Bristol CC Outdoor Education Centre situated in the village of Parkend in The Forest of Dean

Tuesday, 19 November 2019


We were so busy over the Summer that we missed our Summer update and Autumn is already passing on. The photo above of the Virginia Creeper on the Centre was taken last week whilst it was still in its Autumn glory. Most of the leaves have now fallen. The seasons move on and so does the Centre. We are very proud to announce the news below:

We have just been inspected for and awarded the AHOEC Gold Standard. This is the highest accreditation for our sector and is the Outdoor Centre equivalent of an OFSTED Very Good to Outstanding. We were assessed in 9 areas such as Learning & Development, Safety Management and Customer Care. All 59 criteria had to average at a least very good standard to get this accreditation.
It is the result of a tremendous team effort from all the staff at Deanfield to make the Centre a great place to visit.

Deanfield is very much about the outdoors and we have even tried to bring a bit of it to our dining room! A new 'living wall' reflects the forest we are surrounded by and is enjoyed by all who dine with us. New paint on the walls, new curtains and plants complete the theme.

As well as our dining room we have also given our lounge a complete refurb. A complete redecoration including new carpet, curtains and chairs that hopefully creates a warm homely feel for relaxing in or using as a meeting room.

Deanfield is always developing and improving (as this Blog shows) and there are several more developments in the pipeline that we look forward to telling you about in our Winter update.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

DFSC Spring 2019 Update

The Bluebells are at their peak at the moment, soon to be gone for another year.

This is the scene from our nest box yesterday. Mum and Dad are busy feeding 9 Blue Tit chicks that hatched over the weekend. The live feed goes to a TV in our field studies lab where groups base themselves for our stream study.

The forest sheep have been regular visitors outside the Centre through the Spring, grazing on the grass in the village.

Steam trains are also again regular visitors to the village with their seasonal timetable in operation several days a week.

The end of an era...we recently wished Lyn a happy retirement after 27 years working at the Centre as a cleaner!  Lyn was our longest serving member of staff and we gave her a good send off with a surprise staff gathering where we presented her with a long service award and retirement gifts.

We have also been busy over the last few months doing some bathroom refurbishment. Below is one of two showers on the first floor that have been given a new look with fresh tiles and fittings and are now operational

Thursday, 7 March 2019

DFSC Winter Update

In truth we should be calling this the Spring Update as we have got there already and also had a very unseasonably warm Feb. This has been great for our groups who at the same time last year were battling snow. The only downside is its likely association with global warming - something that is affecting us all. We try to do our bit with regard to this and educating the young people who visit us about the importance of the environment.

We started the last Blog post with an historical note and have another for this time. A local historian has been in touch and informed us of part of the building's history that we were not familiar with. During the Second World War, as well as partial occupation by the American army, the Centre building was used to train some of the Womens Land Army

 Training was given to women 'aged between 18 to 40 of good physique'. A lot of the women trained at the Centre were put to work in the Nags Head area (which is now a Nature Reserve that many of our groups visit). Some were put to work alongside the 129th Company of the Royal Engineers who felled trees. They would be required to work up to 48 hours per week and were paid 32 shillings.

Winter is often a time when staff at the Centre do various training courses. As well as updating Health and Hygine L3; doing a Kitchen Managers Course; Manual Handling update; safeguarding training etc. Jane, our Cook-in-Charge, has also received fire extinguisher training alongside the rest of the staff team. She insists she has never burnt the food she cooks! But it is always best to be prepared. Below Jane demonstrates how to give your pizzas a little extra CO2!

In other news - we have been very busy over the winter refurbishing some of our bathroom areas with new showers and basins. The girls using the first floor and 'flat' will be particularly pleased with the upgraded facilities once they are completed. A teaser photo below and we will show this finished article in the next blog post.

Providing a warm welcome to our groups has always been a top priority for us. When we did have the cold weather we found that with lots of children coming in and out of the back door it could get cold and draughty. We've therefore now installed a new heater into the entrance lobby to warm it up as you enter the building.

We are always trying to look for new activities to extend the curriculum options we offer at the Centre. Recently we have developed and resourced a new activity of "Rockets". This draws on many S.T.E.M. areas introduced in a fun and exciting way. It is on offer to our groups as an hour + session alongside other activities or as an evening activity. The video below demonstrates the launch technique once groups have constructed their 'Eggscape Capsules'

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Autumn 2018 Update

The Centre building used to be the Forestry Commission's college for training their forestry managers over a 2 year residential course. The college ran from 1900 - 1970, with a break during the Second World War when it was occupied by the American Army. We occasionally have visitors coming to see us who once trained at the college and are on a nostalgic trip. It is always interesting listening to the stories of what these men used to get up to when they lived here. Recently we had some of the  students from the last course to run that visited us as part of their reunion.

They were impressed with some of the changes that have happened including the much more modern bathroom facilities than they had! - see below

Over the Summer Holiday, Mike, one of our maintenance team, was busy refurbishing the First Floor Shower Room. It now looks a lot more modern and mirror lights even come on automatically as you enter the room!

With so many digital devices needing charging up these days, we've put in lots of  new surge protected power outlets into the tuck shop. This now allows visiting staff to safely and securely charge up their various devices. We also have our own tablets and cameras charging there that are used for a Photo Challenge activity, along with our two way radios.

 At this time of year we seem to get Ladybirds coming into some of the bedrooms, presumably to hibernate. We've built them some 'Ladybird Hotels' on the outside of the windows that we hope they will choose to use instead!

We've also had several wildlife sightings of a larger kind recently. Several groups have been lucky enough to see wild boar in the forest. This used to be a rare occurrence, probably as children are often making too much noise, but has been more frequent as of late. Mind you it is over the next few months that the Forestry Commission cull the numbers by several hundred and so the chance of seeing these animals may again diminish.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Summer 2018 Update

After a cold Spring we've had a very hot and dry Summer. In many ways this has been great for our groups undertaking outdoor activities, but the ground is parched and to be honest we could do with some rain!

 Despite the thick stone walls of the building, this year heat has been building up in some of the bedrooms. We've now got oscillating fans for all bedrooms to help keep people cool.

Activity wise we have also made some new developments. One of our favourite areas of woodland has been out of bounds to us over the summer due to felling operations by the Forestry Commission. Instead we've been doing some orienteering and den building in other areas of nearby woodland. We've also developed a Centre grounds orienteering star course that is a good practice for these bigger courses or for use by younger groups and as a quick extra activity.

As well as a very busy Summer running courses at the Centre we have also been into schools. Below are a couple of photos from a day we ran at a school where we worked with the whole school from Reception Class to Year 6. The students participated in team problem solving challenges, orienteering and bushcraft.
 Whilst the reception children were toasting marshmallows the older pupils were fire lighting and cooking dough twist dampers over open fires.

We've added another activity video to our You Tube Chanel - this time a quick look at our archery range - click on link below:

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

DFSC Spring 2018 Update

 Spring 2018 brought its challenges with snow and cold weather at times. And when it melted our pond flooded!
Despite this we carried on running some very successful outdoor learning courses, predominantly with Year 4 groups, who got on with things despite the weather. They had great fun and dealt with all the challenges with great resilience.
 A lot of our developments over the last few months have been the sort that don't visually stand out but are nevertheless important maintenance and upgrades, particularly for safety. E.g our main fire staircase has had new landing platforms installed and has been completely painted. It has gone form being white to black, to be less intrusive to the architecture of the building.

Also just visible, top right, is a new upgraded lightning conductor and surge protection device that have been installed to comply with new regulations.
 The stair treads all have new high visibility non-slip plates on them so that they can be easily seen.
 Also related to fire safety, we have been replacing all our bedroom fire doors with new more modern fire doors. There are also some new emergency lights in the building and again we have spent £000's upgrading some of our lighting to be more efficient and offer greater security and safety.
Another small electrical addition has been a new water boiler to the kitchen in the Garden Room. This now greatly facilitates making hot chocolate for 60+ students when they're having their disco or talent show evening. 
 In February we ran a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Inspection Training Course. This was attended by 12 Instructors from various Outdoor Centres around the country. It provided useful additional training in the best ways to inspect and record checks on all climbing related equipment.
 Every item is individually coded and reference to its serial number for inspection twice a year in addition to its pre-use check.

Obviously safety is a key priority when looking after our groups but we do still try to keep our activities exciting and adventurous and sometimes there remains an element of risk that is integral to the challenge. Our crate stacking is a good example of this and we have recently uploaded a new You Tube video of this in action - see below. Our risk/benefit assessment manages the main hazards but there remains the possibility of being hit by a falling crate or getting bumped when the stack collapses. An element of unpredictability keeps the activity exciting for all concerned. The benefits in terms of developed teamwork, communication skills, trust and cooperation etc. outweigh the risks and provide learning outcomes that would not be so easily attained with a mundane non-adventurous challenge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kq3s_CPQQgQ 

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Winter 2018 Update

The beginning of January saw us busy with the usual Winter jobs of painting and filling in potholes in the carpark etc.

We've also been making some welcome new developments at the Centre

The dining room now has special acoustic muffling panels installed on the ceiling to reduce the noise of voices in the room. So far visiting staff are very pleased with the improvement!

The dining room also has a nice new heater on the wall that even just visually helps to thaw you out after a chilly morning outside!

We've added some new emergency torches to all the staff bed rooms that are on a constant top up charge and flash on in the event of a powercut

We've already welcomed our 9th group of 2018 to the Centre and groups have been enjoying their activities and getting back to a warm and cosy house. Spring however  is hopefully just around the corner...