Oaker Wood is a seedling of a family timber business dating back to 1860. Current owner David, tells their story.
… I was once showing some teachers around Oaker Wood when one of them asked how did it all start, how did a 175 acre woodland, in the middle of rural North Herefordshire, become one of the largest Outdoor Activity Centres in the Midlands? The question inspired me to add this section to our website, for those who are interested to read how it all began……..
In the beginning….
In 1860 John Davies (my great, great, great grandfather) registered himself as an Agricultural and Forestry Contractor based in the small village of Brampton Bryan, North Herefordshire. He built his business up with the help of his 4 sons, William (Better known as W.I), Jack, Charles & George. Their timber yards were in the village of Bucknell and also in Ludlow in South Shropshire. As the business grew W.I took over the running of the business with the help of his 3 brothers.
They were hard times, and so the story goes, Charles left for Canada to seek his fortune. Many months passed with no word from Charles, and so W I, who was particularly close to his youngest brother, left for Canada to find his kin. Sadly we never know to this day if they met up, all we do know is that WI became a successful timber man and prospector in Canada, and on returning home to Bucknell brought with him wealth to invest in the business. Charles was last seen heading for Alaska with his team of dogs into the unknown, he was never heard of again.
W I Davies continued to expand the family business and shortly after the 1st World War, management passed to his 2 sons, Bernard and Jim, and was registered under the name of as B & J Davies Ltd. After nearly going out of business in the 1920s depression, the family business flourished in the 1930s, with Sunday being their only real day of rest when they would allow themselves a lie in until 7.00am before cleaning the Steam Engines, to ensure the job was completed by midday when the Tavern opened its doors!
Bernard Davies awarded MBE
During the 2nd World War the well-established Timber Yard and Sawmill in Bucknell, provided huge quantities of timber for the war effort, with much of the workforce being made up of Land Girls. As the 2nd World War ended Bernard’s reputation had grown and the British Arm offered him the opportunity to go to Germany to manage the Black Forest, a tempting offer which he refused, “How could I leave the Shropshire/Herefordshire borders and all its beauty”.
Bernard was awarded the MBE for his efforts in the 2nd World War in keeping the timber supply constant for the war effort. He declined to go and accept this award, as in his eyes he had just “done his bit”, others had given their lives, a much greater sacrifice. The MBE was later sent to him from Buckingham Palace and was placed in a bottom drawer and never taken out again in his life time.
Bernard and Jim were joined in the business by Bernard’s son Peter and between them the family firm grew. By the 1950s they were investing in local woodlands and Oaker Wood was purchased. In the 1960s they employed 365 men and had 70 wagons operating.
The 1970s saw home grown timber go into decline, the Sawmill shut and the workforce dwindled, Bernard and Jim sadly passed away and by the time the late 1980s arrived Peter had been joined by his 2 sons William and David….and this is where the idea of outdoor activities was crystallised.
The Birth of Oaker Wood Leisure
The firm’s accountant urged them to diversify, so a Paintball Site was created at Oaker Wood and throughout the 1990s the business, known as B & J Davies Outdoor Activities, began to take seed, running alongside the timber and fencing business.
It was with Peter’s vision and constant support, that the activity company began to grow. His willingness to help his sons succeed was reminiscent of his ancestors and their determination to progress. He could often be spotted barbecuing sausages for groups, or washing overalls at midnight with his wife Brenda.
By the millennium David, and his wife Alison, left the family timber business to go it alone with the newly named Oaker Wood Leisure Ltd.
Over the past 20 years the company has continued to develop as you will see as you scroll through our website. Their 3 sons, Sam, Freddie and Ben have now joined the business.
So as you can see Oaker Wood Leisure is a seedling of the original Davies Timber company which began in 1860 and now being managed by the 6th Generation of the Davies family!
A history to be proud of, and when you visit Oaker Wood, if you haven’t already been, you only need to look around you at the beautiful woodland and manmade lakes, to see the “stamp” left on the wood by its predecessors.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our story.