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

The Future of Furniture Craft Education

posted on December 4, 2019

Our Head of Wood School, Joseph Bray, writes about his recent experience completing a Churchill Fellowship exploring furniture education in the US and Scandinavia.

Joseph Bray's report for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust: The Future of Furniture Craft Education

Download Joseph Bray’s report for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust: The Future of Furniture Craft Education

This time last year I was returning from the first leg of my Churchill travelling fellowship where I visited a wide range of institutions offering high quality furniture education in the USA and Europe. I set out to explore how furniture craft skills were delivered and how these programmes supported graduates to bridge the gap between education and professional life. It was a truly inspirational experience that has taught me so much about the shared issues we face as well as some amazing examples of best practice.

My key recommendations are to:

  1. Establish inspirational opportunities for young people to experience making
  2. Integrate rigorous professional practice into craft education
  3. Stimulate collaboration locally, nationally and internationally

I started the fellowship while I was the programme leader of the Furniture Design and Make BA degree course at Rycotewood in Oxford and now I am heading up our growing Sylva Wood School. We have plans to offer a unique programme that aims to develop craft skills through commercial batch production, create a business development programme, and build on the success of our first summer school in collaboration with Grown in Britain. These activities are all aimed at helping to bridge the gap between education and the world beyond – I am very pleased to be able to put some of my findings into practice.

An important principle of a Churchill Fellowship is to share the findings with your community on your return. I have completed a report, ‘The future of furniture craft education’ and this is freely available and can be downloaded here.

Future of Furniture Craft Education: key recommendations

Future of Furniture Craft Education: key recommendations

 

Category: Announcements

Comments (0)

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

 


Comments (0)

Announcing the death of our trustee Peter Savill

posted on

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our long-standing trustee and great friend to Sylva Foundation, Dr Peter Savill.

Dr Peter Savill, formerly Chair of Trustees - Sylva Foundation

Dr Peter Savill, formerly Chair of Trustees – Sylva Foundation

Peter served as a trustee for the charity since its inception ten years ago, and was a great friend and professional colleague to all of us at Sylva. He had only recently stepped down as Chair of our Trustee board, after serving in that position for five years.

We will publish a full obituary in due course.

Chief Executive Dr Gabriel Hemery would welcome any messages from those who knew Peter. Please use the following form to do so:

https://forms.gle/UxkJwLAduSzMue3f7

 

Category: Announcements
Tags: ,

Comments (0)

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

 


Comments (0)

New web software will help deer management across landscapes

posted on November 11, 2019

Environmental charity the Sylva Foundation has launched a major new version of a web platform and mobile app designed to help with the management of deer across landscapes.

Many woodlands suffer significant impacts from expanding deer populations, creating poor conditions for wildlife. Improving woodland condition requires the careful and consistent management of deer populations, often in collaboration with neighbouring owners and managers across a landscape.

Deer Manager App

Deer Manager App

Two years ago, in partnership with The Deer Initiative, Sylva Foundation released new functionality within its online woodland management platform myForest aimed at helping landowners and stalkers collect and collate deer management information. Working closely with stakeholders the charity has since been working to provide more functionality to meet additional requirements of stalkers and land managers.

Today, a completely revised myForest Deer Manager app has been launched. Alongside the app, significant improvements to the website have also been released. The development of these new platforms was supported by the Forestry Commission and Natural England.

The web platform and links to the new app can be found at: www.sylva.org.uk/myforest/deer

myForest Deer Manager mobile app

Deer Manager App on a mobile phone

Deer Manager App on a mobile phone

This app is focussed specifically on the requirements of stalkers. It helps stalkers to collect deer cull and sighting data across multiple sites to allow them to:

  • Collect cull information including, species, sex, age, larder weight and location.
  • Collect information on other deer seen during an outing.
  • Add notes that can be associated with culls or outings.
  • Export data to a spreadsheet for reporting to others or for their own records.
  • Link directly to the myForest website to allow submission of stalking information at the press of a button.

The revised app has useful functionality that can have benefits at many levels. For stalkers who wish to maintain records for their own interest it provides a really simple and efficient platform. The benefits of the system are that once the properties or woodlands are set up in the app, the stalker can use the simple drop-down menus to record culls or blank outings minimising the risk of incorrect data input and providing either themselves or a landowner/manager with invaluable data on cull and effort.

For landowners who require cull records from their own land, it helps to maintain cull records and monitor deer management activity which can be useful for internal planning and reporting, for example a Countryside Stewardship deer management plan. For larger organisations with multiple properties and deer managers the system provides user-friendly tools which reports to a conventional excel format.

Deer Management functionality on myForest website

A new suite of online tools has been designed for landowners and managers to collect, store and collate deer management information including the ability to:

  • Collect and collate cull information from multiple stalkers through linkages with the myForest Deer Manager mobile app.
  • View cull and sighting data on a map allowing managers to spot landscape patterns.
  • Export all data to a spreadsheet for further manipulation, and allow reporting to others e.g. grant bodies.

Further updates are planned to improve functionality, including adding enhanced data storage for indicators such as deer impact assessments and the ability to download bespoke reports.

Deer Manager website

Deer Manager website

Paul Orsi, Director of Operations at Sylva Foundation, said:

“By working with The Deer Initiative and other stakeholders in the sector we have been able to significantly improve the deer management functionality offered through myForest. In particular, we have made the mobile app more stalker focussed. We hope these improvements will lead to better record keeping, allowing improved management of deer populations across landscapes.”

David Jam, Executive Director of The Deer Initiative, said:

“Lethal control of wildlife, including deer management, is under increasing public scrutiny, therefore there is a greater need than ever to maintain records and provide evidence of management activity. The myForest Deer Manager app enables land and deer managers to collect detailed data easily on deer culled and deer management effort.”


Notes for Editors

Contacts

For media enquiries and to interview Sylva staff, please contact:
Paul Orsi, Director of Operations, Tel. 01865 408018, email: paul@sylva.org.uk

Why we need to manage deer

With no natural predators and extensive suitable habitat in the UK, deer are increasing in distribution and abundance. In some cases, localised overabundance can lead to deer coming into conflict with other species as well as human and land management objectives.

  • £4.5m: The cost of damage caused by deer to plantations and other commercial woodlands, according to the Scottish Forestry. The loss of natural capital value is yet to be calculated but will be significant.
  • 8,000 hectares: The area of woodland with Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status that is currently in ‘unfavourable’ or ‘recovering’ condition due to deer impacts. This is likely to represent a fraction of the real picture, according to the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST). “Deer can affect the age diversity of a woodland, resulting in a fall in numbers of species, and strip bark off older trees, which kills them,” says Paul Wilkinson of the Wildlife Trusts.
  • 74,000: The number of road traffic accidents a year involving deer, which kill between 10-20 people, according to the RSPCA.
  • £4.3m a year: The cost of deer damage to crops, according to Defra, with the greatest damage on cereal crops in east and south-west England.
  • 50%: The decline in woodland bird numbers where deer are present, according to the University of East Anglia’s Dr Paul Dolman: “Deer will eat the understorey and so the coppices, for example, lose their shrub layer. That can be a problem for nightingales and other long-distance migrants, such as willow warblers, chiffchaffs and blackcaps.
  • 2019 State of Nature Report Increasing deer numbers (both native species such as Roe and non-natives such as Muntjac), have a heightened impact on woodland and its dependent wildlife as they reduce natural regeneration and alter woodland structure through increased grazing and browsing.

Sylva Foundation

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity registered in England and Wales (No.1128516) and in Scotland (No.SC041892). It aims to help Britain’s trees and woodlands thrive for people and for nature. Sylva Foundation believes that a dynamic relationship between people and the natural environment is critically important for a sustainable future. Its online woodland management platform myForest is used by more than 5,500 owners and 1,200 agents across Britain to care for almost 1,000 km2 of woodland. www.sylva.org.uk

The Deer Initiative

The Deer Initiative is a broad partnership of statutory, voluntary and private sector interests dedicated to ‘ensuring the delivery of a sustainable wild deer population in England and Wales’ (www.thedeerinitiative.co.uk). The Partners include organisations as the RSPCA, RSPB and Highways England. All the members of the Partnership abide by the principles of the Deer Accord and encourage others to share their commitment and priorities as an integral part of their management of deer. E-mail: media@thedeerinitiative.co.uk 


Comments (0)

Sylva research influences policy and practice

posted on November 5, 2019

Our paper about financial cost of ash dieback, co-authored with former Oxford-Sylva scholar Louise Hill, continues to receive widespread political and popular interest.

£15 billion ash dieback costs paper

£15 billion ash dieback costs paper

In October it was cited by parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, whose MPs have called for a ‘citizens’ army’ to tackle biosecurity risks from invasive non-native species –  read the report. Subsequently it gained interest in the mainstream media (e.g. The Guardian).

Read our post from May:  Ash Dieback is Predicted to Cost £15 Billion in Britain

Read the full paper here:  www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30331-8

Paper DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.03.033


About the Oxford-Sylva Scholarship

In 2010, Sylva Foundation managed to secure funding from a private donor to support forestry-related research. Following an approach to the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford, a partnership was agreed where the university was able to match this funding with a number of smaller funds it already held in hand. The result was a number of very capable graduate scholars. Sadly, Sylva has been unable to secure funding to continue this very fruitful relationship, but we always welcome enquiries from potential donors to continue this work. Please contact our CEO Dr Gabriel Hemery.

Read more about the Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholarship

 


Comments (0)

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

 


Comments (0)

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.

Sylva-Summer-School-2019-GiB

Sylva-Summer-School-2019-GiB

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


Comments (0)

Changes at the Top

posted on October 1, 2019

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Sarah Taylor as Chair of Trustees. At the same board meeting last month, Dr James Morison was appointed to the board.

Dr Peter Savill stepped down as Chair of Trustees after serving for five years. He will continue as a trustee, a position he has held since the formation of the charity.

James Morison, Sylva Foundation trustee

James Morison, Sylva Foundation trustee

Dr James Morison is a forest environmental scientist, leading research on understanding the impacts of, and the response to climate change of trees, forests and forestry at Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission. He has an academic background in ecology and plant physiology, with many years lecturing on environmental topics, particular on how plants grow, use water and respond to the environment. He has published more than 90 research papers and book chapters, as well as information, briefings and advice for forest managers and practitioners about adapting to climate change and the role of forests and forestry in mitigating climate change.

Talking of his appointment, James Morison commented:

“I am delighted to have joined Sylva Foundation’s board of trustees. The charity is making many valuable and innovative contributions to forestry, to developing a wood culture and to securing the place of woodlands in our landscape, supported by a firm grounding in science. Sylva is helping to tackle some of our greatest challenges, including the climate crisis and ensuring sustainable land management practice. I look forward to working with fellow trustees and the team during this dramatic period for our countryside and forestry’s place in it.”

Read more about Sylva Foundation’s trustees


Comments (0)

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

 

Comments (2)
« Newer PostsOlder Posts »