Work gets underway on new Forestry Yard

posted on August 23, 2017

Work has started constructing our new FORESTRY YARD at the Sylva Wood Centre – thanks to support from Oxfordshire Leader funding.

Forestry Yard, Sylva Wood Centre

Forestry Yard, Sylva Wood Centre

We’ll soon be welcoming a forestry business to the yard, complete with a mobile sawmill and firewood processor (also supported by Leader funding). Meanwhile a joinery business, recently moved down south from Scotland, is refurbishing the old pigsties nearby as it future home.

The site which was derelict just three years ago already supports more than 30 local people. We can’t wait to see the yard stacked with locally-sourced timber from well-managed woodlands.

Oxfordshire Leader

Oxfordshire Leader

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You can help shape the future of forestry

posted on July 20, 2017
Some enticing early results from the first 500 respondents to BWS2017

Some enticing early results from the first 500 respondents to BWS2017

Since launching the British Woodlands Survey 2017 (BWS2017) two weeks ago we’ve received an encouraging uptake, with 500 respondents completing the survey to date. Thank you to all those who have taken part so far, and to our many partners in helping promote the survey to their members.

The last BWS, which explored issues relating to environmental change, represented 11% of all privately-owned forest land in Britain with 1,500 stakeholders taking part in the 2015 survey. This year we are asking questions around priority themes already suggested by some 400 stakeholders, plus themes of specific interest to England, Scotland and Wales. For example, those with interests in Scotland and Wales were particularly focussed on land reform, while those in England wanted us to ask questions about tree planting. Other major themes include developing the wood chain, and societal benefits. For the 2017 survey we hope to attract the best response so far; afterall this will make the findings even more powerful as an evidence base to help shape the future of forestry.

BWS has a proven record of working with important forestry organisations in Britain to provide a solid evidence base that influences decision-making, and contributes to policy. If you are a woodland owner or manager, farmer, land agent, professional forester or forestry/wood business, please take part and help shape the future of forestry.

Take the survey or read more at:

The survey is open until to end September.

BWS2017 is led by researchers from Forest Research, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford and Woodland Trust. Funding for BWS2017 is provided by Scottish Forestry Trust, Forestry Commission Scotland, and Woodland Trust.

take the survey

take the survey

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myForest to support deer management

posted on June 9, 2017

Over the last 18 months Sylva Foundation has been working with the Deer Initiative, grant-funded by Forestry Commission England and Natural England, to develop new functionality in myForest that will allow land owners and managers to create Deer Management Plans and collate annual monitoring data.

All six species of deer have increased in density and range nationally over the last 40 years. As deer populations have increased, their impact on the ground flora and the structure of woods has increased considerably, in particular the impact of fallow and muntjac in lowland woodlands.

Priority Areas for Deer Management

Priority Areas for Deer Management

The impact of deer on woodland biodiversity may be positive at low population densities. However at high densities deer browsing alters three elements in a woodland: regeneration potential, woodland structure, and ground flora diversity and abundance. Impacts on these elements have ramifications for species that use them as habitat and food. Species affected by these changes in structure and flora include populations of butterflies, other invertebrates, smaller mammals, birds, and their predators.

Collaborative, landscape-scale management of deer populations is key to helping address the issue of high deer populations in woodlands. Five priority areas (see map) have been identified in England in which to focus efforts where deer are having a particular impact on priority sites such as SSSI woodlands. In these areas landowners can receive additional support from the Deer Initiative to organise collaborative action across landscapes.

To aid in collaborative management Sylva Foundation has been working with the Deer Initiative to promote information sharing using the myForest service in order to build a comprehensive picture of deer and their management at the landscape scale. Anyone using the new deer management functionality on myForest will have their information stored safely and securely, managed under Sylva Foundation’s Privacy Policy. We have also created the possibility for users (if they chose to) to share their information with local Deer Initiative Officers which will help the Deer Initiative monitor deer impact across priority areas allowing them to prioritise assistance.

annual cull monitoring screenshot

Anual cull monitoring screenshot from myForest – public launch scheduled in October

Although this functionality has been specifically developed for use in the five priority areas, we hope it will be useful to users across England, and indeed in Scotland and Wales.

The functionality is currently being tested and the planned launch date is 1st October.

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BBC investigates future forests

posted on May 26, 2017

The Future of Forestry was this week’s theme on the BBC Radio 4 flagship environmental programme Costing the Earth.

BBC Costing The Earth

BBC Costing The Earth

The main question posed was whether Britain could revive its forestry and provide for more of its own needs.

BBC reporter Tom Heap came to interview Sylva’s CEO Gabriel Hemery at the Sylva Wood Centre. He also spoke with one of our resident furniture makers Jan Waterston, our current craftsperson-in-residence in partnership with Rycotewood Furniture Centre. The programme also featured Stuart Goodall from Confor, and Matt Larsen-Daw from the Woodland Trust.

The programme is available on the BBC iPlayer.

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Amazing response to our Christmas appeal

posted on December 2, 2016

We’ve been stunned by the generosity of so many individuals who have donated to our Christmas appeal over the last four days.

myForest development Christmas appeal

myForest development Christmas appeal

As I write (8am today) we’ve been donated £2,150 which, thanks to the Big Give and support from the Dulverton Trust, will be matched; meaning we’ve raised £4,300 in total. This sum will make a very significant contribution towards our development of Sylva’s myForest. Currently 60,000 hectares of private woodland across the UK is mapped and managed with the help of the myForest service. Thanks to these donations it means our aim to support the management of 228,000ha (10% of UK privately-owned woodland area) by 2021 is more attainable.

It’s not too late if you wish to donate to our Christmas appeal. The deadline is just hours away – 12 noon today. To donate visit our appeal page on the Big Give.

Our sincere thanks to all those who have donated.

Gabriel Hemery, Chief Executive

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myForest Development Christmas Appeal

posted on November 29, 2016

Help us help Britain’s woodland by supporting our myForest development project. Thanks to the support of the Dulverton Trust, any donation made via the Big Give between 29th November – 2nd December will be doubled! You can read more about the Appeal on the Big Give website or go straight to the donate page.

myForest development Christmas appeal with the Big Give

myForest development Christmas appeal with the Big Give

Healthy woodland improves the environment. It cleans our air, supports wildlife, creates fertile soil, helps relieve flooding and provides space for learning, employment and relaxation.

The myForest planning tool was developed as a free, online resource for woodland owners, managers and agents to help and encourage them to map and plan to manage their woodland sustainably. myForest is used currently by more than 4,700 owners nationwide to map and manage almost 60,000ha of woodlands across Britain. Next year we want to develop new tools to make myForest even more effective and encourage more owners to use it.

Thank you for your support.


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Forest reproductive material and climate change

posted on March 9, 2016

Forest owners, managers and policy-makers may remain unaware of the potential that the use of forest genetic resources offers for facilitating the adaptation of forests to climate change. We summarise the latest guidelines for foresters in England.

Forestry Horizons Occasional Paper, No.1

Forestry Horizons Occasional Paper, No.1

A working group of European Forest Genetic Programme (EUFORGEN) recently considered the use and transfer of forest reproductive materials or FRM in the context of the challenges of climate change. They examined scientific research on provenance and adaptation, including several case studies of transfer, the existing regulatory framework and recent policy developments, guidelines on FRM transfer and their scientific basis, and future challenges and opportunities.

Forestry Commission England asked the Forestry Horizons think-tank to consider this evidence and highlight practical information of importance to foresters. With the addition of specific geographic and policy advice the paper has been made particularly relevant to the forestry sector in England.

You can view the paper in the Forestry Horizons online library, where it can be downloaded for free.


Hemery, G. (2016). Use and transfer of forest reproductive material in England in the context of climate change. Forestry Horizons Occasional Paper, No.1. 5pp. ISSN 2053-3241


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Launch of the Strategic Environmental and Economic Investment Plan for Oxfordshire

posted on December 9, 2015

The Strategic Environmental and Economic Investment Plan for Oxfordshire (SEEIP) has been launched today, aiming to deliver economic growth in Oxfordshire. The Sylva Foundation has helped bring together a range of organisations under the Oxfordshire Forestry Accord to maximise the value of the county’s woodlands.

The SEEIP will provide direction and clarity on how investment in the Oxfordshire’s environment will be delivered. It is one of a series of investment plans which will sit under the Strategic Economic Plan, and will help to deliver its ambitions for economic growth in Oxfordshire up to 2030.

Talking about the launch today, Paul Orsi of the Sylva Foundation said:

“a thriving forestry sector in Oxfordshire offers a strong business case for environmental investment given that forestry is a natural meeting place between ecology and the economy.”

Woodlands occupy around 7% of all land in Oxfordshire, which is below the national average for England and significantly lower than the average in Europe of 37%. These woodlands are fragmented, with mainly small pockets of woodland scattered across the county in private ownership. The greatest density of woodland cover can be found in the Chilterns AONB in the south east corner of the county.


Read more and download

The forestry sector in Oxfordshire has declined in recent decades with the closure of sawmills, leaving a legacy of under-managed woodlands with limited financial, ecological and amenity value. Further challenges to woodlands include climate change, which has the potential to affect growth and health of key species and could result in increased damage due to storms, heatwaves and drought. If this situation can be turned around, the Sylva Foundation and the Forestry Commission estimate the additional value of a thriving forestry sector to Oxfordshire’s economy at £10 to £15 million, with the market for woodfuel and timber products helping to bring woodlands back into sustainable management and reducing reliance on subsidies.

As part of the preparation of this investment plan, representatives of several organisations met to draft the Oxfordshire Forestry Accord, which sets out how they will work together to maximise the value of Oxfordshire’s woodlands. This includes a number of initial, short-term outcomes to ensure that future work to maximise the value of Oxfordshire’s woodlands is targeted, efficient and effective. Analysis of data held by the Forestry Commission will establish the current extent and condition of woodlands in Oxfordshire in more detail and enable an estimate to be made of the theoretical extent of the timber resources which could be produced in the county. Further work will then be undertaken with a wider group of stakeholders including woodland owners and managers to identify realistic opportunities for increasing productivity from Oxfordshire’s woodlands and adding value to woodland products and services within the county.


Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership – OxLEP

SEEIP – read more and download plan

Category: FORESTRY
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Environmental factors changing our woodlands say UK owners and foresters

posted on October 1, 2015
Bristish Woodlands Survey 2015 infographic

Bristish Woodlands Survey 2015 infographic

9/10 woodland owners and other forestry professionals who responded to a national survey about environmental change in British woodlands say they had observed at least one form of impact in the past 10 years.

Woodland owners reported increases in vertebrate pests such as deer and squirrels while among professional managers and agents, pathogens and pests were the most commonly-reported impact on the woodlands that they manage.

Responses to the British Woodlands Survey 2015

Responses to the British Woodlands Survey 2015

More than 1470 people responded to the survey. The figures are among the first results revealed by a British Woodlands Survey on Resilience and are being announced today (1 Oct) at a Conference hosted by the Royal Forestry Society and Woodland Trust, Resilient Woods: Meeting the Challenges.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of the UK’s woodlands are in private ownership. The survey provides an insight into how their owners; those who manage them and the nurseries who supply them are responding to potential challenges of the future through their planting and tree species choice. It captured the opinions and activities of those responsible for managing 11% of all privately-owned woodlands in the UK; an area covering 247,571 ha (equivalent to 245,606 rugby fields).

The survey results emphasised that in the past only 44% had specified provenance (origin) when buying trees for new planting. This highlights there may be a lack of awareness of the importance of provenance, and tree genetic diversity in general, when planning resilient woodlands. 69% of owners stated a preference in future for sourcing material grown in UK nurseries, possibly reflecting recent issues around infected imported plants – ash dieback was originally identified in the UK on plants imported from nurseries in continental Europe.

There also appears to be an appetite among private woodland owners towards a move from the current mix of native and non native tree species to a 6% increase in native species compared to non-native species. Such as change was not supported by forestry professionals.

Looking to the future, most respondents believe that climate change will significantly affect our forests, although there is considerable uncertainty among private woodland owners among whom more than 50% are uncertain or don’t believe it will affect forests in the future. This is despite risks highlighted including flooding, drought, wind and fire.

Dr Gabriel Hemery, Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation and survey co-ordinator, said: “We are passionate at Sylva about working with the many thousands of owners and forestry professionals whose voices are not often heard. The weight of the response to this survey will allow their views and experiences to inform policy and practice for years to come. We are grateful to all those who took part, and indebted to our partner organisations for their support.”

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust CEO said: “The survey results give the industry some real insight into how our woodlands are changing. We hope the survey will help to stimulate discussion at the conference in order to help kick-start a unified approach to understand the issues more fully, tackle challenges we face as a sector together, and identify a way forward to help create a resilient landscape for the future.”

Simon Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Royal Forestry Society (RFS), whose membership includes many of the private woodland owners of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, says : “The survey shows that most woodland owners are already experiencing the adverse impacts of pests and disease in their woods and expect this trend to continue in future. Survey respondents recognise the need to improve the resilience of their woods to environmental change. The challenge is to provide woodland owners with the evidence base to support long term decisions on species choice and management systems. A lot more work is required in this area.”


Of the survey respondents, 821 (56%) were private woodland owners, with professional agents responsible for managing 3473 woodlands and 13 specialist tree nurseries with a combined annual turnover of more than £7.5m also taking part.

The information from the survey will be used by organisations, policy makers and researchers to help improve the resilience of the nation’s forests, and how better support can be provided to woodland owners and managers. The results will also inform the government’s National Adaptation Programme for England.

A full report will be published before the end of the year and made freely available at

Notes to Editors

The British Woodlands Survey is a series of surveys undertaken to gather evidence about the nations’ woodlands and those who care for them. The British Woodlands Survey is co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation with support from a large number of organisations. The 2015 survey on the theme of resilience was sponsored by Forestry Commission England, Oxford University, and Woodland Trust.

The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) is an educational charity and one of the oldest membership organisations for those actively involved in woodland management. The RFS believes bringing neglected woods back into management and sharing knowledge on how to manage woods to a high standard is vital to the long term health of our woods and trees. Our policies identify what is required to ensure our woods deliver their full economic, environmental and public benefits. For information go to Follow us: Twitter: @royal_forestry, Facebook: Royal Forestry Society – RFS, Linked- In: Royal Forestry Society

The Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity working to revive Britain’s wood culture. It works across Britain caring for forests, to ensure they thrive for people and for nature, and supporting innovation in home-grown wood. Sylva’s forestry think-tank, Forestry Horizons, is the home of the British Woodlands Survey series, which was launched in 2012. Its myForest service is used by more than 3000 woodland owners and agents across Britain. It supports forest education through a number of initiatives, and is fostering businesses at the Sylva Wood Centre in Oxfordshire, which opened in 2015. Contact: Dr Gabriel Hemery, Chief Executive. 01865 408016 (direct dial) or 07759 141438 (mobile).

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. The Trust has three key aims:  i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife. Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.

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Survey deadline extended

posted on September 17, 2015
British Woodlands Survey 2015

British Woodlands Survey 2015

We have received a fantastic response to our national survey on woodland resilience and environmental change. By popular demand we have extended the deadline until next week. If you haven’t already done so, please do try and find the time to air your views and opinions about this important subject. Thank you.


Headline results from the survey will be announced at a conference to be held in Birmingham on October 1st— Resilient Woodlands: meeting the challenges. Places are still available.  A full programme and booking details can be found here.

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