I was recently lucky enough to get the grand tour of Oakraven Field Centre. This is a place in the Forest of Dean dedicated to the promotion of outdoor activities, eco-forestry and LARP. That’s right LARP. All of this is set within a reserve that totals up to a size of 4.5 acres.
Oakraven field centre is unusual in that is owned and operated by a highly experienced LARPer who is not only qualified to run the scientific aspects of the centre but who knows a lot about LARP in the UK, and he has a vision. That vision is to develop Oakraven so that it not only fulfills its educational remit but also becomes nothing less than a spectacular centre for LARP.
So what does Oakraven have to offer?
In terms of sleeping accommodation there is a large bunkroom sleeping 21 and unusually these are 3 tier high bunks. What was as noticeable as the bunks was that this room felt light, airy and actually comforting. That scores some big points. Additional accommodation exists in a sleeps 3 leaders room (more functional than anything else) and in a general purpose room and additional 6 beds (2 of the tall bunks). This general purpose room is full of great potential. It would make a great crew room – it also has plenty of space and storage – so there is a lot of in game potential.
Moving on from accommodation the main common area comes in the form of the great hall. This is a large and comfortable room that I found particularly relaxing. There is a log fire, a goodly collection of sofa’s and easy chairs plus some nice chunky dining tables and chairs that are just crying out for a good olde fashioned medieval banquet. Great room!
Attached to this is the kitchen. Nice practical touch. Its easier to serve a group if the kitchen adjoins the eating area. The kitchen itself comes with a range cooker and American style fridge. I feel absolutely sure there would be no problems feeding a bunch of hungry larpers out of this kitchen. It certainly beats quite a few facilities I’ve used in the past.
Now for some unusual facilities. There are undercrofts. Supported on brick pillars these aren’t tall enough to stand upright in but are big enough to explore and adventure in. In total there are 2 of these. One operational, another in the process of being brought up to standard. The placement of these got my larp writers imagination going instantly!
Outside there is all round access to the building. A large front court-yard and an excellent rear garden. Watch out for the front of the building this is an exceptionally chilled area and it would be easy to loose hours here – especially on a sunny afternoon.
The 1.5 acres of the centres grounds consist of walled gardens (front & rear), parking and large meadow. Directly adjoining this is a 3.0 acres of nature reserve leased from the Forestry Commission. Now the nature reserve has a restriction for educational use, but if you include specific educational aspects written into your events (for instance herb identification, bushcraft, fire-lighting, costume making, etc) use is possible.
Discussions are just beginning with the Forestry Commission to establish just what usage rights Larpers might have to the 30 square miles of the Forest of Dean that abuts the Oakraven site
There is a lot more I can tell you. Mostly it boils down to this. Oakraven is run by experienced larpers and wants to work with Larpers to be the best Larp centre it can be. This is not a place to just hire. This is something to hire and interact with.
Oh and one last feature – the site includeds WiFi. Lots of Larp locations have no WiFi and limited mobile phone access. With Wifi available live blogging of events or incorporating social media into modern day games becomes a possibility.
As you may as guessed I liked Oakraven a lot. How much is a lot – well I immediately called up some of my LARP co-conspirators and we are looking at hiring later this year. Not as good a line as “I liked it so much I bought the company” – but close enough.
Oakraven is probably best suited to games in an around a building (or ship, or airship – already been done). It’s a fantastic venue and I am looking forward to many happy days there.