In the heart of Oakham, Rutland lies an abandoned jail that was known by the name of HM Prison Ashwell, it first opened its doors in 1955 as an open men's prison that was built on the site of a former W11 US Army base - home to part of the 82nd Airborne Division, however in late 1987 it was to become a Category C men's prison which eventually shut its doors in 2011. In 2013 the site was redeveloped as the Oakham Enterprise Park - a business park for light industrial use including offices and a gym but part of the former prison still remains and has been brought back to life by Justin and Charlotte Reffin of the Gaol events, the couple brings to players one of the most intense CQB sites in the country. The playing area includes 4 former wings of the prison to fight through, courtyard and exercise areas all surrounded by high prison mesh fencing with barbed wire on top - all adding to the atmosphere.

The Gaol is actually one of my closest sites, sitting at only 42 miles away from my hometown near Derby in the East Midlands and because the site is on a Business Park it is really easy to find, it takes me around about an hour and ten minutes due to all the tiny, windy country roads, although it is also accessible from the M1. There is ample parking on the business car park for players. Gates open at 8am for sign on and the walk on prices are £35 for none members and £30 for members - both prices include lunch and the food is great! On both of my visits to the Gaol I've been heartily fed on Cheeseburgers and Steak and Onion sandwiches! If you require a rental package they are priced at £50 and include a RIF, a mag, mask, the game fee and lunch. Although I feel the game fees are a little expensive compared to other CQB sites that I've visited, the overall experience is very much worth it.

 The facilities on site are fantastic, the safe zone is well lit clean and has working toilets for both men and female players. As you guessed from the food, the site has a fully functional kitchen that serves breakfast, lunch and hot drinks/snacks.The safe zone has 5 rooms so is very spacious however if you are going in a large group it is advisable to get there early so you can all set up together (we've learnt that the hard way haha!)

Safety stuff: All weapons get chrono'd as standard before gameplay commences and maximum limits for AEGs are 350 FPS on single shot (no full auto warriors here!), 400 FPS for DMRS and 500 FPS for Bolts with a minimum engagement distance - it is also worth noting the minimum age to play is 13. It is very close CQB, so under 18s are required to wear full face protection, if you're over 18 the minimum is eye protection but it is recommended.

During my game days at the Gaol I haven't had much interaction with the marshaling staff apart from chrono and being put into teams, there is always a marshal close by but they never seem to be 'in the way' which is great and helps the game play move forward smoothly. I have never had any issues with any other players at the Gaol and the quality of hit taking on the occasions I have played has always been very good. The regulars are a very friendly bunch and are very welcoming to new players.

What I love about the Gaol is the fact it is an old prison which is a really cool setting and it is close CQB, with plenty of cell blocks to clear and the maze to fight through but it also boasts large outdoor areas so it offers an urban style of gameplay. E wing is by far my favourite area of the prison - it is dark and full of small cells to clear with stair cases and large open rooms filled with cover. The outside area is pretty cool  - the outdoor courtyard boasts loads of cover ranging from cars,caravans, water filled barriers and containers - it also has a set of wide gates that open to allow better access for the players into the 'long drag' - a long road that ties the sites different areas together.

The Gaol plays varied games that suit the site's layout and pace including deathmatches, attack and defend games that encompass the entire site and objective games. My personal favourite games are the games that utilise the entire site such as the attack and defend game that starts in the maze and works its way into E wing and also the objective based MILAN launcher game where one team takes all three MILAN launchers, hides them around the site and defends them until the game is up. It is the attacking teams mission to find all 3 MILANS and igniting the smoke grenade on them which signifies it has been destroyed - these games are always really intense and fast paced.

Overall, I am really impressed with the Gaol, from the site itself to the gameplay and facilities available onsite for players. It is a little more expensive in terms of game day fees than I would usually pay but I feel the quality of the site and overall experience makes it worth it.

Photos thanks to Graham 'Airsoft Addict' Thompson and Ian 'Snoopy Snaps' Bell

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