Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park

Heritage Site and Nature Reserve

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The Test Range


The test range was an important feature of the Oare Gunpowder Works.  Today it is an important area for plants that grow well in full sunlight.  The test range acts like a woodland ride, with trees either side, and the variety of grasses and plants provide homes for many minibeasts.  These include grasshoppers and caterpillars of butterflies and moths.  Management is necessary to control the natural succession of bramble and scrub, and the Friends group do a great job in helping the wildlife in this area.


Invertebrates are ectothermic (cold-blooded) and so need warmth and/or sunshine to help them function.  Grasshoppers and crickets are seen in the grassland area where they become very active on these warm, sunny days in the summer.  The males of both ‘sing’ (stridulate) by rubbing body parts together.  When you visit Oare in the summer-time listen carefully and see if you can hear songs from different species.

The oak bush cricket is one of many species at home on the Test Range.
Most crickets tend to have long antennae, which distinguishes them
from grasshopper which tend to have short antennae.

The test range is a great places at Oare Gunpowder Works to go in search of butterflies.  There are plenty of wildflowers to sip nectar from, and there are lots of suitable plants for the adult butterflies to lay their eggs on.  The large areas of nettles (Urtica dioica) are host to many species of butterfly such as:

  • Comma butterfly Polygonia c-album (caterpillar feeds on common nettle, hops, elm and sallows)
  • Peacock Inachis io (caterpillar feeds on common nettle)
  • Red admiral Vanessa atalanta (caterpillar feeds on common nettle and sometimes thistles)
  • Small tortoiseshell Aglais urticae (caterpillar feeds on common nettle)

Red Admiral caterpillars keep together in groups when feeding for safety in numbers.

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