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Martin Wood – engineer, philanthropist, and conservationist

posted on November 24, 2021

A joint statement by sister charities: Earth Trust, The Oxford Trust, and Sylva Foundation

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Sir Martin Wood (1927-2021).

Sir Martin Wood FRS in 2012

Sir Martin Wood FRS in 2012

Sir Martin and Lady Wood together founded our three sister charities. Each of us has a distinctive vocation, voice and vision, yet at our heart we inherited our founders’ generosity of spirit and innovative approach to getting things done for science, people and nature.

As a visionary engineer, Martin started Oxford Instruments with Audrey, developing and marketing the world’s first superconducting magnets. These were soon in great demand for scientific equipment, notably in the development of MRI scanning technology. As the business flourished, ultimately floating on the stock market, Martin and Audrey became prolific philanthropists, supporting business start-ups, scientific innovation, young people and the natural environment.

Martin and Audrey co-founded Earth Trust in 1982 (previously known as Northmoor Trust for Countryside Conservation) after years of appreciating the challenges faced by nature and the environment. From its earliest pioneering beginnings it has grown to be an advocate and demonstration of people connecting with the natural world. Earth Trust’s wildlife-rich green spaces include the iconic Wittenham Clumps and 500ha of farmland, woodland and wetlands, welcoming 200,000 visits each year. Its passion for quality and accessible green spaces is shared with and through events and engagement activities, award-winning volunteers and a thriving young people’s environmental education project.

Chief Executive of Earth Trust, Jayne Manley, commented:

“Martin’s love of the environment, his appreciation of the benefits of being close to nature and his desire to make it better for everyone have shaped Earth Trust into what it is today. Just as he pioneered in science, he wanted to support innovation in thought and action. Alongside this he understood that Earth Trust was a ‘start-up’ charity, bringing with it similar challenges to those faced by small businesses. He was much loved by staff, volunteers and visitors and will be missed enormously by all.”

In 1985, Martin and Audrey co-founded The Oxford Trust, creating Oxfordshire’s first innovation centre for science and technology start-ups. Hand-in-hand with business incubation, the trust has always supported young people and encouraged students to consider pursuing careers in STEM. The Oxford Trust owns the Oxford Centre for Innovation and opened the new the Wood Centre for Innovation in 2019. Together these centres help dozens of young tech companies get a head start. Though its Science Oxford programmes it reaches over 20,000 students, 600 teachers and hundreds of families across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire annually.

Chief Executive of The Oxford Trust, Steve Burgess, said:

“Martin’s passion for innovation and physics cannot be understated. Not only through his direct work on superconducting magnets which, via MRI scanners alone, effects millions of lives every year, but also supporting early-stage technology companies at a time when no one else had the vision to do this. With Audrey always at his side the duo has made an incredible impact on today’s entrepreneurial landscape and in science education. His legacy will be carried forward by The Oxford Trust.”

Sylva Foundation was co-founded by Martin with Dr Gabriel Hemery in 2009 aiming to nurture Britain’s wood culture. Its origins stem from a collaboration between the two while working closely together for 13 years to create a forestry science programme at the Northmoor Trust. Sylva Foundation combines many of the qualities of its sister charities, with a passion for the environment, business, and education. It has brought technical innovation to the forestry sector, where its online platforms are supporting 9,000 landowners and managers in caring for 140,000ha across Britain. When Martin and Audrey donated land and buildings at Long Wittenham to the charity, this led to the creation of the Wood Centre. The foundation supports 25 woodworking business and delivers an education programme supporting employability and promoting the use of home-grown timber.

Chief Executive of Sylva Foundation, Gabriel Hemery, commented:

“Martin’s friendship and leadership transformed my life, professionally and personally, and consequently the lives of the entire Sylva team, the thousands of people we work with, and the tens of thousands of hectares of woodland we help care for across Britain. On my office wall hangs a framed note from Martin that I found waiting on my desk on the first day we started working on the idea of founding a new charity: ‘Greetings, a great day – we’re going to change the face of forestry in the British Isles!’ In a few words, this perfectly captures Martin’s unparalleled vision, philanthropy, and humanity.”

Our thoughts and love are with Martin’s widow, Audrey, and the Wood family.


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Annual Report and Accounts for 2020-21

posted on September 6, 2021

We have published our Trustee’s Report and Independent Accounts for the year 2020-21.

The trustees of Sylva Foundation are pleased to release the formal report from the board for 2020-21 and the independent accounts produced by our financial auditors. Click to download in full, or read the summary below.

2020-21 at a glance:

download Sylva's annual report and accounts for 2020-21

download Sylva’s annual report and accounts for 2020-21

  • appointed two new trustees: Dr Mary Barkham and Jim Waterson
  • expanded our IT team
  • ran a new British Woodlands Survey exploring awareness, action, and aspirations among land managers to environmental change
  • continued to play a strong role in supporting the work of the Forestry & Climate Change Working Group
  • supported Defra by conducting research for the Resilient Treescapes project
  • started work on the Future Oak project with Bangor University
  • supported 2,149 environmental educators across Britain via our myForest for Education platform
  • supported 7,084 woodland owners and more than 1,000 forestry agents  in caring for 126,693ha across Britain via the myForest Woodland Manager
  • continued work developing a new IT platform to support woodland creation, working with both Defra and Scottish Forestry
  • delivered multiple environmental auctions across England for partners using our NatureBid platform, including the third Woodland Carbon Guarantee
  • supported more than 20 SME wood businesses at the Sylva Wood Centre
  • launched our new Professional Course and taught 5 students to work with home-grown timber to batch produce for commercial clients
  • completed renovation work on the Grain Store at the Sylva Wood Centre, including fit out of a state-of-art machinery and teaching unit
  • continued to engage with visitors to our small estate in Oxfordshire, providing interpretation and events to advocate our mission

Financial Summary

Income

Income (£496,959) increased by 5% compared to the previous financial year (£472,374).

12% of total income was received in donations. The majority of income for Charitable Activities (£309,809) came from performance-related grants (£212,039). Income from Trading Activities was £120,758, the majority of which was from business leases at the Sylva Wood Centre.

Expenditure and Additions
Total expenditure was £437,22, 65% of which was spent on salaries.

Our overheads, comprising income generation, admin, and governance, represented 13% of expenditure.

Funds

The charity’s Designated funds (87% of which are operational fixed assets comprising land and buildings at the Sylva Wood Centre) were £1,625,604 at the end of the 2020-21 financial year. Restricted funds were £88,425, and Unrestricted funds £140,325.


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Mary Barkham Appointed Trustee

posted on March 23, 2021

We are delighted to welcome Dr Mary Barkham as a trustee of the Sylva Foundation. Mary was appointed as a trustee at a board meeting held on 19th March 2021.

Mary Barkham Sylva trustee

Dr Mary Barkham Sylva trustee

Mary has had a career spanning both the public and private sector. She has a degree in horticultural science and a PhD in plant pathology. Following a period of research in universities, she worked in fungicide research for Dow Chemical followed by 14 years with the Research Councils coordinating environmental research in the UK through the Environmental Research Funders’ Forum and the Living With Environmental Change Partnership.

In 2014 she became a Forestry Commissioner for England and Scotland, has sat on the expert Committee on Forest Science and the Forest Research Board. Now retired, Mary continues to Chair the Partnership Board for Observatree (an award-winning citizen science project on tree health), is a Trustee for the William Robinson Gravetye Charity and was until recently a Trustee for the Earth Trust.

Mary lives in Wales where she is doing an eco-renovation of a farmhouse and enjoying walking and gardening.

Read more about Sylva Foundation’s board of trustees

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Jim Waterson Appointed Trustee

posted on December 1, 2020

We are delighted to welcome Jim Waterson MICFor MRICS as a trustee of the Sylva Foundation. Jim was appointed as a trustee at a board meeting held on 25th November 2020.

Talking about his appointment, Jim Waterson commented:

“I have the strong conviction that resilient trees, woods and forests are more important than ever at local, national and global levels. They have immense potential to improve lives, provide valuable goods and services and in meeting existing and future challenges that we all face. It is for all these reasons that I am so pleased to be joining the Sylva Foundation, as this unique organisation is transforming the industry through its innovative activities and leadership in sustainable forestry.”

Jim Waterson, Sylva Foundation trustee

Jim Waterson, Sylva Foundation trustee

After a degree at Wye College, University of London, Jim worked in New Zealand before returning to the UK to begin a career in sawmilling and forestry contracting, then moving into forest and land management in the private and voluntary sectors. He was able to enjoy challenging work roles and to develop some specialist capability in managing complex, multi-functional woodlands, in development and application of low-impact working methods and in meaningful and productive community engagement.

After twenty years in industry Jim joined Harper Adams University to teach forestry and forest products subjects to undergraduates. He also runs the postgraduate Forestry Management programmes, which he was responsible for developing from scratch some years ago.

His time in education has enabled him to build links with many within the forest and woodland sector and to have a role in introducing large numbers of young people to forestry and forest products. Some have gone on to develop successful and significant careers within the commercial, voluntary and state forest sectors and he says he is fortunate to be able to maintain contact with many of them.

Jim has just finished a term as a member of Council of the Institute of Chartered Foresters and chairing the ICF Professional, Education and Scientific Committee. He continues to sit on the Woodland Trust’s Conservation Advisory Group.

His particular interests are applied silviculture, woodland management for multiple products and outcomes and the development and support of viable wood and woodland-based enterprise. Jim also has an interest in direct seeding as an alternative means of forest and woodland establishment.

Jim’s interests and commitments outside of work are primarily centred on family, and until recently they have been managing a mixed wood on the English/Welsh border.

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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:

https://forms.gle/UxkJwLAduSzMue3f7

 

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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.”

Read more about Sylva Foundation’s trustees


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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:

Income
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 www.sylva.org.uk/about#reports

Thanks as always to our amazing partners and supporters during the year. See: www.sylva.org.uk/partners

 

 

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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.

Read more about the Sylva Foundation trustee board

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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.”

Read more about Sylva Foundation’s team of people: sylva.org.uk/people

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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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