Announcing the death of our trustee Peter Savill

posted on November 28, 2019

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our long-standing trustee and great friend to Sylva Foundation, Dr Peter Savill.

Dr Peter Savill, formerly Chair of Trustees - Sylva Foundation

Dr Peter Savill, formerly Chair of Trustees – Sylva Foundation

Peter served as a trustee for the charity since its inception ten years ago, and was a great friend and professional colleague to all of us at Sylva. He had only recently stepped down as Chair of our Trustee board, after serving in that position for five years.

We will publish a full obituary in due course.

Chief Executive Dr Gabriel Hemery would welcome any messages from those who knew Peter. Please use the following form to do so:


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Changes at the Top

posted on October 1, 2019

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Sarah Taylor as Chair of Trustees. At the same board meeting last month, Dr James Morison was appointed to the board.

Dr Peter Savill stepped down as Chair of Trustees after serving for five years. He will continue as a trustee, a position he has held since the formation of the charity.

James Morison, Sylva Foundation trustee

James Morison, Sylva Foundation trustee

Dr James Morison is a forest environmental scientist, leading research on understanding the impacts of, and the response to climate change of trees, forests and forestry at Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission. He has an academic background in ecology and plant physiology, with many years lecturing on environmental topics, particular on how plants grow, use water and respond to the environment. He has published more than 90 research papers and book chapters, as well as information, briefings and advice for forest managers and practitioners about adapting to climate change and the role of forests and forestry in mitigating climate change.

Talking of his appointment, James Morison commented:

“I am delighted to have joined Sylva Foundation’s board of trustees. The charity is making many valuable and innovative contributions to forestry, to developing a wood culture and to securing the place of woodlands in our landscape, supported by a firm grounding in science. Sylva is helping to tackle some of our greatest challenges, including the climate crisis and ensuring sustainable land management practice. I look forward to working with fellow trustees and the team during this dramatic period for our countryside and forestry’s place in it.”

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Annual Report and Accounts 2018-19

posted on August 29, 2019
Trustees' Report and Annual Accounts 2018-19

Trustees’ Report and Annual Accounts 2018-19. Click to download a pdf version.

We have published our Trustee’s Report and Independent Accounts for the year 2018-19.

Some highlights of the year:

  • authored a number of high-profile research papers on ash dieback, based on the work of our last Oxford-Sylva Graduate Scholar
  • supported the development of a reverse-auction tool, NatureBid, to support natural flood management
  • launched a major new education initiative: Forest Schools for All
  • via myForest, supported 5,000 woodland owners caring for a total woodland area greater than 80,000ha
  • launched myForest Premium, offering advanced tools for users
  • developed the Woodland Wildlife Toolkit with multiple partners
  • launched the Sylva Wood School

Financial summary:

Total income for the year was £766,420 (2017-18: £492,644). £390,892 (51%) of income was received as Donations, of which 90% was restricted to specific activities. The majority of income for Charitable Activities (£290,022; 38%) came from performance-related grants. Income from Trading Activities provided £83,458 (11%), including £53,202 from business leases/rentals at the Sylva Wood Centre.

Expenditure and Additions
Total expenditure was £397,946 (2017-18: £345,871) which included £175,030 investment (Additions) in ongoing development of the Sylva Wood Centre. Our overheads (excluding Additions), comprising income generation, admin, and governance, represented 24% of expenditure.

income & expenditure 2018-19

income (left) & expenditure (right) for the year 2018-19

The full report is available to download, and provided alongside those of previous years on our website at

Thanks as always to our amazing partners and supporters during the year. See:



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Sarah Taylor appointed trustee

posted on September 18, 2018
Sarah Taylor, Sylva Foundation trustee

Sarah Taylor, Sylva Foundation trustee

We are really pleased to announce the appointment of Sarah Taylor as a trustee of Sylva Foundation. Sarah brings a wealth of business and finance experience to the board, while possessing a deep passion for the British countryside.

Sarah was born in Baghdad and brought up in France. She was educated at the Lycée Molière, Paris; Wycombe Abbey; Marlborough College and Wadham College, Oxford, where she read biochemistry. In 1984 she married Bernard Taylor, CBE, DL; they have one son, Henry.

She spent 11 years working as a fund manager in the City of London, for Phillips and Drew, and UBS. After becoming involved in the centenary celebrations of Thame Community Hospital in 1997, she became Chairman of its League of Friends, a position she holds to this day.

Sarah is also a Visitor of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum (OBGA), Chairman of the Friends of OBGA, a Trustee of the Oxfordshire Victoria County History Trust, a Trustee of the Oxford Lieder Festival, and Vice Chairman of the Thames & Chilterns Branch of the Historic Houses Association. She was High Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 2016/17, during which she first got to know Sylva Foundation when she formally opened a Community Orchard at the Sylva Wood Centre.

In 2000, Bernard and Sarah acquired Rycote Park and spent five years restoring the house and park and establishing the farm’s herd of Aberdeen Angus and flock of Castlemilk Moorit sheep. Sarah‘s particular interests include gardening and music.

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Changes at the top

posted on July 19, 2017

Several changes to the Sylva Foundation board of trustees are announced today. We welcome Sir Martin and Lady Wood as our first Patrons, Dr Nick Brown steps down as trustee, and Dr Robin Buxton is appointed to the Board.

Sylva patrons

Founder trustees Sir Martin and Lady Wood are retiring from the board to become Sylva Foundation’s first Patrons. Both took a leading role in forming the charity in 2009, and have since been immensely generous in offering their support and wisdom. We know they will continue to attend board meetings regularly.

Martin & Audrey Wood

Martin & Audrey Wood

Sylva trustees

It is with sadness that we say farewell to trustee Dr Nick Brown. As a founding trustee he has played a key role in helping shape our science programme, in addition to guiding the charity through its evolution over the last eight years. He served as Chair of the trustee board for three years.

Robin Buxton, Sylva Foundation

Robin Buxton, Sylva Foundation trustee

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Robin Buxton to the board of trustees. His career has focussed on building effective organisations and networks to strengthen nature conservation in the UK. He has been Chair of the Earth Trust and Wild Oxfordshire, and Vice-President of CIEEM (the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management). He is currently Chair of the Patsy Wood Trust, Treasurer of the Ecological Continuity Trust, Trustee of the Durrell Trust for Conservation Biology, and an adviser to the Earth Trust. Speaking of his appointment Robin said:

“I’m delighted to be joining the trustees of the Sylva Foundation at an exciting time for trees and woodland management in UK.”

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Luke Hughes talks about his appointment as a Sylva trustee

posted on December 2, 2014
Luke Hughes Sylva trustee

Luke Hughes, Sylva trustee. Photo Luke Hughes & Company Ltd.

Newly appointed trustee Luke Hughes, has been writing about his motivation for supporting the Sylva Foundation on his company website:

‘The Sylva Foundation is one of the most intelligently focussed forestry initiatives around today, with clear attainable objectives. These specifically include how, through research and training, British woodlands can be better managed to face the unprecedented threats from climate change, pests and diseases and the economic viability of home-grown timber. Over the last ten years, I’ve been lecturing on similar themes all round the world, so it is particularly heartening to be able to support an organisation that is so actively putting theory into practice’.


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New trustees appointed

posted on November 28, 2014

We are delighted to announce the appointment of three new trustees to our board.

Welcoming these new appointments, Sylva’s Chair of Trustees, Dr Peter Savill, said:

“Luke Hughes, Samantha Leigh and Michael Wills bring together a range of specialisms and a wealth of experience to the board, which is particularly welcome given the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the Sylva Foundation.”

Luke Hughes

Luke Hughes - Sylva Foundation trustee

Luke Hughes

Luke Hughes is a designer specialising in site-specific furniture in architecture, embodying the highest standards of British design, production and craftsmanship. His studio was established in 1981 in Covent Garden, and has since designed furniture for more than 50 Oxbridge colleges, 70 parish churches, 17 cathedrals, 5 Royal Palaces, 2 synagogues and more than 900 boardrooms for major city corporations.

In 2010, he was shortlisted for a Walpole Award for British Luxury Design Talent for ‘outstanding achievement in design, craftsmanship, business and culture’. In 2011, Stanton Williams, the architect of the Sainsbury Botanic Institute (for which all the furniture was specially designed) was winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize. Other notable projects include the British Embassy in Moscow, the New Parliamentary Building, the UK Supreme Court, Sainsbury Family Trusts HQ office building at North House (with Ian Ritchie Architects) not to mention St Paul’s, St Alban’s, Exeter, Hereford, Winchester, Bristol and St Giles Cathedrals. He designed the new furniture on the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey, used for the Papal visit in September 2010 and the Royal Wedding in April 2011.

Luke Hughes sat on the Crafts Council for six years and was Chairman of their Grants Committee (1994-7). He is former Chairman of the Art Workers Guild, Honorary Designer for the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers, and is a member of the Fabric Advisory Committee for Southwark Cathedral. He has, in recent years, been a judge for the Wood Awards and for the Koestler Trust (for art in prisons) and is now Design Consultant to the Singapore Furniture Industry Council. He is a regular lecturer to the architectural profession (on materials and sustainability) in the UK as well as the USA, Middle East, South East Asia, Australasia and India.

Samantha Leigh

Samantha Leigh

Samantha Leigh

Samantha qualified as a lawyer in 1997 and has since specialised in property law. She trained at Wallace & Partners and then, on qualification, she joined Russell Cooke in South West London where she was made a partner in 2001. After moving to Oxfordshire in 2003 she worked as a partner in the commercial property team at Darbys LLP, where she established the Agriculture team, and she joined Henmans Freeth as a partner in September 2012. There she acts in all types of non-contentious property work, her interest in agricultural matters being primarily due to the variety of work and disciplines that the term “agricultural property” covers. She is also an experienced commercial property lawyer.

She has conducted seminars, chaired conferences and written articles on various issues in connection with agricultural and rural property. She is a member of Thames Rowing Club and lives with her husband and son in Henley on Thames. Samantha enjoys wandering through the British countryside, particularly where pub lunches can be located, and mushroom spotting (which she is not very good at) in the autumn.

Michael Wills

Michael Wills - Sylva Foundation trustee

Michael Wills

Michael has spent all of his working life in the international arena, initially with what were then the two top business magazine publishers in the world and then – aged 34, married and with two small children – moved into the international development sector where he has worked ever since. He has specialised as a new project “innovator and resource locator”, launching new ventures in both the business and not-for-profit sectors.

In 1995 Michael founded Oxford HR Consultants, where he remains a non-executive director, pioneering the use of executive search and selection in the international development and social enterprise sectors. He was a Director of Emerging Markets for Adaptive Eyecare, developing world marketing strategies for the world’s first “wearer adjustable” spectacles. As a consultant he has worked with DFID, the World Bank, and UNESCO. He worked for six years as a VSO Field Director in Malawi and Indonesia mainly in education, agriculture and healthcare sectors.

Michael is also a trustee of the Fred Hollows Foundation UK and Secretary of a local residents association.


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Peter Savill elected Sylva Chair of Trustees

posted on September 29, 2014
Peter Savill, Chair of Trustees - Sylva Foundation

Peter Savill, Chair of Trustees – Sylva Foundation

Dr Peter Savill has been elected the Sylva Foundation’s Chair of Trustees. He takes over from Dr Nick Brown who will continue to act as a trustee.

“I was very flattered to be elected Chairman of the Sylva Foundation trustee board, and look forward to what is sure to be an exciting period in the charity’s development. A main project will be the conversion of old agricultural buildings to house the Sylva Wood Centre as a place of innovation in the use of home-grown wood. This will represent a major step in achieving Sylva’s main objective of reviving a wood culture in Britain.”

Dr Peter Savill FICFor

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