In 2022 the National Trust collaborated with the Sylva Foundation, an environmental and forestry charity and wood school in Oxfordshire, to produce a limited edition range of handcrafted wooden stools. The stools were made using Grown in Britain certified ash that had to be felled as a result of ash dieback disease at the National Trust’s Ebworth Estate.

Three designs were created and sold exclusively through the National Trust online shop for £175, selling out in under two months, and were recently awarded Best Range at the Cultural Enterprises Awards. Our judges loved the modern and elegant design as well as the strong sustainability message – “a beautiful product that speaks to the heart.”

Beautifully designed, modern and elegant – a great example of inspired partnership working, creating something beautiful and positive from adverse circumstances

The Judges, Cultural Enterprises Awards

The National Trust’s Elizabeth Plummer, Head of Buying, explains more about the story behind this very special collaboration:

“In 2022, the National Trust teamed up with students of environmental charity the Sylva Foundation to turn trees lost to ash dieback into a range of handcrafted stools. The ambition was to create a sustainable and circular product using wood grown on our estates that was going to be felled. Alongside this, we wanted to champion new students and heritage crafts, and make beautiful products that would appeal to our audience, celebrate the material and enable us to talk about the importance of woodland management.

“Ash dieback is a widespread fungal disease that has had a dramatic impact on the UK’s native ash. It causes trees to slowly die and drop limbs, and those trees which pose a risk to the public must be felled.

“Wood from this process has been turned into a collection of bespoke stools, in three different designs inspired by the craftsmanship of many stools in the National Trust collection. Each stool was crafted from Grown in Britain certified ash from the Ebworth Estate in Gloucestershire. The Ebworth Estate was given to the Trust by John Workman, who was considered one of the most influential foresters of his generation.

“Part of the estate is dedicated to education and the development of rural skills, working in partnership with other organisations such as the Sylva Foundation. For the furniture making students of the Sylva Foundation’s Wood School, working on this commission allowed them to gain real business experience, as the stools were sold via the National Trust’s online shop.”

Head of Trees and Woodland, John Deakin commented on the collaboration, “I’m so pleased we’ve been able to work with Sylva Foundation and turn the sad loss of our trees into something so positive. This is a great example of how we can manage our woodlands in a positive way, if and when the worst happens. Ash dieback is one of the biggest threats to our native woodlands in the UK with ash making up nearly 40% of composition. As a conservation charity, we are so reliant on the skills of experts, some of whom are incredibly rare in their field, so by helping the Sylva Foundation – both in terms of materials and business training – we are contributing to the future of skilled craftspeople. I hope that we can work with the foundation in future years and continue to offer these development opportunities, as well as find practical uses for the resources we have in abundance.”

Sylva Foundation CEO, Dr Gabriel Hemery said, “The collaboration with the National Trust has been a wonderful opportunity for the charity and a brilliant live project for students at the Sylva Wood School. Our students have learnt a huge amount about working with ash and how to deliver high-quality products to meet with a commercial deadline.”

Find out more about the Sylva Foundation

Visit the National Trust online shop

Joanne Whitworth
By Joanne Whitworth
Jo is Communications & Media Manager at the Association for Cultural Enterprises.
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