September 8, 2021

British timber summit at Sylva Wood School

This week, Tom Barnes, MD of Vastern Timber, visited the Sylva Foundation. He gave a short talk on the British grown timber supply chain to Sylva Wood Summer School students, and then joined a fascinating tour of the Sylva Wood site – which includes a young forest,  several woodworking workshops, a teaching ‘barn’ and more. Later that day, Tom attended the Sylva Foundation homegrown timber summit, discussing the future of British timber with a range of stakeholders.  

The Sylva Foundation, based in Oxfordshire, is a charity that works to help trees and people grow together. It aims to influence, educate and support people who work with wood, and trees, and who care for woodlands, now and in the future. It operates a centre for learning and enterprise in Oxfordshire, on the site of a former farm. Vastern Timber supplied the cladding for the largest building at the site, which is home to the Sylva Wood School.

It was fantastic to see how beautifully the timber has weathered since it was installed two years ago. This large workshop was created by the renovation of a former grain store, and the front elevation is clad in Brimstone, the British grown, thermally modified timber. The site will serve as a long term test centre for Brimstone cladding, which is an innovative cladding produced from locally grown sycamore, poplar and ash. The timber is thermally modified,  a toxin free process that transforms the timber into a durable and stable cladding.

Find out more about the installation, and Brimstone, in our case study.

The students at the Sylva Wood Summer school were female or non-binary graduates of product design courses, and they heard five short talks to introduce the British timber supply chain. Firstly, Gabriel Hemery, the CEO of the Sylva Centre, welcomed the students.  He outlined a history of British forestry over the past few centuries, as well as explaining the back story and mission of the Sylva Foundation. (Gabriel appears in part five of Tom’s series ‘Wood for the trees,‘ and he is passionate about developing a woodland culture in the UK.)

The students heard from Stuart Fowkes, of the forestry commission, about the importance of people to woodlands, and the Grown in Britain team talked about certification of homegrown timber products and supply chains.

Tom spoke about the opportunities and threats for the UK timber supply chain, describing working in the industry as ‘an emotional rollercoaster’. He pointed out that during his lifetime, Dutch elm disease and ash dieback have changed the landscape, and he didn’t sugar-coat the real dangers posed to British woodlands from climate change. But he ended on an upbeat note about the opportunities to tell fantastic stories about where our wood comes from, and build on the growing interest in more local supply chains. 

Later that day, Tom joined stakeholders and partners across the timber supply chain. Grown in Britain, the Sylva Foundation,  the Forestry Commission and National trust were represented at the ‘homegrown timber summit,’ and more information about the outcomes of these discussions will be published soon.  

Thanks to our hosts, and good luck to the students, we can’t wait to see what you make of British grown wood.



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