Bovington Training Area

By SPP Reporter

To the north of Bovington, lies Bovington Training Area (BTA), an area of about 850 hectares of undulating, predominantly wet but also dry heathland and forestry plantations. It is managed by a small Defence Training Estate (DTE) Team based in Bovington.

The primary purpose of the training area is to train soldiers for the field army, mainly tank and armoured vehicle crewmen for both the Armoury Centre and the rest of the armed forces. The training area allows for a wide range of military training both mounted, using a variety of vehicles, and equipments from across the army and on foot. From time to time, when training area space is available, authorised civilian organisations and groups can hire the area.

Understandably, military training is the priority activity that takes place on BTA. However, conservation and care for the environment is a very close second. In times gone by Dorset boasted large expanses of heathland, but since the end of WW2, there has been an expansion of urban and industry development resulting in large swathes of heathland disappearing, leaving only small pockets of this habitat across Dorset, with BTA being one of them. The area is situated within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) with over three quarters of the training area being covered by some level of conservational legislation, from a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protected Area (SPA) through to a RAMSAR site, which is an internationally recognised wetland site.

The prime reason for the high level of conservation protection is that BTA hosts many dwindling and endangered species and plants, for example:

Reptiles: the Sand Lizard and Grass Snake

Birds: the Dartford Warbler and Night Jar

Insects: Tiger Beatle and Lady Bird Spider

Plant: Sphagnum Moss and Dwarf Gorse

Throughout BTA and the surrounding area there is a large population of deer, mainly Sika and Roe. Both species are secretive and tend to hide out in the thick undergrowth in wooded areas. They give birth to their young between April and June. Unfortunately, because of the high deer population, numerous wooded fringed roads and the level of traffic there are many accidents involving deer. It is advised, especially at dawn and dusk, that speeds are reduced. Also be aware that if one or two deer cross a road there are probably more to follow, slow down, dip headlights and sound your horn. If an injured or dead deer is found then please report it to the guardroom at Allenby Barracks on 01929 403378 as quickly as possible. The golden rule is that unless a deer is clearly injured then they should be left alone.

Over all, the conversational and environment aspects of BTA are the responsibility of the Environmental Support Team, a branch of Defence Estates. However DTE host a conservation group that comprises national organisations such as the RSPB, Natural England and Dorset Wildlife Trust, as well as various specialist local groups. Together we all look after the local conservation interest within the training area, and balance the pressures of training and conservation so that all are satisfied.

As it is a training area, to preserve the security and safety of both those training and the public, BTA is gated, and is out of bounds to all, unless authorised by the BTA Office. Despite this, there are several public observation areas and a number of footpaths running across the area. Some are public footpaths (permanently open for walkers) and others are “Permissive” footpaths, these are provided by the MOD to allow further access onto training estates (these can and may be closed from time to time). These footpaths are maintained by the BTA staff and are clearly marked for your enjoyment. However, please remain within the marked route of the footpaths and do not stray into, what could potentially be an unsafe area.

For more information or enquiries concerning BTA, please phone the BTA Office on the following number Tel: 01929 40 3765

Lulworth Ranges

The Bindon Range has been used as a tank firing area since 1916, while Heath Range, north of Whiteways Hill, and the Tyneham Valley were taken into use during the Second World War in 1943. The range comprises over 7500 acres of land and its foreshore length measures some 7 miles at high water.

Besides being an area of great natural beauty, the fact that it has been a range for so long has resulted in its becoming an area where birds, animals and plant life have been protected from the ravages of human occupation, pesticides and pollution.

In 1974, as a result of the report of the Defence Lands Committee chaired by Lord Nugent, the Government agreed to increase the public access to the area. A working party made up of representatives from the Countryside Commission, The Nature Conservancy Council, Dorset County Council, Purbeck District Council, Department of the Environment and the Army, have implemented the suggestions made in the report, which has now resulted in the Lulworth Range Walks.

About 70,000 tank shells of various natures are fired here each year. Unfortunately a few do not explode and these are liable to ricochet and land anywhere on the range or in the sea. On every occasion before the roads and paths over the ranges are opened to the public, they have to be searched for unexploded shells.

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