Nestling in south Oxfordshire, on a former derelict farm, a new centre has grown from the ashes which acts as a hub for small businesses and craftspeople who design, innovate or make in wood. The Sylva Wood Centre is also the national headquarters for an environmental charity which runs the centre, the Sylva Foundation.


The charity’s goals with the Wood Centre are:

  • Promoting the use of home-grown wood sourced from well-managed British forests to stimulate sustainable forest management and the rural economy;
  • Providing skills & enterprise education in designing and making in wood to create successful home-grown wood businesses across Britain;
  • Stimulating an innovative culture in the design and use of home-grown wood.
Wild flowers at the Wood School



The Wood Centre provides dedicated space and equipment to support an inspiring community of woodworking professionals. Alongside business units for established businesses the charity provides facilities to support business incubation. Surrounding the buildings, they’ve planted a community orchard, complete with an apiary, and a demonstration ‘Future Forest’ with tree species that may thrive despite climate change, pests and diseases. It also includes a dedicated forest education area with space for children to learn about and enjoy woodland.


The Sylva Foundation has recently launched the Sylva Wood School, with the appointment of Joseph Bray, who is an experienced furniture maker and tutor.

They’ve also built a dedicated teaching barn to host short courses in wood and wood-related craft. The multi-purpose space is fitted out with hand tools and workbenches ready to deliver education and training programmes. It has been designed to easily transform from workshop to classroom, allowing the charity to host presentations, seminars, and events, as well as a wide range of practical courses. It is self-contained with its own kitchen, disabled toilet, and car parking, and is situated at the heart of the site with access to the Future Forest, Forest school site, and the community of small businesses.

Tree Wrighting course



Joseph Bray



Paddle making


So far, a range of courses have been provided by external tutors, including canoe paddle making, guitar maintenance, green stool making, knife skills and whittling, spoon carving and steam bending.

"I can't think of anything that could have improved a perfect couple of days – I will be signing up for another one soon."

In time, more will be led and delivered by Joseph Bray, and will expand into one week or longer courses where students can gain even more in developing practical skills and experience.

Spoon carving



Meanwhile, the charity is hosting a range of green building courses during the year as a result of discovering an Anglo-Saxon house on their land. They need to help to cleave and chop 80 trees to make the timber frame, using only hand tools (the Anglo-Saxons had no saws). After the building is raised in the summer, again with the help of students, they will be running courses in thatching and wattle-making.

If you love wood, and want to learn in an amazing creative space, check out their courses >

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