Welcome to the Oakraven Field Centre, located in the heart of nature, in the Forest of Dean. We are a residential field centre promoting outdoor activities, learning and research. We provide reasonable-cost accommodation for all ages, at a spectacular site. The main philosophy of the field centre is that of Eco-forestry. Eco-forestry emphasises holistic practices which strive to protect and restore ecosystems, rather than maximising economic productivity. Our main aims at the field centre are:
- To encourage enjoyment of the outdoors and outdoor learning.
- To encourage education and research.
- To maintain, enhance and encourage appreciation of the site’s habitats and rare native populations.
The field centre is chiefly concerned with practical education, and we are open to bookings from most organised groups who wish to enjoy the outdoors. We are also happy to host most residential and daytime courses and events. The 1.5 acres of the centres grounds and adjacent 3.0 acres of woodland have been managed as a nature reserve for educational purposes and wildlife, since 1985.
Our facilities are particularly suitable for schools and college students, but we also cater for youth, family groups, post-graduate education, encourage research and public-participation events. We are located in a rural environment, surrounded by countryside and bordering the Forest of Dean to our west. The village of Mitcheldean is just 1 mile south of us. The area is of outstanding natural beauty and has numerous outdoor activities and tourist attractions on offer.
History of the building
The school building dates back to 1878. The Plump Hill School was opened by the school board in 1878 with 151 places. More classrooms were added in 1890.
A fascinating record of the school in 1957 was produced by Winifred N. Woodruff and can be downloaded as a PDF file here from the following link: Pump Hill School 1957
The school closed in 1984, but operated as Plump Hill Environment centre until 2011. The site reopened as the Oakraven Field Centre in 2014.
Research & Wildlife Reserve
Oakraven is actively engaged in ongoing dendrochronological research and is the base for Tree-Ring Services. The 3.0 acre Horsepool Bottom Nature Reserve adjacent to the field centre grounds is managed by agreement with the Forestry Commission for both educational purposes, and to provide a wide range of habitats to encourage wildlife. The reserve consists of areas of semi-natural woodland, glades & boundary hedgerows and a pond. Nationally only 30% of woodlands are managed. A neglect of woodland results in a general loss of biodiversity particularly those species that are dependent on the cyclic light to shade development in woods. Other problems include invasion by some plant species, increased deer, boar and grey squirrel populations and a general loss of woodland management skills.
The reserve is accessible by the public, subject to FoD byelaws (A4). Rare populations of greater crested newts and common dormouse have been identified on the site, and we are making efforts to encourage rare bats, owls and butterflies.
The reserve includes some very large and old oak trees, together with old hazel coppice stands. Recent tree-ring analysis on eight of these oak trees indicates they represent a cohort that were planted around c.1776. So despite the wide range of girths between 3.15 to 5.34m, all the large oak tree sampled on the reserve are around 240 years old. The large oak trees also appear to correspond closely with individual trees shown on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1881. For further details please download the full tree-ring analysis report here: Oakraven Report – GLOR-20-14
Some coppice is to be restored through standard silviculture, to help enhance the habitat diversity on the reserve and the ongoing survival of veteran oak. Coppicing and pollarding are also important in providing materials for teaching traditional skills and crafts.
We are extremely grateful to the Dean Green Team for all their great work in helping to maintaining the wildlife reserve. Since 2019 we have kept a number of bee hives at Oakraven. The bees are looked after by Andrew White (past chairman of the Dean Forest Beekeepers).
You can find further information and pictures about Oakraven on the following web-sites: