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Holtspur Bottom Butterfly Reserve

History of Holtspur Bottom

Lower meadow after ploughing in 2000

The land now occupied by Holtspur Bottom Butterfly Reserve was in low-intensity agricultural use for many years, used largely for grazing and hay. Parts of the site were also used as a rubbish tip. In 1998 the land was leased to Butterfly Conservation by Beaconsfield Town Council for 22 years. At that time, viewed from the Holtspur Bank Local Nature Reserve opposite, the reserve appeared as a featureless field with surrounding hedges and an untidy bank at the right hand end.

Although deteriorating with scrub intrusion, much of the good butterfly and moth habitat remained intact on Holtspur Bank when it became protected; management there has been that of restoration. At Holtspur Bottom by contrast, most of the habitat had been destroyed by ploughing and seeding with alien ryegrass; restoration, or more accurately re-creation, was much more of a challenge, none of our native butterflies can survive on the grass that had been sown.

When 'restoration' started there were three priorities; scrub clearance on the chalk bank; thinning ash on the upper bank, and dealing with ragwort. After some initial work part of the hillside looked hopeful; some native herbs had survived and others reappeared; there was no sign of ragwort. Sadly, the following year, the ragwort was back with a vengeance. Ragwort seed has a life of 20 years. After advice from MAFF, the meadow was deep ploughed, prior to sowing with seeds of native plants. It was hoped that this would bury all existing surface soil and seed to a depth at which regeneration of the ragwort would be minimal (see photo above, of the meadow after ploughing). Sadly, Holtspur Bottom has an on-going problem with ragwort, which is tackled on an annual basis by volunteers. Otherwise, the native seed that was sown has flourished, and the reserve is now home to over 27 species of butterflies, over 300 species of moths, as well as rare bees and other insects.

You may also be interested in:
Holtspur Bottom Reserve map circa 2001
The Small Blue at Holtspur Bottom Reserve: Nick Bowles & Frank Banyard, 2007.
The Chalkhill Blue at Holtspur Bottom Reserve: Nick Bowles, 2011.

pdf iconRob Larkin and Holtspur Bottom Reserve: Frank Banyard, 2010. (First published in the Upper Thames Branch Newsletter No. 79)

pdf iconAn appreciation of Holtspur Bottom Reserve and its creator: David Redhead, 2011. (First published in the Upper Thames Branch Newsletter No. 82)

pdf iconMore on the early history of the Holtspur Valley, including Holtspur Bank and Holtspur Bottom, with a description of its geology, and early management plans for Holtspur Bottom.

Frank Banyard has written two detailed histories, which are available as pdf downloads:
pdf icon Holtspur Bottom Butterfly Reserve 2001. (extract from Butterfly Conservation in the Chilterns: Prestwood and Holtspur Valley Reserves, a review and guide. Frank Banyard, May 2001.)
pdf icon Holtspur Bottom Butterfly Reserve 2003. (extract from Upper Thames Branch, Butterfly Conservation: a review of the first 21 years. Frank Banyard, 2003.)


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