Opening of Community Orchard

posted on March 24, 2017
Opening of the Wittenhams Community Orchard at the Sylva Wood Centre, 23 March 2017. Photo Jon Lewis, Oxford Mail.

Opening of the Wittenhams Community Orchard at the Sylva Wood Centre, 23 March 2017. Photo Jon Lewis, Oxford Mail.

This week the Wittenhams Community Orchard was formally opened by Oxfordshire’s High Sheriff Sarah Taylor.

High Sheriff Sarah Taylor and Sylva Foundation Gabriel Hemery at the opening of the Wittenhams Community Orchard at the Sylva Wood Centre, 23 March 2017

High Sheriff Sarah Taylor and Sylva Foundation CEO Gabriel Hemery at the opening of the Wittenhams Community Orchard at the Sylva Wood Centre, 23 March 2017. Photo Jon Lewis, Oxford Mail.

The spring showers cleared and the sun came out to shine on the assembled community of CropSharers, funders, neighbours, volunteers and all the children from Long Wittenham Primary School.

It’s been an exciting week in the orchard. On Tuesday the first three beehives arrived for our new Apiary enterprise which is kindly supported by the Rowse Family Trust. On Wednesday CEO Gabriel Hemery talked on Radio Oxford about the orchard and its power in bringing people and trees closer together (listen again from 1:08:30).

Our thanks to Sarah Taylor, High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, and all our supporters. The orchard has been funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery and the Naturesave Trust.

Installing first hives March 2017

Installing the first beehives in the Wittenhams Community Orchard, March 2017

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Community Woodlands Workshop

posted on November 14, 2013

The first of two practical workshops took place last Saturday, at East Horsley in Surrey, on woodland management planning and community engagement for people involved in community-owned and -managed woodlands.  Part of the Good Woods project, the workshop was designed to support community woodland groups in undertaking effective stewardship of their woodlands.

In the morning session, Paul Orsi (Sylva Foundation) spoke to the group about how to develop a vision for their woodland and how they could use the Woodland Star Rating to measure the level of woodland management that they are practising based on the UK Forestry Standard.  Matthew Woodcock (Forestry Commission) gave an update on grants available through the Forestry Commission as well as information of the range of pests and diseases currently affecting our trees.  Amy Hammond (Lantern) explained the importance of actively engaging with stakeholders in the community surrounding a woodland and highlighted the Community Engagement Toolkit which has been designed to help woodland owners and managers through this process.  The last presentation of the morning came from Jon Whitehead who is part of a volunteer group which helps to look after the gardens and woodlands in Nonsuch Park (Surrey).  Jon described the group’s experiences in setting up a new volunteering group and how they engage with people using the woodland.

The afternoon session was out in the woods where Paul and Matthew gave a practical demonstration on how to interpret your woodland and carry out a basic woodland inventory.

The second of these workshops is being held at Marston Vale Forest Centre, Bedfordshire on Saturday 23rd November 2013, 9.30am to 3.30pm where lunch and refreshments will be provided.  To register for your free place at one of these events by emailing

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:

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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, by emailing 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:

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