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Castlemartin Calling

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Castlemartin Training Area, Military Training

Hello. My name is Steven Philipps-Harries and I am the Deputy Training Safety Officer (DTSO) at Castlemartin Training Area in Pembrokeshire.

Steven Philipps-Harries conducting a briefing at the Castlemartin range control tower. [Crown Copyright]
Steven Philipps-Harries conducting a briefing at the Castlemartin range control tower. [Crown Copyright]

I am one of a six man team who ensure that the Training Area meets the needs of defence. Between us we arrange for any unit training at Castlemartin to be accommodated and fed and make sure that all training is conducted safely. We are supported by Landmarc Support Services who provide the facilities to support the delivery of military training.

About Castlemartin

 Castlemartin consists of approximately 6,500 acres of land on the west coast of Pembrokeshire. It was acquired for military training in 1938 for use as a Tank Range. Over the years it has been developed so that it can support all firing, including Mounted Close Combat and Dismounted Close Combat, firing anything from Cadet air rifles to Fighter Ground Attack aircraft. Within the Castlemartin Training Area are a number of ranges which can be allocated separately to different units.

Tanks firing at twilight at Castlemartin Training Area [Crown Copyright]
Tanks firing at twilight at Castlemartin Training Area [Crown Copyright]

1952 saw Castlemartin incorporated into Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (PCNP) and part of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path runs through the Range to the east of Stack Rocks. The path is closed when live firing is taken place and a diversion path runs to the North of the Range Danger Area (RDA).

Pen-y-Holt Stack at Castlemartin Training Area [Crown Copyright]
Pen-y-Holt Stack at Castlemartin Training Area [Crown Copyright]

Castlemartin was classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 2011 and a new path known as the Castlemartin Range Trail was built which links to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. The construction of the path was a joint effort between the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Natural Resources Wales, National Trust, Landmarc and MoD that links to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

My Role

No day working here is the same. My role is a varied one and often challenging - I am the main link between the military and external stakeholders. I allocate ranges within Castlemartin so that a unit carrying out its training can meet their training objectives. This often means having up to eight ranges running concurrently with different units all at different stages of their training.

Once the ranges have been allocated I put what is known as a RDA template onto the computer in Range Control. This gives the area of where the bullets will be landing and what areas we need to keep clear of personnel and shipping. Range Control has two radio systems to assist with this, one to talk to the Ranges and staff and a maritime radio to talk to shipping. To assist in ensuring that the Sea Danger Area (SDA) is kept clear, I liaise with SMIT International who provide two safety craft, sea conditions dependent. These are located on the eastern and western side of the Training Area and try to intercept or talk to any sailors who may enter the SDA. In the winter it’s not too hard to keep clear but come the summer we can have anything up to 50 boats which we guide around the edge of the SDA.

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Another vital role I carry out to ensure that the Training Area conforms to the Site of Special Scientific Interest protocols is liaison with the tenant farmers and graziers. We have five permanent tenant farmers who graze the land and cut silage for winter feed. Four of them also have grazing rights on the communal grazing areas of the Training Area which they share with the shepherds. Sheep graze all of Castlemartin apart from the land which is specifically tenanted. To ensure that there are no injuries to sheep from live firing practices there are a number of fenced off areas to hold sheep when live firing is taking place, something I discuss with the two head shepherds. This grazing regime is vital to ensure that the grassland management plan conforms to the SSSI management plan.

The SSSI management is a vital part of ensuring that we abide by the protocol set out by Natural Resources Wales. I represent the Training Area at the Nature Component Planning Group which meets twice a year and is attended by representatives of Conservation groups. We draw up plans for how the SSSI will be managed and what surveys are being carried out to monitor the unique features that make Castlemartin a SSSI. I also chair the Pembrokeshire Ranges Conservation Group which is made up of conservationists, archaeologists, geologists and the National Park.

The submerged mill at Frainslake, Castlemartin Training Area [Crown Copyright]
The submerged mill at Frainslake, Castlemartin Training Area [Crown Copyright]

Castlemartin Does Digital

Finally, and just as important, I produce Castlemartin content for the Ministry of Defence website, local newspapers and Milford Haven Port Authority website. These inform civilians who live, work and play alongside the Training Area what the firing times are for the month and any road or footpath closures that effected by firing. I also produce paperwork to inform the local in-shore fishermen what areas of the coast are affected by firing.

 Castlemartin has moved with the times and I tweet every day on the DIO Twitter account to inform followers of what is happening on the Training Area. This includes training, conservation matters and recreational access. You can follow us at @mod_dio on Twitter or by searching Twitter for the hashtag #modcastlemartin.

So as you can see I have a very busy but interesting job which I thoroughly enjoy due to its variety. I hope you have learned something about Castlemartin Training Area and the importance of its role in supporting UK military capability. If it’s stoked your interest, we have a Range Viewing Area in Warren which is open to the public to come along and watch training – hope to see you there!

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  1. Comment by Andy Freeman posted on

    Subject: Castlemartin range limits. 16th Sept 2017
    I regularly sail in and around the Haven and a number of sources like the MCA, Marina, Range Office etc will give firing dates in advance, but I can never find advance information regarding the seaward range limits.
    The recorded message from Castlemartin gives this information but only on the morning of the firing, sometimes too late to catch the 3 knot/6 hourly tidal flow along the coast, so planning a trip in a vessel with a speed of 5-6 knots without knowing the distance to sail is a waste of time.
    I read in your article that you produce information for local fishermen regarding inshore access. Is this freely available as it must include the range limits I am requesting? If it needs to be purchased I could take it up with Milford Marina as many visitors in the summer sail into the danger area unawares (up to 50 according to your article) and could be forwarned when they book up, saving the Smit safety boats some mileage.
    (btw - I checked your Twitter pages and it's all land based, nothing about inshore range limits).
    Please reply if you have further information.

    • Replies to Andy Freeman>

      Comment by helenpickering posted on

      Hi Andy. Many thanks for your comment. We will liaise with our colleagues at Castlemartin and get back to you ASAP.

    • Replies to Andy Freeman>

      Comment by helenpickering posted on

      Hi Andy

      I've heard back from the team at Castlemartin. They accept the need for this information to be provided and are looking to add it to the Castlemartin Firing Times page ( in the next couple of months, so hopefully it shouldn't be a problem for much longer.

      Many thanks for getting in touch and I hope this is helpful.


      DIO Communications Officer

  2. Comment by Adam Weiss posted on

    Halo, I woud like go to Stack Rocks and Greena Bridge in Prekombshire, on saturday 6 july, but I saw that sometimes there is firing times. I check info on site, and they have days with open and closed, but only from monday to friday. So how its look on weekend, saturday?

  3. Comment by John posted on

    Hi there,

    I would like to surf the break at stack pole and understand a briefing is required by the MOD. Please can you explain the process.

    The dates and times depend on the sea and tide conditions.



    • Replies to John>

      Comment by DIO Communications Team posted on

      Hi John

      Thanks for your interest! You are correct that you must attend a briefing. There will be a few over the year, but no dates have yet been announced. Your best bet is to keep an eye on our Twitter page where we will announce them (@mod_dio), or on the British Mountaineering Council website - they also announce the dates as they also apply to climbers.

      The briefings take place at Castlemartin Army Camp, postcode SA71 5EB. Dates and times will be announced in due course.

      Hope you enjoy your surfing!

  4. Comment by Allan Hughes posted on

    Good Afternoon Steven,
    I am aware of the range viewing platform at Castlemartin and would like to visit with my wife, and also my brother who has mobility problems (he has to use a crutch). Can you advise please of formalities? For instance do we have to book;and what are the best times to visit?

    Your advices would be appreciated.

  5. Comment by Allan Hughes posted on

    Thanks for that. Look forward to visiting.

  6. Comment by Callum posted on


    When are the best times to come to the spectator range to see them training. Me and my partner went today but I don’t think they were training by the spectator area. Is there a specific time or day that they train by the spectator range?

    Many thanks

  7. Comment by R Evans posted on

    Been a while since the last post on here, so just wanted to check.

    Just wondering if the Warren Tower Viewing Point is still open to the public?

    If so, can you still just turn up? Do you park in the car park next to the tower or carry on down the track that runs alongside?

    Many Thanks

    • Replies to R Evans>

      Comment by dipapatel posted on


      Apologies for the delay. The Warren Tower Viewing Point is still open to the public. Please don't use the car park on the right as this is for Range workers only. If you continue on for another 25 meters along the track you will drive onto a grassed car park. It is currently closed until 6 September for essential range maintenance.

      Hope this helps.

  8. Comment by Ian Illingworth posted on

    Are you allowed to take photos from the viewing area ?

    • Replies to Ian Illingworth>

      Comment by DIO Communications Team posted on

      Hi Ian,

      Thanks for your message.

      We've checked this with the Training Estate team at Castlemartin Ranges, who've advised that there are no restrictions on taking photos from the viewing area. The area may, however, be closed to the public in special circumstances.

  9. Comment by Andy posted on

    Hi am I able to view live firing on Monday 24th Oct 2022 during the day. Are the car park viewing areas open to the rear of the firing points?
    Andy Tomkins
    Ex 16/5l & QRL

  10. Comment by Mark Hogan posted on

    I am staying at Kingsmill Campsite near Castlemartin until Saturday and I would love to be able to go to the Viewing point and watch on Thursday.

    If we came along it would be myself, my wife and my 13 year old stepson who is an RAF cadet.

    How do we get permission to do so.

    Many Thanks

    Mark Hogan


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