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Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 407853

Map Reference SR99NW

Grid Reference SR93369673

Unitary (Local) Authority Pembrokeshire

Old County Pembrokeshire

Community Castlemartin


Broad Class DEFENCE

Period Modern

Site Description 1. General record for entire Castlemartin Training Area, associated with numerous individual site records.

2. The Castlemartin Range is one of twelve Army Training Estates (ATEs) in the British Isles, covering some 6,400 acres of prime limestone coastal plateau. The principal assets of this landscape are the sheer cliffs of Carboniferous Limestone which form some of the most famous limestone coastal scenery in Britain. Wave action and weathering have exploited faults in the rock and carved out caves, fissures and blow-holes, which time and subsequent collapses have turned into glorious arches, like the Green Bridge of Wales, and free-standing stacks. While some visitors will survey the cliff lines looking at the dipping limestone strata or teeming colonies of guillemots and razorbills at Stack Rocks, archaeologists are more likely to be looking for the eroded remains of coastal promontory forts, like Flimston Bay fort (NPRN 94227), or traces of early settlement inland. In medieval times this land fell within the Marcher earldom of Pembroke, and remnants of the farms and hamlets originally settled by French, English and Flemings can still be seen at Flimston (NPRN 187) and Pricaston (NPRN 30093) in the central and western parts of the range. Earlier still is St Govans chapel (NPRN 95059), a medieval rebuilding of an early Christian hermit's cell, built in a cleft between high coastal cliffs. This coastline has attracted early tourists and writers from the late seventeenth century, who were held in awe by the majestic scenery and ancient sites found along the cliffs.

In the twentieth century Castlemartin was requisitioned for military training along with other Welsh estates like Sennybridge(NPRN 401496) in central Wales and the coastal ranges at Manorbier and Penally. The range was established in 1938 and used until 1945 for tank training by the Royal Armoured Corps. It was briefly returned to agricultural use after the war, but was acquired by the War Department in 1948 and pressed back into service in 1951 with the advent of the Korean War (1950-3). It remained as a specialist tank training range, often hosting German units, until 1995, when training activities were broadened to include infantry and small arms training. Against the background of the intensively farmed lowland landscape of South Pembrokeshire, the Castlemartin range now stands as a valuable microcosm of land which has never been subjected to the damaging advances of intensive agriculture or development. Despite the impact of military training, the archaeological, historical and ecological heritage survives largely intact.

From Driver, T. 2007. Pembrokeshire, Historic Landscapes from the Air (RCAHMW), p225

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