Conference: Resilient Woodlands – meeting the challenges

posted on September 7, 2015
Resilient Woodlands conference: 1st October

Resilient Woodlands conference: 1st October

An important conference — Resilient Woodlands: meeting the challenges — is taking place at Birmingham on 1st October, and places are still available.

The conference is not only where people can hear the first results of the British Woodlands Survey 2015 but also listen to a top level line up of speakers raising the questions we need to consider about the impact of climate change on our woods and offering their perspectives on measures to support moves towards increased resilience. Organised jointly by the Royal Forestry Society and the Woodland Trust it promises to be a lively conference with plenty of time for discussion which anybody with an active interest in the long term health of our woods will benefit from attending.

Speakers include:

  • Mike Townsend, Woodland Trust
  • Dr Gabriel Hemery, Sylva Foundation
  • Duncan Stone, Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Graham Taylor, Pryor and Rickett
  • Professor Rob Mackenzie, BiFor
  • Dr Tom Tew, Vincent Wildlife Trust
  • Philippe Morgan, President, Pro Silva

A full programme and booking details can be found here.

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Calling all Oxfordshire woodland owners, managers and community groups

posted on June 17, 2015

Owners, managers and community groups caring for woodlands in Oxfordshire are being asked to take part in an important survey.

Final opportunity – survey extended to 25th June

Oxfordshire treescape

Oxfordshire treescape

The small size of woodlands in Oxfordshire can limit the options that landowners have in managing them, and so may lead to neglect – affecting wildlife, landscapes and the rural economy. Oxfordshire County Council and the Sylva Foundation are working together to identify what support woodland owners may need to get the best out of their woodlands in the future. An online survey has been launched to gather views and opinions that will be used to improve existing and develop new support services for woodland owners and managers.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr David Nimmo Smith said:

“Oxfordshire is unusual in having a large number of small woodlands in many different ownerships.  We know that with improved levels of management these woodlands could be making an even greater contribution to the county’s future success. This survey will help us understand what challenges woodland owners face in getting the right support at the right time”.

Alistair Yeomans, of the Sylva Foundation added:

“Woodlands are a vital part of Oxfordshire’s countryside. They help support the rural economy while providing many other wider benefits such as flood protection, clean air, beautiful landscapes and valuable habitats. We are working with the County Council to help maintain a woodland resource that we will all benefit from.”

Owners, managers and community groups of all woodlands in Oxfordshire can complete the survey online at:

The survey will remain open until midnight on June 25th 2015. There are a maximum of 16 questions that should take approximately 5 minutes to complete.


Category: FORESTRY
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Video guidance for myForest

posted on May 19, 2015
Video help on myForest

Video help on myForest

Following on from the launch of myForest v3.0, we have launched video guidance on how to use the various myForest applications and features.

Feedback from users has been that the online help for myForest could be improved.  We have worked hard to make Version 3.0 more intuitive, as well as providing context-sensitive hints and tips, plus a more in-depth Help section.

The six videos that are now live on the site take users step-by-step through the functionality of the Woodland Manager (the main myForest application).  You can find these videos embedded within the Help section of the Woodland Manager and in their own page under the ‘More’ tab.

We hope you find the guidance videos useful.  We will be adding more videos over the coming months. Please let us know if you think we could provide a video to help with a particular feature not already covered.

These videos are directed at users with Woodland Owners or Agent accounts.  Video guidance for those using the myForest for Education account will be available soon.

Category: FORESTRY, myForest
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A brave new world for woodland managers

posted on January 15, 2015

A report published today demonstrates that private forestry holds the balance of power in meeting the challenges of environmental change. Woodland managers will need courage to make forward-looking decisions to ensure our woodlands can thrive in future. Nine out of ten woodland managers have experienced environmental change in recent years, yet less than half believe the UK’s forests will be affected in future.

British Woodlands Survey 2015 report

British Woodlands Survey 2015 report. Click to access.

At the historic COP21 climate talks in Paris the world came together and agreed to reduce the effects of climate change. Our woodlands and the products they produce play a significant role in the balance of greenhouse gases, for example by storing carbon, while also providing many benefits for people and wildlife. However, unless our woodlands are able to adapt to environmental change — which includes not only surviving in a warming climate, but also coping with threats from pests and diseases, fire and flooding — then none of these benefits will arise.

Our trees and woodlands need to be resilient or be able to ‘bounce back better’ in the face of threats from environmental change. Fortunately we have a forestry standard for the UK (the UKFS) that is recognised globally as exemplary. This includes 18 key guidelines that aim to ensure that our woodlands are able to adapt to environmental change. If woodlands are managed according to these guidelines then we could have some confidence that UK forestry is well-prepared for environmental change. Examples might include anticipating a warmer climate by choosing the best species to plant for future conditions, or by taking actions to limit the spread of pests and diseases. But are woodland owners and managers aware of their vital role in helping the UK respond to environmental change?

Woodlands cover 13% of the UK’s land area and almost three quarters of this (2,283,000 ha; Forestry Commission 2015) is privately owned. This means that the actions of private woodland owners and managers, rather than public bodies such as the Forestry Commission, are likely to have the greatest effect both on the vitality of our woodlands, and on any contribution we can make to mitigating the effects of climate change. However, questions have never been asked of woodland owners and managers about their awareness, actions or aspirations relating to environmental change, or how well they may be following the guidelines of the UKFS.

Earlier in 2015 a group of ten leading forestry and woodland organisations collaborated to run a national survey to address these questions; exploring awareness, action and aspiration relating to environmental change among private woodland owners and managers, and forestry professionals. The research was funded by Forestry Commission England, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford and the Woodland Trust. Today the main report of the the survey is published.

The survey attracted responses from 1509 people including: 827 private woodland owners; 182 forestry agents; 235 other tree and forestry professionals (e.g. NGO staff, forestry contractors); and 19 tree nursery businesses. Responses were received from across the whole of the UK: most private woodland owners were located in England, while agents proportionally represented more properties than owners in Scotland and Wales. The respondents represented an area of woodland, managed by owners or their agents, covering 247,891 ha; equal to 11% of all privately-owned woodlands in the UK.

Writing in the Foreword, Chairman of the Forestry Commission, Sir Harry Studholme, commented:

“For the first time, we have on record the ‘voice’ of more than one and a half thousand woodland owners and managers. This is critical as, if we want to make real change on the ground, this will have to be done by landowners and managers themselves. The results tell us that there is much work to do, with little progress seen on implementing adaptation to date. It is, however, pleasing to see that thought is being given to climate change and resilience.”

Lead author of the report, Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation, Dr Gabriel Hemery, said:

“Whilst there were some positive indicators of progress in the forestry sector, it is clear that current pest and disease outbreaks are dominating the resilience agenda, with less thought given to the longer term effects of environmental change. I believe that woodland owners and managers may not be aware of the magnitude of change that is predicted.”

He continued: “I am deeply concerned that only a small majority of woodland owners believed that climate change would impact the UK’s forests in future, and by the high degree of uncertainty expressed about this. Making improvements to our communications with woodland owners and managers must now be an overwhelming and urgent priority.”

“It is clear that some brave decisions will need to be made by individual woodland owners and managers, as well as the forestry sector as a whole, if our woodlands are to thrive long into the future.”

Reflecting on the report, Mike Townsend, Principal Advisor – Conservation, at the Woodland Trust said:

“It’s clear from the results of this survey that Government, its agencies, and those in the private and voluntary sector who work with woodland owners, must provide clear advice and practical help to ensure trees and woods and the wildlife they support are able to adapt to climate change, threats from pests and pathogens and other environmental change. We need a much higher proportion of woodland under some form of considered woodland management, and action across all sectors of the forest industry to ensure the UK’s trees and woods are able to adapt and thrive.”

Results from the survey will be used by the collaborating group of organisations to develop an Action Plan. Earlier in 2015, the same organisations agreed to work together, and more widely, to prepare for environmental change by signing a Climate Change Accord (see below).

Summary of main findings:

  1. Overall, implementation of the UKFS good forestry practice requirements for climate change adaptation is currently low.
  2. High awareness among woodland stewards of environmental change impacts may provide new opportunities to engage with woodland managers, particularly if focussed around issues of direct and local relevance.
  3. Professionals and agents were generally more aware and active in implementing adaptation measures than owners, indicating that existing sources of information and outreach activities among these groups are effective.
  4. Lack of information and advice available to woodland owners and managers to help them respond to existing and emerging threats surfaced as a key issue. A number of owners expressed a view that subjects covered by the survey were too technical. Existing assumptions concerning comprehension and knowledge of adaptation and resilience may be unrealistic.
  5. A dearth of contingency plans among owners and managers to deal with major events such as fire, pest and disease outbreaks, and extreme weather, is of considerable concern.
  6. Low awareness of climate projections for their locality, together with lack of knowledge of soils, means that most woodland stewards are unaware of the potential impacts of environmental change. Most owners have not reviewed species suitability under projected climatic conditions and are therefore unaware of the need to, and potential for, improving the resilience of their woodland.
  7. Uncertainty around the concept of provenance/origin, improved planting stock and genetic diversity points to a requirement for improvements in education and the communication of scientific and practical evidence.
  8. Low levels of awareness and action in relation to biosecurity among owners, which was only marginally better among professional foresters, suggests that there is a need to review whether current guidance on biosecurity and risk assessment is appropriate and provides directions for the design and communication of predictive modelling.
  9. Targeted funding to support actions which might benefit the resilience of woodlands, in particular pest (vertebrate and invertebrate) management and control, would be highly beneficial.
  10. Many of the actions for increasing resilience will flow from good management planning and levels of understanding of the issues, both of which appear to be insufficient. The high number of woodlands without a management plan will undermine attempts to improve resilience.


Further Information

About the British Woodlands Survey:
The British Woodlands Survey (BWS) gathers evidence about the UK’s woodlands and those who care for them. It aims to provide a voice for private woodland owners and forestry professionals, and an evidence base on which future policies and practice can be developed. BWS2015 is the third survey in the series. The British Woodlands Survey is co-ordinated by the Sylva Foundation within its think-tank Forestry Horizons.

Download full report of BWS2015:
The report is available free to download at:

Report citation:    
Hemery, G., Petrokofsky, G., Ambrose-Oji, B., Atkinson, G., Broadmeadow, M., Edwards, D., Harrison, C., Lloyd, S., Mumford, J., O’Brien, L., Reid, C., Seville, M., Townsend, M., Weir, J., and Yeomans, A., (2015). Awareness, action and aspiration among Britain’s forestry community relating to environmental change: Report of the British Woodlands Survey 2015.

The 2015 survey was supported by an Advisory Group comprising representatives of Climate Ready, Confor, Country Land & Business Association, Forestry Commission England, Forest Research, Natural England, Royal Forestry Society, Sylva Foundation, University of Oxford, and Woodland Trust.

Climate Change Accord:
Over 30 organisations with an interest in UK forestry signed the 2015 Climate Change Accord which states:

“We believe that it is necessary to act now to provide a secure future for our forests, woods and trees, that significant changes are required to widely-accepted and practiced systems of management to make them resilient, and we are committed to help realise the vision set out in this Accord.”


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Good Woods in Cumbria

posted on December 15, 2014

In its first year the Good Woods partnership supported 235 land owners and managers across the South-East and East of England with woodland management advice, and provided forestry education for 20 woodland community groups. In an exciting new development, Good Woods has been introduced to North-West England through a partnership with Cumbria Woodlands.

Cumbria Woodlands at the Westmorland Show

Cumbria Woodlands at the Westmorland Show. Photo Cumbria Woodlands

The Good Woods partnership will be working directly with owners of 80 Cumbrian woodlands most in need of support. Training will be provided in woodland management, and in innovative web-based mapping and management tools using the myForest service run by the Sylva Foundation.  As well as the direct support to owners the partnership will be delivering training to community woodland groups in Cumbria that play an important role in the ongoing stewardship of woodlands.

Cumbria is recognised as home to some of Britain’s most diverse and beautiful forests. Across the county, including the Lake District National Park, they cover over 10% (68,167ha) of the total area and provide multiple benefits; notably for tourism, wildlife, water quality and rural employment. Yet many of these forests are under-managed and now failing to deliver benefits to society and the environment, and potentially are unsuited to the future needs of society. They are also vulnerable to changing climate, pests and pathogens.

A sector-sponsored report published earlier this year[1] identified that an additional 50,000 cubic metres could be harvested from Cumbria’s forests, supporting more jobs and adding £9.5M of gross value. Some 165,000 tonnes of CO2 are absorbed in the county’s trees each year, contributing significantly to targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Good Woods is the first activity in a series of interlinked actions aiming to rekindle the health and prosperity of Cumbria’s forests, thanks to an innovative partnership between government, business and the charitable sector (download brochure).

Neville Elstone of Cumbria Woodlands said:

“Funding and innovative thinking from the Good Woods partnership has enabled Cumbria Woodlands to grow and develop the range of ways we can support woodland owners to give their woodlands a more healthy, productive future.”

Alistair Yeomans of the Sylva Foundation said:

“It is an important development to be working with Cumbria Woodlands under the Good Woods partnership as their staff have a great deal of forestry expertise and local knowledge. By working together I am sure that we will help progress sustainable forest management in Cumbria.”

A typical and beautiful Cumbrian woodland.

A typical and beautiful Cumbrian woodland. Photo Cumbria Woodlands

This ambitious new programme of work under Good Woods will lead to more local jobs and home-grown timber. Hand-in-hand it will also improve habitats for nature and deliver ecosystem services such as clean air and water, carbon sequestration, and alleviation of flooding. It is being delivered by three organisations: regional charity Cumbria Woodlands, and two national charities – BioRegional and the Sylva Foundation. Funding for the Good Woods partnership in Cumbria is being provided by DIY retailer B&Q, government agency Defra, and the D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust.


Rachel Bradley of B&Q said:

“It is fantastic to see that B&Q’s investment in Good Woods is continuing to provide a positive impact within individual woodlands, which is where support is actually needed, to ensure that all of society benefit from the full range ecosystem services that trees and woodlands provide”.

Hayley Baines-Buffery of Bioregional said:

“We are very pleased to have expanded the Good Woods partnership’s scope and we are looking for other businesses, charities and Government agencies to work with us to increase the reach of the Good Woods approach.”

More about Good Woods

In January 2013 a partnership was formed between leading home improvement retailer B&Q; sustainability charity, BioRegional; and the tree and forestry charity, the Sylva Foundation. This partnership was named Good Woods with the specific aim of improving the stewardship of woodlands in the UK.

Woodland ecosystems are complex and unfortunately many have been neglected over recent decades. Understanding how best to look after these valuable habitats is greatly assisted by the help of a professional forester. However to help communicate what woodland management actually means in practise, Good Woods created the Woodland Star Rating which aims to help non-foresters understand, adopt and communicate good woodland stewardship activities.

Read more at the Good Woods webpages

[1] Roots to prosperity: an action plan for the growth and development of the forestry sector in Cumbria. (2014)

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Working with national partners to promote forest education

posted on October 10, 2014
teacher planning in the forest

teacher planning in the forest

The profile of Sylva’s education programme has been given a boost through our active involvement on England’s Forest Education Network (FEN) and the newly formed Forestry Learning and Development Working Group.

Hosted by Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, the Forest Education Network is a gateway to the many organisations and educational resources that exist for forest education and learning in woodlands. Membership is free and members receive regular bulletins about forest education events and resources.
We are proud to be one of eight national partners on the steering group of the FEN. Sylva’s Education Manager Jen Hurst will also represent the FEN on the Forestry Learning and Development Group chaired by the Forestry Commission. This group brings together key organisations in the forestry sector who will work with educators to seek ways of increasing young people’s interest and engagement with careers in forestry and wood products, particularly at secondary school level.
After the FEN steering group meeting this week Jen Hurst commented:
“at Sylva we are passionate about bringing the worlds of education and forestry closer together to revive Britain’s wood culture. With the FEN and the newly formed working group we look forward to working strategically with national partners to reach out to more young people from 5 years old and upwards”.
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Forestry business support available

posted on October 8, 2014
FACE delivery partners across England

FACE delivery partners across England

The Sylva Foundation has joined a consortium of organisations providing business support to forestry businesses across England in relation to new grants within the new Rural Development Programme (RDP), set to start in 2015.

What's your idea?

What’s your idea? Find your nearest advisor

The consortium known as FACE (Forestry Advisory Consortium England) has been contracted by Forestry Commission England to provide targeted and free one-to-one business support. Sylva is providing this service in the South East region. See map for providers elsewhere across England.

Details of future schemes under RDP are yet to be decided but if arrangements are similar to the last programme the most obvious interest for grant support might include kit (timber harvesting, extraction and primary processing equipment) with an emphasis on innovation.

Applications for business support are to be directed through the Forestry Commission. Download the ‘What’s your idea?’ leaflet to read more and find your local Forestry Commission contact, who will provide further details and an application form.



FC Forestry Business Support – Demonstration Workshops

Demonstration workshop events

Demonstration workshop events – free of charge

In addition to the business support the Forestry Commission are providing a series of free demonstration events to show how previous European funding has enabled businesses to grow and improve their efficiency.

The events are taking place across England from October 2014 to February 2015.

To view a full list of the events and reserve your place click here or contact the Lantern team at






Category: FORESTRY

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SilviFuture – a network for novel forest species is launched

posted on September 12, 2013
SilviFuture - a network promoting novel forest species

SilviFuture – a network promoting novel forest species. Click to visit the website.

A new network established to promote and share knowledge about novel forest species across Britain has been launched today. SilviFuture has been created by a partnership between Forestry Commission, Forest Research, Silvanus Trust and the Sylva Foundation. It aims to help promote information about trees and forest stands of less common or so-called ‘minor’ species.

At its heart is a website and database that enables woodland owners and forestry professionals to add, search and share information about more than seventy tree species, many of which are less well-known or tested in Britain.

It will support:

  • finding and sharing information on the silviculture of novel tree species. Some of these may prove more resilient to a changing climate or pests and diseases, and provide valuable products for future markets.
  • exploring a database to learn about tree growth, stand management, where certain species grow well in the country, and even successes in their marketing. The database combines research data with real-life growing experience.

Information on the growing potential and end uses of these species is provided, together with geographic information on forest locations in Britain. Forest Research have added data to the database, gathered from decades of research in field trials for many of these species. All the data can be interrogated on a web-based database, complete with maps and further information.

The database will be updated continually and can be searched by species or location to allow those thinking of planting new species to fully evaluate the options, and for researchers to see how species are performing across a range of locations. Future developments will include photo uploads and commenting tools.

Woodland owners and forestry professionals are encouraged to register and upload information. The network has been launched today at the Confor woodland show on September 12th at the Royal Forestry Society stand.

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New eWGS grant timescales announced

posted on July 25, 2013

Forestry Commission England has just announced timescales for applying for and receiving grant funding under the current eWGS system.  These timescales have been brought about because of  transition from the previous Rural Development Programme (RDP) to the next RDP.  The RDP is the vehicle the government use to spend EU money to support the rural economy.

The link below takes you to the document sent out by the Forestry Commission and explains in detail these arrangements.  Although they are not all definite at this stage, owners and managers should be aware of the critical dates involved and how this may affect your plans and operations.

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Director for Forestry and Rural Enterprise appointed

posted on July 16, 2013

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Paul Orsi to a new position in Sylva as our Director for Forestry & Rural Enterprise.

Paul Orsi, Sylva Foundation

Paul Orsi, Sylva Foundation

Paul joins us from Blenheim Palace where he managed the rural estate which included seven hundred hectares of woodland. Paul is a Chartered Forester, Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and recently completed a MSc in Land Management at Harper Adams University. His professional experience encompasses forestry, farming, conservation and rural enterprise, including the application and management of one of the largest agri-environmental schemes in the country. With Sylva he will be taking a lead role in the myForest service and other forestry projects, liaising closely with core partners and woodland owners, and developing new activities relating to business enterprise.

“I am delighted to be joining Sylva at this exciting period in the organisation’s development. I have worked with the team at Sylva on several collaborative projects over the last four years, including the British Woodlands survey, OneOak and myForest, and have always been impressed by their enthusiasm and professionalism. After 13 years of land management on a private estate I see this as a great opportunity to use my skills to support the forestry and wood sectors.”

The arrival of Paul coincides with changes elsewhere in our staffing. Our former Director of Forestry, Alistair Yeomans, will be taking a more central role in Sylva as our Chief Operating Officer. Alistair’s new role will focus on building partnerships, reflecting the importance our trustees place in working closely with industry, government and others across all of Sylva’s work streams.

Read more about our staff

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