Rifle Range SSSI
The site entrances are located at SO 81467 75165, Rifle Range Road (DY11 7NN) and off the Bewdley bypass with parking at Blackstone Picnic Site SO 79611 74395 (DY12 1PU).
The site has an area of approximately 43 hectares (106 acres). It is designated by Natural England as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its high quality lowland heath habitat, which is composed of a mosaic of heather, wavy hair grass, bare sandy low nutrient soil, interspersed with areas of gorse, broom and silver birch scrub. The site is also recognised, along with Burlish Top as a stronghold for the scarce grey hair grass. This fascinating landscape is home to a diverse mix of inhabitants such as the common lizard, slow worm, green tiger beetle, green woodpecker and has been noted to support rarities such as the hornet robber fly and woodlark. Due to the sensitive nature of some of the wildlife, it is requested that users, where possible, stick to the paths, and during bird nesting season keep dogs under close control.
The Rifle Range has an interesting history of being used as a firing range during the 19th century and remains of this can still be found in the form of concrete tracks, trenches (firing butts) and an old ammunition store.
In winter 2011 the Ranger Service, with funding from Natural England, undertook some large scale works to expand the areas of heath around the site. This involved removal of large areas of young woodland, scraping off the leaf mulch layer to remove excess nutrients.
Ongoing management of the site involves keeping the grass and scrub at bay while allowing the typically heathy plants to flourish. This is carried out in a variety of ways. The main input being from our herd of rare breed Shetland cattle that inhabit the site all year round, with additional assistance from volunteers cutting young trees.
Due to the presence of grazing animals we ask users to look out for the information notices around the reserve indicating their location along with any special precautions that may need to be taken.
A circular way marked trail is in place which guides walkers through the reserve and up onto Burlish Top Local Nature Reserve. The reserve also links seamlessly onto the Devil’s Spittleful nature reserve giving further recreational access.
There are approximately 1km of concrete track way on the site, suitable for pushchair or wheelchair use. Once off this track, the terrain is largely uneven and composed of loose soft sand.