2021 Survey of the Oakley Wood earthworks

Last year I started to take more of an interest in the history of Oakley Wood Camp, in particular the conflicting views over its origin and purpose. I thought that perhaps metal detecting might be a relatively non-invasive way of looking for remains that might shed some light on the controversy. I knew that permission would be needed from Historic England as the camp is a protected Scheduled Monument, but the response was a firm “no”. However, they did suggest that a visual survey of the camp would be useful, as many details of the earthworks were not recorded.

So during Spring 2021 I surveyed all of the earthworks in the wood (no surveyor’s pole, the occasional real measurement but mostly MK1 eyeball) on behalf of the Friends of Oakley Wood. I sent the report to Historic England, and also to our local representatives at the Warwickshire Historic Environmental Record who have used some of the information to update their records – admittedly quite gratifying. The report runs to 17 pages and makes rather dry reading, but you are welcome to a copy if you really want to punish yourself (contact via the website). There’s a large zip file of accompanying photos available as well.

Perhaps more interesting is what insights might be drawn from the survey when added to what was already known. Our website already contains information about the history of the wood and theories about the camp. The survey I conducted looked at all the earthworks in the wood, not just the camp but also the outer earthworks that form a continuous ditch and bank around most of the perimeter, and some others that are not so obvious. While the nature of the “camp” is disputed, the outer earthworks are undisputedly woodbanks, a frequent feature of ancient woods. The survey uncovered some interesting and previously unknown, or at least undocumented, features that may shed light on the past and how the earthworks are interrelated, and you can find this (along with my unqualified but reasonably informed opinion on what it may mean) here.

Chris Wood

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