Sylva Foundation celebrates ten years

posted on April 25, 2019

Ten years ago, in March 2009, Sylva Foundation was registered as a charity. Our small and dedicated team seems to be busier than ever, so we’re not celebrating in any major way, other than adding the dates to our logo during our tenth year.

Sylva Foundation 2009-2019

Sylva Foundation 2009-2019. Click to view full size version (large file)

We’re looking forward to the year ahead. Here are some of our planned activities for 2019:

  • Publish our report on the survey Bringing Children Closer to Nature (read more) and take more action to support outdoor learning across England
  • Complete further reverse auctions  (e.g. natural flood management in the Somerset Levels), to deliver innovative solutions for sustainable land management
  • Reconstruct the House of Wessex on our land with help from volunteers (read more and get involved)
  • Deliver a wide range of practical courses with our new Head of Wood School (read more and sign up)
  • Welcome hundreds of people to the Sylva Wood Centre during Oxfordshire Artweeks
  • Renovate another derelict farm building at the Sylva Wood Centre to support more business enterprise and innovation
  • Develop a mobile app for myForest
  • Deliver learning and support for sustainable woodland management
  • Support an Ash Summit for Oxfordshire

Thank you to all our friends and supporters who have worked with us over the last ten years. Here’s to a sustainable future!

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Sylva Scholar article wins RFS James Cup

posted on March 3, 2014

The James Cup is presented by the Royal Forestry Society annually to the author of the best original article for the year in the Quarterly Journal of Forestry in memory of NDG James, a distinguished forester and former President of the RFS.

A panel of RFS members judges the award and the winning article for 2013 is “Cord-Forming Fungi in British Woodlands”, written by Sylva Scholar Kirsty Monk, a final year DPhil student at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, and Gabriel Hemery, chief executive of the Sylva Foundation. The article investigates the ecology, diversity and distribution of cord-forming fungi in Great Britain, and was published in the July 2013 issue.

The article concludes: “On-going research is uncovering the numerous ways in which cord-forming fungi enhance and encourage woodland growth, health and productivity. … The time has come to consider all components of woodland ecosystems when managing for timber or woodland products. Future improvements to timber yields and woodland health will lie in improving nutrient cycling and woodland resilience, especially in the light of projected environmental change and the uncertainty it presents to woodland owners and managers.”

More information on the RFS James Cup, including free access to the article

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Annual Review 2012-13 published

posted on July 4, 2013
Sylva Foundation 2012-13 Annual Review

Sylva Foundation 2012-13 Annual Review

Our Annual Review for 2012-13 has been published online. It can be downloaded in various versions, including an interactive page-turning version (requires flash), here.

Chair of Trustees, Dr Nick Brown, introduced the report writing “Our fourth operating year as a charity has been one of noticeable energy and delivery. Our plans and activities are beginning to make a significant contribution to the conservation of the environment.”

Highlights of 2012-13 included the British Woodlands Survey 2012, which produced responses from 2600 woodland owners. The New Sylva book, sponsored by Sylva, was written in readiness for publication by Bloomsbury in April 2014. The OneOak project came to a finale with a series of public exhibitions across the country, finishing at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh where it attracted almost 50,000 visitors during its six week stay. Our myForest service supported 804 woodland owners in mapping over 18,000 hectares of woodland. Retailer B&Q funded the Good Woods project which will support 200 woodland owners across the southeast and east of England with the provision of tools and training in woodland management.

We hope you enjoy reading more about our work during the past year and plans for the future.

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Sylva newsletter is refurbished

posted on June 7, 2013

This week we launch a refurbished version of our weekly Newsletter.

It features a new section dedicated to myForest users, and will be sent to directly to all those using the service currently (and who opt in) – about 1000 woodland owners and agents.

Following feedback, it also includes an older news section. Now if you you’ve been away for a week you will no longer have to search your inbox for news on activities older than the current week.

Finally we include direct links to our various project webpages, plus direct links to our events, shop, and donate pages.

We would welcome any feedback, and always, please feel free to forward it to friends and contacts.

If you don’t subscribe currently please click here for more information


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One thousandth woodland mapped on myForest

posted on January 29, 2013

The one thousandth woodland has been mapped on myForest service website. The total area mapped now exceeds 17,000ha across Britain, with a few Irish woodland owners having signed up over recent months. These statistics tell us that the average woodland size is 1.47ha. In reality of course, from more in depth analysis we know that the woodlands mapped on myForest range from some very large woodlands (over 1000ha) to the smallest copse or spinney (0.25ha).

Readers interested in progress with the uptake and coverage of myForest can view the latest statistics on the service’s website. Click on the image below to visit the page.

myForest statistics January 2013

myForest statistics as of 29 January 2013. Click on the image to view the latest stats

Other news relating to myForest is that some major work has been underway in developing the online mapping tools. These are being trialled currently with a few beta testers, and we hope to launch the update fully soon. If you are a woodland manager or agent, and consider yourself to be IT savvy, why not contact us and volunteer as a beta tester for the future?

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New website suite for Sylva

posted on November 9, 2009
Forestry Horizons

Forestry Horizons

OneOak project

OneOak project

myForest service

myForest service

After feedback from our friends and partners we have undertaken a complete overhaul of our suite of websites.

They told us that our range of websites for the discrete elements of our work were good because they were aimed directly at different audiences. However, as we now have four websites (our main Sylva website plus three project websites) it became increasingly important to explain our work clearly as the relationship between the projects and Sylva was not always clear.

So we have worked hard to come up with a strong house style that allows the individuality of our projects to shine, yet links all the sites together. We hope that people new to the work of the Sylva Foundation, particularly those coming to us for the first time via one of our projects, will understand more easily the breadth and depth of our work.

This, our main site, has also been completely redesigned.  We hope that you like what you see.  We would be pleased to receive any comments or suggestions.

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An eventful first quarter for Sylva

posted on July 1, 2009

We have now completed our first quarter since becoming a charity in late March.  It has been an eventful and rewarding three months, with many of our ideas beginning to turn into reality.  Some of our most major developments are still some months away, but now may be a good time to review our progress and to share it with our friends and supporters.

Forestry Horizons – our think-tank

A number of scientific papers have been published and are available on our Forestry Horizons website.  A review of growing scattered broadleaves across Europe and the impacts of climate change has been co-written with eight other authors from across Europe. Sylva sponsored the proceedings of the Institute of Chartered Foresters’ National Conference titled “Trees, mutton or fuel?”.  These are also on our think-tank website.

Applied science project

We have made very positive progress with a number of high profile partners, including a Government research body and a top flight university, in developing a new applied science project.  We will announcing a new scholarship late in 2009.


Our innovative myForest project aiming to reconnect the wood chain was launched quietly as an R&D project in April.  We took on an IT Manager to help us take the project forward as interest has grown. Business users have started to sign up in ever greater numbers; the most intriguing being 20 fine furniture designer makers from across England in one evening.  Working closely with woodland owners in Oxfordshire we have signed many of these owners up to myForest, and worked closely with them to develop the services that we are able to supply.  These include an easy to use woodland inventory and online management planning software. A number of exciting developments over coming months are imminent, including the support of a core partner, and a joint partnership with a regional woodland project covering several counties in England.

OneOak project

Our new education project is aiming to connect people with growing trees for wood, and with using wood, by following the life story of one oak tree.  A large number of partners are now onboard.  We are working with a major Oxfordshire estate as the tree donor, and we have an innovative sawmill signed up, along with a furniture design college, many designer-makers, a research partner and a carbon footprint company.  We have the agreement of some six local primary schools to work with us closely in the project which is great news. We hope to launch the dedicated project website,, in September 2009.

Forest School

We are pleased to be able to continue our support of the Oxfordshire Forest School Service. We are also putting a funding proposal together with the Institute of Outdoor Learning, the Forest School Special Interest Group, and the Forest Education Initiative for a national co-ordinator for England.  If successful, the post would be hosted by Sylva.


Our project websites combined now attract over 3000 visits every month.  Interest in this blog is modest but should grow as content develops!  We must be one of the few forestry organisations using Twitter – and embeded in our Sylva website news section, it provides a useful feature for headline news.  We had a foray in the national media when our letter, arguing the case for sustainable woodland management, was published in The Guardian in April.

Our thanks …

… go to all our friends, supporters and donors.

Gabriel Hemery, CEO

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Sylva at the Wood Festival

posted on June 4, 2009

Sylva plants ‘message’ trees at Wood Festival – May 2009

Alistair Yeomans plants the message trees with help from festival goers

Alistair Yeomans plants the message trees with help from festival goers

Our Director of Forestry, Alistair Yeomans, gave a tree talk and then, with the help of the festival goers who braved the rain, planted 10 special ‘message trees’ to celebrate Oxfordshire’s woodlands.  The Wood Festival was held at Braziers Park for the second year running.  A great line up of both local and international bands performed to over one thousand people on a stage constructed with locally sourced green oak and topped with a living Sedum roof.

Alistair described how sustainable woodland management, through working with and understanding our woodlands, can produce wood – nature’s ultimate truly sustainable and versatile material, while also providing a range of other essential benefits for man and nature.

The oak trees planted were 2m tall and five years old.  Each oak held a unique message promoting the benefits oftrees:

Air: trap pollutants, clean and condition the air that we breathe

Earth: stabilise and continually replenish soil nutrients

Water: clean water and can act as sustainable drainage systems which can help to prevent flooding

Fire: contribute through the burning of wood, a low carbon energy source

Wood: provide a range of natural wooden products and how wood can contribute to the ‘2016 zero carbon’ house

Ecology: every Oak tree provides a habitat for approximately 500 species such as butterflies (purple hairstreak), birds (woodpecker), mammals (dormice), plants (bluebells), fungi (essential decomposers)

Economy: provide a resource that can support our local economy and reduce our carbon footprint

Landscape: contribute to some of the beautiful landscapes of Oxfordshire

Climate: by avoiding deforestation and replanting the right tree in the right place, helping stabilise the global climate

 With the planting of the tenth tree, Alistair asked: “so what’s in an acorn?  Answer – One Oak.  He then introduced Sylva’s  new ‘OneOak’ project that will be launched later in 2009.

Sylva’s Chief Executive, Gabriel Hemery, then explained to festival goers the idea behind the OneOak project.  He said that “sustainable woodland management is a complex story.  Many people find it hard to understand why it is good to grow and fell trees for wood, even though wood is part of everyone’s lives.  The Sylva Foundation’s OneOak project will focus on one single oak tree.  We will bring the stories to life by demonstrating the real-life benefits of managing trees and using locally-produced wood.  We will celebrate the OneOak tree’s life, both as a living organism, and in what it provides for man and the environment after it is felled.  OneOak will be launched in late 2009.

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Sylva sponsors ICF 2009 National Conference

posted on April 20, 2009

Institute of Chartered Foresters

We are pleased to be supporting the Institute of Chartered Foresters by co-sponsoring their national conference in Cardiff on 22/23 April 2009 on the topical subject of Landuse and forestry.

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Sylva Foundation germinates

posted on March 29, 2009

We are really pleased that the Sylva Foundation is now registered as a charity in England and Wales.  This means that we can move from a lot of developmental thinking and administrative work, to making a real start with our projects.

During 2008 we commissioned wood engraver Howard Phipps to produce the design for our new logo. Working with the end grain of a tiny block of box (Buxus sempevirens) wood, Howard incorporated oak and larch branches in the design to depict our wide interest in all forest types, and a log face to emphasise our support for wood production.

We have created a new website for Sylva and for the organisation’s three projects.  You can read more about them by exploring the other links of this blog.

We would be pleased to hear from you with your views – either about the Sylva Foundation or about trees and forestry in general.

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