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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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Free Advice for Woodland Owners

posted on November 23, 2021

If you own an area of woodland in the south-east region of England, you could benefit from free one-to-one professional forestry advice.

woodland advice

woodland advice

Landowners are increasingly aware of the threats from climate change, pests and diseases, but are also aware of opportunities to provide services from woodlands they manage, such as carbon sequestration and water management. In future, grant payments or other types of support are likely to be available only to those with an approved woodland management plan.

Thanks to innovation funding provided by the Forestry Commission, the environmental and forestry charity Sylva Foundation is collaborating with a group of forestry agents in the Forestry Canopy Foundation to offer free support to 50 landowners across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, East Sussex, and West Sussex. To be eligible, the woodland site (0.5ha or larger) must be without a management plan that is compliant with the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS).

  • You will receive support in completing a self-assessment of the current state of management in the woodland.
  • You will receive a free consultation with a professional forestry agent to help you meet your objectives.
  • The consultation will set you on a path to completing a UKFS-compliant woodland management plan.

Landowners interested in this generous advice package are encouraged to express their interest without delay, using this online form. To discuss this offer please contact George Dennison at george.d@sylva.org.uk or 07972 216529.

The application window is open until end of February 2022, but will close when all 50 places have been allotted.


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Head of Wood School appointed

posted on September 12, 2018

Our recently-appointed Head of Wood School, Joseph Bray, introduces himself and his new role with Sylva Foundation.

Joe Bray 2018

Joe Bray, Head of Wood School

I began my career in the furniture industry in 2000, as a designer and craftsman with Richard Williams.  My role progressed from junior craftsman to production coordinator giving me an introduction to the diversity of the industry whilst working on bespoke projects for private clients. Prior to this I studied furniture design and craftsmanship at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University and I went back to complete a masters in furniture design, graduating with distinction in 2010.  

At an early stage I knew I wanted to teach and, benefiting from a very supportive employer, I undertook some teacher training and worked at Rycotewood providing one-to-one woodwork for autistic young adults.  This valuable experience ultimately led me to make the transition between industry and education, taking up a full-time role as a teacher across the full range of programmes at Rycotewood.

Joseph Bray teaching a student

Joseph Bray teaching a student

In 2010, I took responsibility for course leadership of the Foundation degree and BA Hons programmes. I successfully led the validation of the degrees with two university partners; Bucks New University in 2010 and Oxford Brookes University in 2015.  Students and graduates have been incredibly successful, winning national awards, bursaries, and residencies.

My particular interest is in developing industrial partnerships leading to live projects, study trips, work experience, internships, and sponsorship for students.  Recent collaborations include live projects with AHEC (American Hardwood Export Council) exploring the characteristics of red oak, designing public seating for the RAF museum – London, as part of the 100-year anniversary, and live briefs with furniture manufacturers Ercol and William Hands.

My current research interest is to understand better how to upskill furniture graduates making them more employable – considering how to bridge the gap between education and professional life.  I have been successful in an application for funding and was announced as a Churchill Fellow in 2018. I will travel initially to USA in autumn visiting the Centre for Furniture Craftsmanship, North Bennett Street School, Rhode Island School of Design and Rochester Institute of Technology.  Further travel to prestigious European institutions will follow in spring 2019. A report will be published in 2019 sharing the knowledge gained and recommendations for improving the education system here in the UK.   

I am a member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and have served on the council since 2008 – I am currently responsible for the production of their quarterly newsletter.  I am a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

I am passionate about making, and very excited to get stuck into my new role, with Sylva Foundation, which for the first year I will be taking up while also continuing part-time with Rycotewood. My main responsibility is the development of the new Sylva Wood School, and in time I will play a lead role in supporting the delivery of training and courses. I’ll also play a key part ensuring the development of the Sylva Wood Centre as a beacon for best practice.

www.sylva.org.uk/wood


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Forest Schools for All

posted on June 15, 2018

Forest Schools for All is a bold new education project for Sylva Foundation, in partnership with the Forest School Association, and The Ernest Cook Trust, which is also the main funder of the project. The three leading environmental education organisations have come together with the ultimate aim of increasing and sustaining access to Forest Schools for all children.

Celebrating the launch of FSFA 11June2018

Celebrating the announcement of ‘Forest Schools for All’ during a Forest School session at the Sylva Wood Centre: Simon Gould (Director of Learning, Ernest Cook Trust), Jen Hurst (Education Manager, Sylva Foundation) and Sarah Lawfull (Director, Forest School Association).

For the next two years we will develop and test new approaches across three English countries—Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, and Oxfordshire—with a view to rolling these out at national scale across England (and perhaps the UK) with more partners, support, and funding.

Sylva Foundation Chief Executive, Gabriel Hemery, said “This project builds on the past ten years of Sylva Foundation’s innovative forest education projects, in particular work to support woodland management in Forest Schools thanks to funding from the Patsy Wood Trust.” He continued “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Forest School Association, and especially grateful to The Ernest Cook Trust for agreeing, not only to fund the project, but to act as a main partner.”

The Ernest Cook Trust Chief Executive, Victoria Edwards, said: “Sylva Foundation is a natural fit for The Ernest Cook Trust as we collaborate more and build partnerships with like-minded organisations and estates. Forest Schools for All will both support a more strategic approach to the type of demographic we reach in our education work, and give our outdoor learning team a great opportunity to pilot and refine Forest School programmes across our estates and beyond.“

Project highlights

  • The project will start in summer 2018 with the first national online survey of Forest Schools. We aim to provide much-needed evidence about the barriers and opportunities to establishing and sustaining Forest Schools. The survey outcomes will also help us measure project progress.
  • In the first two years of this project, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire will be focus counties. Supported by national survey results, we will develop pilot projects in these counties, aiming to overcome barriers to establishing and sustaining Forest Schools.
  • The three counties will aim to become national examples of Forest School excellence by having a high quantity and a high quality of Forest Schools through the FSA-recognised provider scheme.
  • The Ernest Cook Trust will create England’s first ever dedicated grants programme for Forest Schools and Woodland Owners. These small grants will be critical drivers of the project by providing much needed contributions towards the costs of Forest School Leader training, and also the costs of Forest School site development in school grounds or private woodlands.
  • To achieve and sustain the national strategic ambitions of the Forest Schools for All project we will invite public, private and charitable organisations, and individual stakeholders, to share in this exciting vision.

Further Information

What is Forest School?

Forest School is a unique approach that gives young people increased contact with, and knowledge of, the natural world, and a powerful process that enables the holistic personal development of young people.

Since 1993, regular Forest School sessions have become part of the mainstream timetable in thousands of schools across the UK: they are very popular with parents, teachers, children and Ofsted. More details about the six Forest School principles of good practice can be found at: https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/full-principles-and-criteria-for-good-practice.

Partner organisations

The Ernest Cook Trust (ECT), based in Fairford, Gloucestershire, is one of the UK’s leading educational charities, inspiring young people to achieve better educational and life outcomes by learning from the land and is rooted in the conservation and management of the countryside.  It owns and manages more than 8,900 hectares of landed estates across five English counties. ECT actively encourages children and young people to learn from the land through education programmes (including Forest School training) on its estates, and by giving grants. Each year its Trustees distribute around £2m to a range of education initiatives. www.ernestcooktrust.org.uk 

The Forest School Association is the National professional body for Forest School, running the recognised providers and trainers’ scheme to ensure high quality Forest School. It has more than 2,000 members.  www.forestschoolassociation.org

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity offering UK-wide support for forest schools via the myForest for Education website (more than 1,000 registered users). It owns a small estate in Oxfordshire, where it runs the Sylva Wood Centre fostering innovation and enterprise in wood. It has strong links with the woodland owner community across the UK (4,000 owners managing 70,000ha).  www.sylva.org.uk


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Kubota UK supports the Sylva Future Forest

posted on April 18, 2017

Kubota UK, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of agricultural, construction, groundcare equipment and industrial engines, has teamed up with Sylva Foundation, an environmental charity, to support the local community and its surrounding landscape.

Kubota launched its partnership with the charity by taking part in an ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’ event at the Sylva Foundation Wood Centre, situated in the South Oxfordshire countryside.

Kubota employees planted 25 trees throughout a 10×10 metre plot as part of the Sylva Foundation Future Forest scheme, which allows people to build a lasting affinity with a growing woodland by sponsoring their own plot. The new initiative spans over three hectares and contains 325 individual plots that can be sponsored by individuals, families, schools and businesses.

Speaking of the partnership, Candice Dillingham, HR Manager for Kubota UK, said: “Working with the Sylva Foundation is such a natural and organic fit for Kubota as the charity’s commitment to the safekeeping of the natural environment and creating a sustainable future is very similar to our own.”

“The Earth, Wind and Fire event was a fantastic experience for all of the Kubota employees involved. As we are one of the biggest employers in Thame, we are dedicated to giving back to the local community, so being able to support and develop the region’s natural landscape allows us to do just that.”

Throughout the day Kubota employees planted a range of trees, including Japanese red cedar and wild cherry to name but a few. Employees were also offered the opportunity to explore the 14 operational wood-based businesses located on site, allowing them to meet with different experts and craftsmen. Here they could see how versatile the various types of wood are and how their applications can vary exponentially.

Gabriel Hemery, Chief Executive of Sylva Foundation, said:

“At Sylva we help people and trees grow together. Being able to work alongside Kubota UK to help fulfil this mission has already been a great experience for all involved. The newly-planted trees demonstrate the beginning of a working countryside that will help to connect local people to the natural environment around them.

“As both organisations have so much in common, it’s fantastic that we can work together to support good countryside management throughout Oxfordshire.”

The event marks just the beginning of the partnership between Kubota UK and the Sylva Foundation, with Kubota employees being able to tend to their trees and watch them develop over the coming years.

To find out more about Kubota and its market-leading range of agricultural, construction and groundcare machinery solutions, visit www.kubota.co.uk and to find out more about the Sylva Foundation and its range of sponsorship opportunities, visit www.sylva.org.uk.


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myForest for Education workshop at the National Forest

posted on April 28, 2016

The National Forest was humming with discussions about woodland management and forest education at the latest myForest for Education training workshop.

The workshop was held at Martinshaw Wood near Leicester, owned and managed by the Woodland Trust. Twelve Forest School Leaders, trainers and those interested in forest education and community-managed woodlands attended the half-day training event. Nottingham and Leicester Forest Education Network, the National Forest and the Sylva Foundation worked in partnership to:

  • introduce participants to basic principles of woodland management;
  • survey an area of woodland with the aim of creating a woodland management plan using myForest for Education;
  • provide opportunities for networking, sharing information and contacts to other forestry organisations.

Chris Williams, Woodland Trust Manager, led a walk through the woods to explain the management of this planted ancient woodland site. Simon Greenhouse, National Forest,  showed the group newly-planted areas adjacent to Martinshaw wood and explained how local communities, schools and sponsors are involved in the woodland creation and management.  The site visit ended at Groby Community College in an area of woodland well-used for education activities. Jen Hurst, Sylva Foundation Education Manager, showed the group how to map and survey the site including an assessment of ecological impacts on the woodland. Back in the workshop room the results of the survey were transferred to Sylva’s free online system myForest for Education to create management plans.

Jen Hurst at the myForest for Education workshop

Jen Hurst presenting at the myForest for Education workshop

myForest for Education workshop

Delegates at the National Forest myForest for Education workshop

One workshop participant said:

“it’s so valuable meeting other Forest School Leaders, woodland owners and organisations who manage woodland sites for education”.

Another — a newly-trained Forest School Leader — implored:

“I just want more of this kind of training!”.

With generous support from the Patsy Wood Trust until 2018, myForest for Education training workshops will continue to be provided free to any groups, networks or conferences.

Please contact Jen Hurst for further information about the workshops: jen@sylva.org.uk

Read more about myForest for Education

 

 


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Volunteers wanted for leaf fall research

posted on October 22, 2015

‘Leaves on the line’ are a common rail problem during the autumn period in the UK. Fallen leaves each year from September to December create mulch like substances on the rail line making the rail head slippery. This slippery rail reduces adhesion between the track and the train wheel. The lower adhesion causes delays, trains to slip and not stop at stations which often results in changes to the usual timetable.

University of Birmingham PhD student Jennifer Kirby looking at the autumn leaf fall problem around the UK rail network.

University of Birmingham PhD student Jennifer Kirby looking at the autumn leaf fall problem around the UK rail network.

A PhD project, at the University of Birmingham, is investigating alternative ways of measuring leaf fall which could help reduce delays in the autumn period. In order to do this a team of volunteers is needed to measure leaf fall around the country. This will help to gain a greater understanding of when different tree species fall across the UK.

Jennifer is therefore looking for volunteers who can spare 10 minutes, 3 days a week, to make observations about leaf fall in a local woodland area. These observations don’t need to be near a rail line.

Volunteers will be sent an observation sheet. This is an Excel document that you can fill in with your observations. If you are interested in improving rail safety and taking a walk around local woodland areas then please help and get involved.

If you are interested in volunteering or have any further questions about the project please get in contact with Jennifer (email: JXK067@bham.ac.uk).

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Philip Koomen appointed as special advisor

posted on October 5, 2015

Philip Koomen, Sylva Foundation

Philip Koomen, Furniture and Wood Special Advisor, Sylva Foundation

Designer-maker Dr Philip Koomen has been appointed as the Sylva Foundation’s Furniture and Wood Special Advisor.

Talking about his voluntary appointment Philip Koomen commented:

“I have been involved in the work of the Sylva Foundation since advising the charity in its ground-breaking OneOak project (2009-12). Since then I have been pleased to help the foundation shape the vision and direction of its Wood programme, which came to life in 2015 with the opening of the Sylva Wood Centre. The charity’s work is in line with my own professional practice and vital if we are to foster a new generation of designer-makers using home-grown and other sustainable timbers. I am therefore really delighted to take up the role of Furniture and Wood Special Advisor.”

At the age of 22, Philip set up his first professional workshop at his parents’ home in Henley-on-Thames in 1975, having studied Furniture Design & Technology at Buckinghamshire College. He moved to his current workshop at Wheelers Barn in Checkendon, South Oxfordshire in 1984.

Philip’s vocational path was inspired by the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. He is committed to a sustainable approach to furniture design that celebrates wood and contributes to a greater understanding of our environmental responsibilities. Furthermore, he is dedicated to providing training for aspiring designer-makers; many past members have since set up their own workshops in Britain, Canada, Ireland, Sweden, Germany and Australia.

Philip and his team have produced the equivalent of over 120 years of furniture for private and institutional clients, including the stage furniture for the Hay Festival, the choir stalls for Dorchester Abbey and various overseas clients, including the international investment bank Fidelity. He has recently been commissioned by Oxford University to design and make a range of furniture for the new Blavatnik School of Government.

Philip earned a PhD in Sustainable Furniture Design from Brunel University. His doctoral research included the creation of a local cycle, sourcing and processing non-commercial timber from local estates. The resulting furniture was showcased in the touring exhibition Out of the Woods: a Sustainable Approach to Furniture Design that began at the River Rowing Museum, Henley in 2004, and “affirmed his status as one of the finest craftsmen in wood in Britain today.” BBC Homes & Antiques, 2004.

He has been awarded several fellowships, including a life fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2004 he was amongst a select group of designers invited to Buckingham Palace to celebrate the contribution of the design industry to the nation in recognition of “excellence in design”. In 2014 he was awarded a prestigious Arts Council grant to research his creative practice. The outcomes formed part of his “retrospective” exhibition, Forest to Furniture: Ideas in the Making, at the River Rowing Museum, shown this year. He also initiated and co-organised a successful symposium and public event, Ideas in the Making, on the nature of creativity at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History for over 1500 visitors.

Philip regularly exhibits, lectures and judges at design forums and academic institutions including Singapore,Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, France, Belgium, Dubai, USA and UK.

Philip Koomen’s website: www.philipkoomen.co.uk


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Survey deadline extended

posted on September 17, 2015

British Woodlands Survey 2015

British Woodlands Survey 2015

We have received a fantastic response to our national survey on woodland resilience and environmental change. By popular demand we have extended the deadline until next week. If you haven’t already done so, please do try and find the time to air your views and opinions about this important subject. Thank you.

Visit: www.sylva.org.uk/bws

Headline results from the survey will be announced at a conference to be held in Birmingham on October 1st— Resilient Woodlands: meeting the challenges. Places are still available.  A full programme and booking details can be found here.


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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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