Following extensive refurbishment work, the grenade range at Colaton Raleigh Common on the Pebblebed Heaths, has reopened after it was closed in 2015 due to weather damage and erosion. The grenade range, which forms part of the Woodbury Common Training Area in Devon, will support Royal Marine recruits during their basic training and will also reduce transport times, costs and the carbon footprint of users to help provide a more sustainable estate for our Armed Forces. Regional Operations Manager for the South West, Chris Ockleton, tells us more.

Pictured above: Woodbury Common Training Area was officially opened by Lord Clinton and representatives from landowner Clinton Devon Estates, Landmarc, the Defence Infrastructure (DIO) and the Royal Marines.

“The Royal Marines have been undertaking live grenade throwing at a purpose-built range on Colaton Raleigh Common since the 1950s, however weather damage and erosion at the site prompted Landmarc and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to close the range in 2015, as it was no longer meeting the stringent requirements needed to provide a safe place to train.

“One of the main challenges of bringing the range back into operational use has been the need to source a particular type of specialist stone to replace the damaged range floor. Hundreds of tonnes of stone was required to build up the impact area, which not only has to be capable of minimising the impact of the explosions from the grenades; it also has to be ecologically compatible with the surrounding protected heathland.

A network of protected heathland

“Woodbury Common Training Area is situated within a 1,100-hectare network of linked heaths, known as the Pebblebed Heaths, which are home to more than 3,000 species of flora and fauna, as well as species of key conservation significance including nightjar and Dartford warbler, which are monitored annually.

“Some 240 million years in the making, the Pebblebed Heaths are amongst the most highly regarded conservation sites in Europe and as such, are protected by national and European designations. This meant that we had to work closely with Natural England (NE) throughout the duration of the project, undertaking months of extensive research and testing to find a stone that complemented the range’s environmentally sensitive setting. A compatible stone was eventually sourced in Sennybridge in Wales and approved by NE, which enabled us to finally progress the work.

Working collaboratively

“Strong collaboration was critical to our ability to bring this range back into use. Working closely with the landowner Clinton Devon Estates, the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, which manages the land, Natural England and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), we have been able to re-build the range to meet modern operational standards so that firing can begin once again.

“The refurbishment involved the full excavation of the old range floor, repairs to the perimeter fencing and the replenishment of over 500 tonnes of specialist stone, with the old stone being re-used to build tracks at other locations across the heathland. Work was completed by our team of Training Area Operatives, including Simon Oldham, Pete Churchill and Robin Pitcher, who travelled from Lulworth with their excavator to deliver the project and have done a fantastic job.

A more sustainable estate for the future

“Live grenade training is a core component of UK military close combat training so we are pleased that the dedication and commitment of our collective teams has resulted in the reinstatement of this important training feature for our Armed Forces.  The range provides a much-needed facility for military units based in the South West, with recruits previously travelling to locations in Wiltshire and South Wales to train. Reopening this range will reduce transport times, costs and the carbon footprint of users, enabling the delivery of a more sustainable estate.

“I would like to congratulate the team for a job well done and look forward to seeing training resume later this month.”