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Holtspur Bottom Butterfly Reserve

Holtspur Bottom's insalubrious past

Old bottles recovered from landfill at Holtspur Bottom (Wendy Wilson)

Although the written histories of the Holtspur Bottom reserve refer to part of the site covering a disused rubbish tip, there have in fact been two quite separate landfill sites at Holtspur Bottom over the years. The first, located in what is now the entrance area to the reserve, is responsible for the large amount of broken glass and pottery that keeps rising to the surface, particularly after heavy rain. Much of this material appears to date from the 1930s and 1940s. The photo to the left shows a sample of the hundreds of jars and bottles to have emerged intact. The photo below shows a fragment of an earthenware pot that originally held James Keiller and Son marmalade.

fragment of marmalade pot recoviered from landfill

The second landfill site was storing material between the Holtspur Bottom reserve and Holtspur Bank Local Nature Reserve. It operated from 1993, and was closed down in 2001, for a breach of planning regulations. Thankfully, all visible remnants from this later site have been removed.

As if having two rubbish tips wasn't enough, there was also an old sewage works between what is now the Holtspur Bottom reserve, and the Holtspur Bank Local Nature Reserve. It closed down in the late 1960s – early 1970s, and although all physical traces of this have gone from our reserve, the sewage works is still marked on Ordnance Survey maps, and one of the old settling tanks is still visible on Holtspur Bank.

Alison Uttley also mentions Holtspur in her book Buckinghamshire, first published in 1950. She notes that " At Holtspur there were brickfields. 'Bill Symonds and Dossett made bricks there.' They dug the clay out of the earth, after taking the top soil off, and put it in the 'pug' which was worked by a horse. Three hundred or four hundred bricks were moulded in a day. One day a week they burnt the bricks, building a fire and placing the bricks, arranged for the heat to pass through." Sadly no date is given for this brick making activity, but from the surrounding text, it may well be in the early to mid 19th century. (Buckinghamshire: the County Books. Alison Uttley, Robin Hale Ltd, 1950.)


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