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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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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New offices for the Sylva Foundation

posted on February 19, 2016

We are excited to announce that the Sylva Foundation will be moving its offices to a new purpose-designed timber building at the Sylva Wood Centre.

Ever since our formation as a charity in 2009 we have been based in the village of Little Wittenham in south Oxfordshire. Following the gift of land in the nearby village of Long Wittenham, and with early developments of the Wood Centre now well underway, we felt that 2016 would be the right time to relocate our office. Our headquarters will be at the heart of the Sylva Wood Centre, and there our staff will be part of the community of craftspeople supported by our Start-Up facilities and running their wood businesses.

Benfield ATT

Benfield ATT

The Sylva Lodge—as it will be known—is a wooden low-energy building designed by South Wales timber building specialists Benfield ATT. Naturally it has been constructed with timber, most of which is home-grown, and all sourced from sustainably-managed forests.

Talking about the building Professor Michael Benfield—Director of Benfield and the inaugural Chair of Wood Knowledge Wales—said:

“I am delighted that the Sylva Foundation selected to work with our company to build their new offices. This confirms our joint aspirations to stimulate a vibrant forestry and wood industry”.

Benfield ATT sourced high-quality Douglas fir from Gloucestershire and sent it to Cilfiegan Sawmill, near Usk in Monmouthshire, to be milled from the log and cut to the desired lengths for the build. The photos below work underway at the Benfield ATT workshops.


We will be following progress of the build over the next few weeks, and plan to move in to the Sylva Lodge by mid April.


Our new address (from April 2016) will be:

Sylva Wood Centre
Long Wittenham
OX14 4QT

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Research into hardwood timber supplies in UK construction

posted on November 9, 2015

Grown in BritainAs part of an Innovate UK-funded project, we are working with Grown in Britain, the Building Research Establishment (BRE), English Woodlands Timber and others in the timber supply chain on a project looking at hardwood timber supplies in UK construction.

Specifically we would like to gather information from processors, suppliers and customers, about what applications hardwood timber is specified for within the construction industry, and where known, what species are being specified/purchased. We would also like to know your thoughts generally on UK-grown hardwood.

The link below will take you to a very short survey that should take you no more than 5 minutes to complete:

If you know anyone else who would be able to answer these questions, please feel free to forward this to them.

Thank you in advance for your time; we appreciate your valuable input into this project.

Category: WOOD
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Innovative hardwood cladding for the Sylva Wood Centre

posted on March 11, 2015

This week we took delivery of a brand new product sourced from British forests. The thermally-modified hardwood cladding will be used on the first building at the Sylva Wood Centre. The ash and sycamore cladding was supplied by Tyler Hardwoods, and its application supported by Grown in Britain. We will be following the story of its sourcing, manufacture and application over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile here is a sneak preview of the product. Those who know their timbers will be the first to point out that neither sycamore or ash are durable outdoors, and normally would be unsuitable for cladding. However, the thermal modification process renders their timber durable. This is exciting news for these two timbers especially. Sycamore is one of our fastest growing hardwoods but often goes to low value markets such as firewood. Ash can be high value but has niche markets yet supply is anticipated to increase when ash dieback disease has full impact in our woodlands.

Innovation in timber engineering is an important step towards realising a functional bioeconomy. Watch this space for further details and future updates.


thermally-modified GB hardwood timber cladding for the Sylva Wood Centre

Thermally-modified GB hardwood timber cladding for the Sylva Wood Centre. Left and top, sycamore. Right and bottom, ash.

Category: WOOD
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The British domestic firewood supply chain – report published

posted on October 11, 2013

A summary report of a survey undertaken during 2012 of the domestic firewood supply chain has been published.

Certain aspects of the British woodfuel sector have been the subject of much research recently but have tended to focus on woodchip and pellets. Firewood, in the form of logs, has been largely ignored. A survey, supported by Sylva, was undertaken by MSc placement student Daniel Kinash from Bangor University. Co-authors were James Walmsley, Lecturer in Forestry at the university, and Sylva’s Gabriel Hemery.


  • 336 actors in the supply chain responded during June/July 2012.
  • respondents were distributed across 69 British counties.
  • most respondents (147) were firewood merchants.
  • 97% of suppliers reported gradual or healthy growth in demand in the last five years.
  • the vast majority of respondents considered there being sufficient demand to increase sales volume – equivalent to 60% within the British domestic market, or 77,000 green tonnes per year.
  • barriers to improving supply included financial profitability and time (i.e. lack of efficiency).
  • the main barrier to sales was education of end users, where poor quality firewood drove down prices (i.e. lack of awareness by buyers of wet or green wood)
  • long-term supply contracts would provide confidence to suppliers to invest in machinery and infrastructure.
  • moving towards universal standards and improved clarity of terminology were seen as important but would require a nationwide strategy.

The Royal Forestry Society, publishers of the Quarterly Journal of Forestry, kindly provided permission for Sylva to include a pdf of the full article in our Forestry Horizons library. The article can also be downloaded directly here.

With special thanks to the Royal Forestry Society


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