East Weares Rifle Range, Portland, Dorset

As a teenager growing up on Portland, I must have been in the East Weares Rifle Range a hundred times. It’s been fifteen years since I last visited, so it was about time I took some photos. And this time I took my girlfriend along to experience some exploring!

The iconic stop butt on the East Weares Rifle Range
The iconic stop butt on the East Weares Rifle Range

The firing range was constructed between 1889 and 1903 and the huge stone stop butt (completed in 1920) is the area’s most iconic feature, visible from several surrounding public footpaths. The stop butt is at the southern end of the range and was built to prevent any stray bullets leaving the range and is still littered with spent bullets. The range itself is a few hundred yards long and comprised of several mounds and large rocks in which the soldiers would have fired from.

In front of the stop butt is the mechanical workings of the targeting system. Men in the markers gallery worked the pulleys to raise and lower targets and would then point out to the shooters where they’d hit. This is probably the most fascinating part of the East Weares Rifle Range, with the mechanics still in situ, wooden benches, and an old gun rack complete with locking latches.

The rest of the site is mostly made up of what looks like storage buildings for ammunition. Each surrounded by thick, concrete walls to contain any accidental explosion. And it’s probably the nature of these strong, well-built structures which had prevented them from being demolished like the rest of the area.

It’s a really interesting site which I’m glad I’ve finally captured on camera & it’s also a fantastic walk on a sunny day. The area surrounding the range is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in which you’ll find some recently introduced British Primitive goats and, as I found out after lifting some corrugated iron, adders!

NOTICE: New bylaws introduced in 2018 at Portland Port are in effect and people are being convicted of, “entering or leaving a harbour premises other than by a designated entrance or exit, other than in an emergency”.

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Important, noteworthy & interesting comments are highlighted below

  1. John says:

    Visited this site recently on a weekend (won’t post exact date), and I got into the grounds fairly easily from one side (albeit some dodgy scrambling over rocks down towards it). I was aware of the large CCTV camera pole, managed to walk around for about 35 mins taking pictures and decided to climb up to the ridge of the structure right to the end… I was up there for about 5 mins and noticed the Police driving down in the distance heading towards the gate.

    I climbed down and managed to leave the site without being found luckily – so just be advised, it’s a roll of the dice if you decide to venture off track here.

  2. Josh says:

    I went up there last year can’t remember the exact date but got seen by a boat climbing the gate and it only took 5 mins for a police car to turn up and take our details

  3. John says:

    Went there on the bank holiday and is a great place to explore. It has been fenced off with CCTV put up but if you time it right there’s no problem. Easy to find, it’s a local stoner destination so just ask anyone with red eyes for directions. Great place, great blog! Keep up the good work!

  4. Dromon says:

    Hello Urban Explorer, this is a very nicely developed website. I’ve developed an interest in visiting second world war ruins after watching episodes of History channels Nazi Megastrustures. I hope you wouldn’t mind addressing a few suggestions and questions I have.

    Please can you tell me how accessible to the public are the places listed in the UK? Would it be possible to add a ranking system (say out of 5 stars) for each location, depending on accesibility, with 5 stars being the most difficult to find.

    And also would it be possible to add GPS coordinates, maybe with Google Maps, for each of the sites?

    Finally, would you know of an equivalent website that clearly lists locations such as these, but in other countries in Europe like Germany?

    Many thanks and keep up the good work.

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      Hi Dromon, I’ll try my best to answer your questions…

      Firstly, the intention of this blog is to document and record the visits I personally make to locations – it’s not meant to be a resource for others although I do understand how/why people think it would be.

      Accessibility to places depends very much on each individual person, so I’m not sure how I could implement that even if I wanted to?

      Adding GPS and Google Map locations – Honestly, if you put the hours in to doing research you can find every single location on my blog. Or at least get close enough to visit and explore the area! I put the hours in, so why shouldn’t everyone else? And to be honest, 9 times out of 10, just putting the title of my reports in to Google is enough to get you going and will often give you map locations too! It’s all about putting the time and effort in to get the rewards.

      I don’t know of any European-focused exploring websites off the top of my head I’m afraid, but I know forums like 28dayslater have a European and International section.

      I hope that’s answered your questions, and I don’t sound like an ass! If there’s anything else, just send me an e-mail via the contact page.

  5. Carl says:

    Took a trip over here today initially to view as an urban climb (week do so next visit! )… fascinating area didn’t get to the storage buildings but looking at another visit very soon. Was even lucky enough to find some bullets as a souvenir!

    Love this site, only discovered it recently you’ve got some great places on here that I plan to visit, more adventures for me and the pooch. Thanks for sharing your find and experiences.

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      You’re welcome, Carl. Hopefully plenty more to come this year.

  6. Jamie says:

    Visited this site yesterday and my word what a fascinating area to walk around spent the best part of three hours scrambling around and exploring wondering, why places like this are not open more to the public to view is beyond me.

  7. Oscar says:

    Nice thanks for the heads up on this one. Was a great day out went there on Saturday. Managed to climb to the top of rifles. The view was astonishing and looking down was certainly not for the faint hearted. Going to check out the bunker on Portland one evening this week. Does anyone have any recent update.

    Also does anyone know if you can get inside this. Is it open inside? I really have no clue. Many thanks

    1. Jess says:

      Bloomin’ lovin’ Portland. It really is just awash with places to explore. We seem to be there most weekends at the moment, and I think the rifles will be on the list for this one. Google Verne High Angle Battery, and also Tout Sculpture Quarry also Poundbury (Dorchester) ROC. The hatch is locked but there’s some interesting bits surrounding it that make up a worthwhile walk, (can get coordinates online for it)

  8. Jack Davison says:

    Hello Adam,

    Nice work exploring the rifle range. Is it easy / legal to access? I’d love to get down and see the pyramid stop butt when I’m in Portland soon!


    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      Hi Jack, and thank you. It’s fairly easy getting to the firing range, and the subject of legality is up for you to decide. You would be technically trespassing on Portland Port land, albeit it being derelict land and sectioned off from the main port workings.

  9. thewanderer says:

    We went here yesterday – fantastic place – we got in to the area where the Osprey buildings were and found some air ducts with water at the bottom – presumably where the actual HMS Osprey buildings were. We didn”t go to see the range itself (although we did see it).

    We went to the old railway, the incline, the building with all the red doors on it and we also saw what people call Nicademus Knob – if only I had known its significance yesterday. But what we couldn’t figure out exactly how to get in to is the comms centre and the Forbidden City

  10. Adam says:

    How do we find these places? Amazing work!
    I live in the north west :)

    1. Hi Adam, thank you!

      I find these places with a lot of research, time & effort. It also helps to surround yourself with likeminded people on forums such as 28dayslater.co.uk

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