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Gunners Park and Shoebury Ranges Nature Reserve

The Gunners Park nature reserve incorporates the Shoebury Old Ranges Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Coastguard Station Grounds Local Wildlife Site, totaling 25 hectares.

The Gunners Park nature reserve incorporates the Shoebury Old Ranges Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Coastguard Station Grounds Local Wildlife Site, totalling 25 hectares.

The nature reserve incorporates more than 12 habitats, ranging from unimproved coastal grassland to remnant sand dunes and derelict buildings. The rarity and fragility of a large part of the site saw is designated as an SSSI in 1987, to protect the rare fauna and flora including the nationally scarce Sandwich Click Beetle (Melanotus punctolineatus), Bulbous Meadow Grass (Poa bulbosa) and the Cuckoo Wasp (Hedychridium coriaceum).

Due to its proximity to the Thames Estuary, Gunners has always been a site which provides ideal habitat for migrating birds including Ring Ouzel, Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear, Whinchat and even Yellow-browed Warbler. This October, Gunners really showed its capacity to attract birds on the move when a vagrant from the east, an Olive-backed Pipit, took refuge, heralding an influx of twitchers into Southend.

The site is rich in human history with evidence the site was occupied and utilized since early prehistory during the Mesolithic period. A rampart in the north-east of the reserve is believed to be part of a settlement built by the Danish leader Hasten in 894 AD.

In 1849 when the land, formally part of Shoebury Common, was purchased by the Board of Ordnance. Its use as an Experimental Range started in the following year, although the board had used the site for artillery practice since 1805. By 1860 the Board of Ordnance was abolished and replaced with the Royal Artillery. During its use as an experimental range, the Old Ranges saw the construction of scores of structures including stores, casemates, magazines, gun emplacements and batteries, many of which can be seen today. After 149 years, the Old Ranges was closed and in 1998 the land was sold to developers.

The development saw a considerable area of green space lost but an area was allocated as the new Gunners Park, to provide valuable habitat for wildlife and an area of open space for the public to enjoy.

The increasing importance of the site to wildlife prompted Essex Wildlife Trust, working in conjunction with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, to appoint a permanent ranger to manage the habitats and encourage both people and wildlife to the site.

Future management will halt the degradation of this wonderful oasis for wildlife, for all to enjoy, by creating a habitat mosaics, restoring wetlands, monitoring scrub, improving access for the disabled and ensuring the protection and continued enjoyment of the historic military buildings.

Species and habitats

Habitats
Coastal

Nearby nature reserves

Belfairs Woodland Centre
7 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust
Two Tree Island Nature Reserve
7 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust
Lion Creek and Lower Raypits Nature Reserve
7 miles - Essex Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Location
Gunners Park and Shoebury Ranges Nature Reserve
Shoebury
Map reference
TQ9328884139
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Size
25.00 hectares
Status
SAC SSSI
Dogs
Dogs allowed
Reserve manager
Essex Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01621 862960
admin@essexwt.org.uk