to appoint Fellows, chosen from our course alumni.

Sylva Wood School


At the Sylva Wood School we are training a new generation of young people to work creatively with home-grown wood. We aim to help them establish a successful career, improve their chances of employment, and ultimately to become ambassadors for home-grown wood in future society. Each year we have students who complete our six-month course. We aim to help the very best of our alumni progress their skills and experience by establishing a fund to support them financially during the difficult months following their graduation. During this time, we will also help them practically by providing a work bench with access to ongoing advice and support at the Wood School. Read more about the Professional Making Course

Money raised through this campaign will be held by Sylva Foundation and used to create a fund from which grants can be awarded to deserving young people under the Sylva Wood School Fellowship programme. Donors can choose to give once or set up a regular donation.

Please see the interactive form below (or click here)

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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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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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Sylva Wood School enews

posted on October 24, 2019

We’ve released another enews for those interested in our activities related to the Sylva Wood School.

We’ve enjoyed a busy autumn at the Sylva Wood School delivering many successful courses. It’s been great to have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from everyone who has taken part. We hope you enjoy reading more about some of these in the enews.

Our spring schedule of courses is now live on our website. We have a great range of courses available including some favourites with our expert invited tutors, as well as some new courses led by me. Perhaps we’ll be able to welcome you to join us on a course soon.

Our courses would make a unique Christmas or birthday gift for someone special. We have vouchers available on our online shop if you are not sure which course they would prefer.

Best wishes,
Joseph Bray

To find out more about our recent events, and the new programme of courses for spring 2020, click here.

Wood School enews-Oct19

Read more from our Sylva Wood School enews-Oct19


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Sylva summer school shines a light on under-utilised home-grown timber

posted on October 7, 2019

Earlier this year the Sylva Foundation approached Grown in Britain (GiB) to collaborate on a project to promote the potential of under-utilised home-grown timber aiming to inspire innovation and creativity. Students and recent graduates from Rycotewood, the renowned furniture college in Oxford, were asked to explore the potential of Douglas-fir and Alder for furniture making. To add to the challenge, the Douglas-fir was kiln-dried whereas the Alder was freshly sawn, resulting in differing methods of working.

GiB CEO Dougal Driver set out a design brief that challenged the participants to think creatively and work collaboratively.



Marketing at conferences and shows can mean many journeys up and down the country often end up with a car boot full of pull-up banners, folding tables, and plastic leaflet holders. Finding a beautiful off-the-peg solution that is easy to use and assemble, that displays marketing materials effectively and is well crafted in sustainable materials is impossible. 

Your brief for this Sylva Summer School is to work exclusively with two under-utilised home-grown timber species, Douglas-fir and Alder, to design and prototype a solution. We would like you to develop a functional concept that can be dismantled easily, fits into a car for transportation, and is not too heavy to be carried by the user. 


With only five days to develop a fully-functional response the group had to work at a fast pace. To kickstart the creative process they were given a talk by Sylva CEO Gabriel Hemery arguing the case for the increased use of home-grown timbers . This was followed by a tour of our workshops, timber store and recently planted ‘future forest’. There is so much to be inspired by the Sylva Wood Centre, but they were particularly taken by the ‘House of Wessex’, an Anglo-Saxon house being faithfully reconstructed using traditional methods.  The day ended with a visit from furniture designer-maker Richard Williams, who gave supportive feedback on their emerging ideas. He encouraged them to explore the materials and allow that experience to inform the direction of their ideas.

The project gave everyone the opportunity to work within the professionally equipped workshops and to experience working with both timbers for the first time. They worked tirelessly all week helping each other to solve problems and making the most of the opportunity to produce three excellent solutions.

Andrew, Carina, Daisy, David and Paul collectively produced three collapsible tables with some beautiful detailing – all ready to be loaded into a car ready for the next marketing event! We are very excited about the potential of these products and of these students. They are a credit to Rycotewood and have a very bright future ahead of them.

We are very pleased to promote the project during GiB week and believe that our summer school has shone a light on under-utilised timber species that could have a very bright future. We would like to thank GiB for working with us and their member Vastern Timber for supplying the Douglas-fir. After such a successful week we plan to offer an annual summer school experience to continue to explore the potential for home-grown timber.

The Makers

Tutor:    Joseph Bray, Head of Wood School. Sylva Foundation

  • Andrew Joye, @andrew.joye
  • Carina Day
  • Daisy Brunsdon, @lula_furniture
  • David Cheng
  • Paul Lippard

Find our more about the Sylva Wood School

Summer School 2019 group with Tutor Joseph Bray

Summer School 2019 group with Tutor Joseph Bray

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Opening of the Sylva Teaching Barn

posted on January 22, 2019

Last Wednesday evening we opened the doors of our brand new Teaching Barn to promote the vision for the Sylva Wood School.

We enjoyed showing our trustees, funders, collaborators and friends from industry around our well-equipped teaching venue and explaining future planned developments for the Wood Centre.  Some of the creative businesses we host also opened up their workshops, highlighting the incredible community that has rapidly developed over the past three years – it was clear to see the potential for any students coming onto the site to learn from such a diverse range of experts.

Teaching Barn at the Sylva Wood Centre

Teaching Barn at the Sylva Wood Centre

The feedback from the evening was overwhelmingly positive.  It was wonderful to see the furniture industry well-represented by Dids Macdonald and Tony Smart of the Furniture Makers Company, designer-makers Richard Williams and Philip Koomen, as well as representatives of heavyweights such as William Hands and Ercol.  We look forward to further strengthening our relationship with the sector to teach and guide people into the industry.

Joseph Bray, Head of Wood School, shared his thoughts on the future of education in the wood sector focussing on the opportunities to deliver excellence in education and business enterprise.

“Schools have changed from woodwork to much broader D&T and over the past 10 years the decline in entries to GCSE has reduced by well over 50%  The emphasis of these courses has significantly moved away from making! Colleges offering vocational furniture training can almost be counted on one hand and University level craft programmes have declined significantly some closing workshops and some closing all together.  Often graduates are pushed out into the world with varying levels of support and guidance.

“An exception to the rule is our close neighbour Rycotewood in Oxford.  We hope to enhance our close relationship continuing to work closely with staff, students and graduates.

“The future can feel bleak, however we exist outside the formal education system and as a creative and flexible organisation we are able to offer a range of programmes that will plug some of the gaps.  We plan to build a schools programme for those unable to access making on the school curriculum. We will provide workshops and skills training to students who cannot access this at college or University and we will continue the excellent work already started in providing support for graduates within the community of creative enterprises that make up our site.”

Joseph is midway through an inspiring Churchill Fellowship, travelling to world-renowned institutions delivering furniture craft education in USA and Europe.  He is investigating how they continue to support students to learn craft skills in light of the challenges within the education sector and how students are supported on graduation.  This experience is especially helpful at this stage of the development of our Wood School. He is off to Europe in March and we look forward to hearing what he has learnt on his return.

We are currently delivering a programme of weekend courses using some excellent external tutors as we build up to the launch of a range courses in the summer and beyond – watch this space for some exciting opportunities.  Read more

Sylva Foundation is very grateful to the following funders for their support in constructing and furnishing the Teaching Barn: Aspen Trust, D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, Oxfordshire LEADER, People’s Postcode Lottery, Shanly Foundation.

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