Wood Week captivates primary school

posted on November 16, 2016

An innovative week-long programme of outdoor and indoor education about trees, forestry and wood — Wood Week — was developed and tested with one lucky primary school.

Sylva Foundation’s Education Manager Jen Hurst teamed up with Forester Paul Williams, Carpenter Julian Angus and staff at Combe Church of England Primary School to provide children with a week-long programme of activities on the topic of British trees, forestry and wood. This was supported by head teacher Charlie Marshall as part of the school’s new Curiosity, Creativity and Challenge curriculum.

The week kicked off with an assembly on the OneOak Project  which provided the school with inspiration and ideas for their own tree; a Norway Spruce to be felled in the school grounds. On Day Two Paul Williams of Trees and Gardens came into school and ran forestry workshops for the children explaining his work and equipment. Jen worked with children to learn more about Norway Spruce, its biology and value and to estimate the height and age of the tree before its felling. Once felled the children re-measured the tree and watched Paul cross cut the trunk 122 rounds so that each child took one home.

Julian Angus runs his own carpentry business from the Sylva Wood Centre but also works with schools to make wood products.  On Day Three of Wood Week Julian set up a ‘pop up’ wood workshop in the school grounds and gave the Key Stage 2 (aged 7-11 years) the task of making two benches out of Douglas-fir timber. The children were completely hands-on measuring, sawing, hammering, bolting and working as a team. The benches are needed by the school to increase the seating area for outdoor learning. Key Stage 1 children (aged 4-7 years) also enjoyed using tools making tree cookies with hand drills at their Forest School sessions on the same day.

Jen Hurst led classes outside on Day Four with engaging tree identification activities. Learning the names and uses of the trees will enable staff and pupils to use their school grounds more for outdoor learning. On the same day Years 5 and 6 (aged 9-11) learned how wood was used in the past by building a wattle and daub wall out of hazel and willow as part of their Anglo-Saxon history lesson. In classrooms teachers taught lessons related to Wood Week, including literacy by comparing Norway Spruce and Oak, debated the of felling trees, and produced artwork using materials from trees. These lesson plans, resources, photos, films and activities will be uploaded onto TIMBER! website.

The finale of the week was the branding of 10 logs of Lawson Cypress donated by Blenheim Estate. Julian Angus set up a ‘pop up’ Black Smith forge complete with bellows. Key Stage two children selected the individual iron letters and branded the log poles to spell out the school’s values. Key Stage one children helped shave the bark off the logs with a spokeshave. A final school assembly was held outdoors and the offspring of the OneOak tree, a young oak sapling, was planted to replace the Norway Spruce.

There has been lots of positive feedback from parents and children, one 8 year old said:

“it was the best week of my life!” and many children have expressed an interest in careers in forestry and woodwork.

Charlie Marshall Head Teacher said:

“Schools can focus on the negatives of deforestation so we decided to look at the positive…and learn about the journey of a tree through its life…”


Sylva’s Education Manager Jen Hurst explained the many outcomes from Wood Week:

  • educating young people, teachers and their families about British trees, forestry and wood
  • training and enabling school teachers to use their school grounds more for outdoor learning
  • improving school grounds with benches and sculptures to enable outdoor learning
  • giving young people a genuine hands on experience making products out of wood
  • providing young people with the opportunity to meet professional foresters and carpenters
  • developing new resources for teaching and learning on British trees, forestry and wood that will be available nationally on Sylva’s TIMBER! website. “


If your school is interested in a Wood Week or Julian Angus workshops please contact Jen Hurst


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Local school children gear up for the Future Forest

posted on October 5, 2016
Willowcroft children at the Future Forest September 2016

Children from Willowcroft Community School at the Future Forest, September 2016

Tesco Bags of Help grant supports the Future Forest

Tesco Bags of Help grant supports the Future Forest

We announced two weeks ago the fabulous news that we will receive a grant from the Tesco Bags of Help scheme – read more. Voting by members of the public in Tesco stores near us in south Oxfordshire could help us attract even more funding and help us support more work with young children from local schools. Voting opens 31st October to 13th November.

This week the local paper visited to cover the story and we were lucky to have the support of children from one of the primary schools taking part in planting the Future Forest. Seven children from Willowcroft Community School came to see the bare arable field, where they will return after Christmas and help plant 7,500 trees.

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Bags of Help for Future Forest Education

posted on September 13, 2016
Tesco Bags of Help

Tesco Bags of Help

Sylva Foundation calls for votes to bag a share of £12.5million carrier bag charge fund. The charity is bidding to bag a massive cash boost from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative.

The supermarket has teamed up with Groundwork on its Bags of Help initiative, which sees grants of £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 – all raised from the 5p bag levy – being awarded to environmental and greenspace projects.

Three groups in each of Tesco’s 416 regions have been shortlisted to receive the cash award and this month shoppers are being invited to head along to Tesco stores to vote for who they think should take away the top grant. Sylva Foundation has been shortlisted for its local region.

Big Future Forest Plot Project

Big Future Forest Plot Project

The Big Future Forest Plot Project will see over 300 children from 10 primary schools local to the Sylva Wood Centre in Long Wittenham choose and plant trees on 10 plots this winter. As the Future Forest grows schools will be offered the opportunity to use it to Forest School sessions and children and their families can visit ‘their’ school plot to see its progress and enjoy the new green space.

Dr Gabriel Hemery, CEO of Sylva Foundation explains:

“We’re so delighted to be chosen as one of the region’s projects to be funded by TESCO Bags of Help. The grant means hundreds of local children can get involved in creating and learning from this wonderful new sustainable woodland. On planting days they’ll get their hands dirty, out in the fresh air, choosing and planting many different species of new trees. And they can come back with their schools and their families for many years to come to see how the Forest grows. This is a project with a long legacy.”

Shoppers visiting Abingdon Extra, Didcot Superstore and Faringdon Metro will be able to vote for Sylva’s project: voting is open from 31st October to 13th November. Customers can cast their vote using a token given to them at the check-out in store each time they shop.

This is the second round of the initiative: the first round saw approximately eight million shoppers vote in stores up and down the country earlier this year.

Lindsey Crompton, Head of Community at Tesco, said:

“The first round of the Bags of Help initiative was a fantastic success.

“In total 1,170 community groups were awarded £8,000, £10,000 or £12,000 – that’s a massive £11.7 million being invested into local projects.

“We are already seeing some great results from groups transforming their own environmental and greenspace areas.

“We are absolutely delighted to open the voting for round two. There are some fantastic projects on the shortlists and we can’t wait to see them come to life in hundreds of communities.”

Groundwork’s national Chief Executive, Graham Duxbury, said:

“Bags of Help is giving our communities both the funding and the support to create better, healthier and greener places for everyone to enjoy.

“We’ve been thrilled to see the diversity of projects that have applied for funding, ranging from outdoor classrooms, sports facilities, community gardens, play areas and everything in between. They’re all fantastic projects that make a real difference in our neighbourhoods.

“We’re looking forward to learning the results of the customer vote and then supporting each group to bring their project to life.”

Read the full Press Release



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Knife whittling workshop for educators

posted on July 8, 2016

We are pleased to offer a half-day workshop designed for Forest School Leaders and any educators interested to learn new skills with wood. It will be run by Simon Clements, Wood Carver based at the Sylva Wood Centre, supported by the Sylva Foundation.

knife whittling workshop

knife whittling workshop

During this workshop you will:

  • Learn to make your own whittling knife with a wooden handle (blades provided)
  • Learn how to care for knives including sharpening

About the tutor:

Simon Clements is a Wood Carver based at the Sylva Wood Centre, and is keen support Forest School Leaders in developing their skills with wood. He trained as a potter and came to carving via boat building and has a background in education.


The Sylva Wood Centre, Long Wittenham, OX14 4QT (see map)


The course will be run on:

  • Thursday 6th October 4pm  – 7pm


£30.00 per person

This cost includes all materials, tuition and tea/coffee.

Please bring:

  • Your own penknife or whittling knife.


Book your place online via Charity Checkout



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Learn and share TIMBER!

posted on May 13, 2016

We’re excited to announce the launch of a brand new website: TIMBER!

Homepage of the new Timber! website

Homepage of the new Timber! website

TIMBER! offers teachers and educators inspiring resources about British trees, forests and timber. Many of the resources have been developed from the Sylva OneOak project, with new materials provided by environmental educators across Britain.

The TIMBER! website is free to use and is designed to enable teachers and educators to download and share resources.  TIMBER! also includes a directory of links to other national organisations and networks, offering resources and information on topics relating to British trees, forests and wood.

Funding from the Patsy Wood Trust supported Sylva in developing the TIMBER! website. Educators from ten schools and eight environmental education specialists offered insights and help in developing the website. Thanks to their involvement and ideas, the TIMBER! resource platform is easy to use and meets the needs of educators in searching for resources and information. In addition, many of the resources have been developed and tested with young people, both indoors and outdoors.

The launch of TIMBER! is just the start. We hope that the website will attract more and more resources from people willing to share, and help young people learn more about the natural world. Do you have resources on British trees, forests and wood that you could share? If so, simply go to TIMBER! and upload your documents, photos, films, or presentations.

“I have found the project truly inspirational . . . TIMBER! is providing a brilliant resource and expertise exchange thank you!”

Head Teacher, Oxfordshire Primary School

Education Manager for the Sylva Foundation, Jen Hurst, said:

“Sylva’s education work aims to inspire teachers, educators and young people to learn about, enjoy and appreciate British trees and wood, both indoors and out. We are excited to launch TIMBER! and continue to expand its content by working with teachers, educators and organisations across the UK.”

Visit the TIMBER! website to find out more:

The TIMBER! project has been funded by a grant from Patsy Wood Trust.

Category: EDUCATION, Timber!
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Rycotewood Craftsperson-in-Residence appointed to Sylva Wood Centre

posted on May 10, 2016

We are delighted to welcome our latest tenant to the Sylva Wood Centre, particularly as it heralds a new level of collaboration with a local further education college.

Rycotewood craftsperson-in-residence Pete Burns

Rycotewood craftsperson-in-residence Pete Burns, moving into the new unit at the Sylva Wood Centre

Rycotewood Furniture Centre, part of City of Oxford College, has appointed a Craftsperson-in-Residence. Pete Burns, who also runs his own small business Pete Burns Furniture, will be based at the Sylva Wood Centre. He will be facilitating collaboration between Sylva Foundation and the college, and will supervise students while working among the community at the Wood Centre.

Drew Smith, Learning Manager, Rycotewood Furniture Centre said:

“Rycotewood is very excited to be building a rewarding relationship with the Sylva Foundation. The initiation of the Rycotewood Craftsperson-in Residence role, and the opportunity to exhibit our students’ work at this year’s Artweeks, confirms the start of an ongoing collaboration.”

Read more on Rycotewood Furniture Centre Tumblr blog

Rycotewood and Pete Burns will be exhibiting at the Sylva Wood Centre during ArtWeeks 2016, alongside other artists and craftspeople. Why not come along between 14-22 May, including both weekends. Read more


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myForest for Education workshop at the National Forest

posted on April 28, 2016

The National Forest was humming with discussions about woodland management and forest education at the latest myForest for Education training workshop.

The workshop was held at Martinshaw Wood near Leicester, owned and managed by the Woodland Trust. Twelve Forest School Leaders, trainers and those interested in forest education and community-managed woodlands attended the half-day training event. Nottingham and Leicester Forest Education Network, the National Forest and the Sylva Foundation worked in partnership to:

  • introduce participants to basic principles of woodland management;
  • survey an area of woodland with the aim of creating a woodland management plan using myForest for Education;
  • provide opportunities for networking, sharing information and contacts to other forestry organisations.

Chris Williams, Woodland Trust Manager, led a walk through the woods to explain the management of this planted ancient woodland site. Simon Greenhouse, National Forest,  showed the group newly-planted areas adjacent to Martinshaw wood and explained how local communities, schools and sponsors are involved in the woodland creation and management.  The site visit ended at Groby Community College in an area of woodland well-used for education activities. Jen Hurst, Sylva Foundation Education Manager, showed the group how to map and survey the site including an assessment of ecological impacts on the woodland. Back in the workshop room the results of the survey were transferred to Sylva’s free online system myForest for Education to create management plans.

Jen Hurst at the myForest for Education workshop

Jen Hurst presenting at the myForest for Education workshop

myForest for Education workshop

Delegates at the National Forest myForest for Education workshop

One workshop participant said:

“it’s so valuable meeting other Forest School Leaders, woodland owners and organisations who manage woodland sites for education”.

Another — a newly-trained Forest School Leader — implored:

“I just want more of this kind of training!”.

With generous support from the Patsy Wood Trust until 2018, myForest for Education training workshops will continue to be provided free to any groups, networks or conferences.

Please contact Jen Hurst for further information about the workshops:

Read more about myForest for Education



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OneOak tree grows again

posted on March 11, 2016

A young sapling raised from a remarkable oak tree⸺once the focus for our national education and arts project⸺has been planted by children in an Oxfordshire school.

Stonesfield Primary School children and their OneOak sapling

Stonesfield Primary School children and their OneOak sapling

In 2010 a 222-year-old oak tree, grown in woodland on the Blenheim Palace Estate, was felled for its timber. It was donated to Sylva Foundation by Blenheim Palace as the focus for our education project OneOak. The OneOak project brought people closer to growing trees for wood by telling the full life story of the oak tree. The tree’s felling was watched by 250 local school children who then returned to the woodland, planting seedlings grown from the acorns of the OneOak tree, to create a new oak forest.

Today, children from Stonesfield Primary School⸺one of schools that took part in the OneOak project⸺were excited to be planting a young oak sapling grown from the OneOak woodland in their school grounds. In addition to the young OneOak tree, trees and flowers have been planted to create a new wild area for learning and play.

Generous support for the planting day has been provided by the forestry team from Blenheim Palace who helped the children plant trees, and provided benches and log seats made of timber from the estate’s woodlands. Imogen Radford from local company Wonderwood donated her time and skills to create a willow weave shelter with the children. Local companies Nicholsons and Barlows generously provided trees and building materials.

Paul Orsi, Sylva Foundation Director for Forestry, commented:

“This is a wonderful project to help young people, not only learn about trees and forestry, but to actually become young foresters by planning, planting and managing the new trees themselves! Meeting the Blenheim Palace Forestry team and Wonderwood’s Imogen Radford will really inspire young people to understand the work that happens in our woodlands everyday.”

Jen Hurst, Sylva Foundation Education Manager commented:

“Planting the young OneOak tree is not only completing the OneOak story but also marks the beginning of an exciting new youth-led project for Sylva.”

Fi McGregor, Head Teacher at Stonesfield School commented :

“It was a privilege to be involved with the original OneOak project, our children got to know the OneOak tree; studying it, measuring it and drawing it. We then witnessed the unforgettable felling of the beautiful tree followed by the processing of the timber to make a range of oak products from furniture to fuel pellets.

Returning to the woods to plant the OneOak acorns made us feel part of the life cycle of the OneOak. To be able to plant a OneOak sapling in our own grounds means that the OneOak story continues. Sylva and Blenheim have enabled our children to gain a better understanding of how felling trees contributes to woodland management and to the huge range of products one tree can provide. We are incredibly grateful to the staff of Sylva and Blenheim for giving us this fantastic opportunity and for helping us to plan and create a new wild garden space for play and for learning.”

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Educational inspiration in the National Forest

posted on November 26, 2015

In partnership with the National Forest Company, the Sylva Foundation recently ran a successful one day myForest for Education workshop for Forest School Leaders and woodland owners.

The workshop began with walks and talks on woodland management. Charles Robinson, National Forest Woodland Management Officer, gave an overview of the 20 year old woodland created on the site of a former coal mine and the next phase of its management. Woodland owner David Scott-Malden explained his management objectives and highlighted the value of having a Forest School group use his site. The mutual benefits of managing the woodland together was further emphasised by Nicola Mailer from Ashby Castle Day Nursery who runs popular weekly Forest School Sessions and summer holiday schemes in the wood.

Participants used the survey form from myForest for Education to do a sketch map of the site, tree inventory and record ecological impacts and benefits of having a regular Forest School in the woodland.

After an inspiring field visit, Jen Hurst, Sylva Foundation’s Education Manager presented myForest for Education online management planning tool and participants enjoyed using the system to map their own Forest School sites and start their management plans.

Participants commented in the evaluation:

“the training has given me a better understanding of managing my site”

“myForest for Education will change the way we approach writing management plans”

Sue Anderson, Community Liaison Officer commented:

“For the National Forest and Sylva Foundation the workshop succeeded in bringing together woodland owners and educators to discuss the value of managing woodlands for education and providing them with practical support to achieve this. It was an enjoyable, informal session that has helped us in developing our woodland network locally.”

We are very grateful to Sue Anderson and the National Forest team for excellent organisation of the day and venue. We look forward to working in partnership again in the new year, when we plan to run a myForest for Education workshop in another part of the National Forest.

Please contact Jen Hurst if you are interested to attending.


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Time for Trees

posted on November 17, 2015

Sylva Foundation staff were pleased to contribute to the Botanic Gardens Education Network 2015 annual conference: ‘Time for Trees’ at Westonbirt Arboretum.

Jen Hurst, Sylva Foundation’s Education Manager, teamed up with the Field Studies Council and the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom to deliver a comprehensive and varied workshop exploring ways in which British trees and forestry topics can be taught in the secondary school curriculum. Jen then tasked participants to link topic areas of the new Key Stage 4 GCSE Geography curriculum to sustainable forest management using ideas from Sylva’s OneOak project.


Participants tackle the task of ordering the story of the One Oak project from tree to its 60 products. Photo: BGEN/Graham Anstey

Participants tackle the task of ordering the story of the One Oak project from the living tree to its range of 60 products on the ‘OneOak washing line’. Photo: BGEN/Graham Anstey


Sylva CEO Gabriel Hemery contributed to a panel discussion on wood culture, speaking about what it means to modern society and how to strengthen people’s affinity with the natural world.

Conference delegates agreed that there is need for increased forest education concerning British trees and forestry in secondary education, and this workshop went a long way to making progress at a national level.

Read more about Botanic Gardens Education Network


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