Holtsfield – The Story so Far


The story so farwinter


A panoramic view of Holtsfield in winter.
Holtsfield on the Gower peninsula near Swansea, is situated on the upper end of Caswell Valley, adjoining Bishop’s Wood Nature Reserve, southwest of Manselfield Road in Murton. Appropriate National Grid reference is: SS 592 884. In a secluded semiwoodland setting of some 14 acres, it contains a seemingly random settlement of 27 small, single storey chalets built during the interwar years. The picturesque and colourful chalets are each highly individual, no two being alike, each reflecting the character of the occupiers. They are built of timber and lightweight materials. Of especial interest is the one turfroofed chalet for which electricity is provided by a wind generator. The ‘low impact’ character of the chalets guarantees they do not intrude into the highquality landscape of Gower, designated Britain’s very first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1953. Holtsfield provides a fascinating insight into our rapidly disappearing building heritage nationally it is a rare example of its type still maintaining its integrity.On May 1, 1990, Swansea City Council designated Holtsfield a Conservation Area in an attempt to safeguard its quality and restrict any redevelopment. Originally built for holiday purposes, the chalets became the refuge for people whose houses had been bombed during the Second World War blitz and, over the years since then, they have became occupied on a permanent basis. They are now home to a community of families and individuals, young and old. At present, all but three chalets are permanently lived in by some 60 people in total, 24 of whom are children. The adult residents of Holtsfield, some of whom have lived there for more than 40 years, comprise some old age pensioners as well as a wide variety of different professions, such as the warden of the nearby nature reserve, a footpath officer, an architect, a merchant navy sailor, a nurse, a teacher, a manager of a care home, some students, a geologist to name but a few. There is also an exceptionally large number of artists living on Holtsfield, consisting of painters, sculptors, musicians, designers, a woodturner, a potter, and a photographer. Of the children, almost all of them have spent all their lives on Holtsfield. They range from babies to teenagers. The children of school age attend the local school at Bishopston where they are much liked. One of the very unusual features of the Holtsfield children is the fact that there appear to be no peer groups: The youngest and the oldest children often play together, with the older children naturally taking care of the younger ones. Being well away from any dangerous traffic or road (access to Holtsfield is only via a rough track), they grow up in a situation of great security. Many of the parents happily let their small children play outdoors for long periods, in the knowledge that other adults and older children will look after them, while they are looking after other people’s children who may be playing on their doorstep. Growing up in a caring community and uniquely close to nature, the Holtsfield children are acutely aware of environmental problems, while maintaining a strong sense of contentment and childhood joy. Their psychological stability is such that there are no instances of socially disruptive behaviour, which elsewhere seems to be becoming such a ubiquitous problem. This sense of trust, care and concern in the spirit of an ‘extended family’ also permeates the lives of the adults, without blurring the identity of the individual family units, and is perhaps the most outstanding feature of life on Holtsfield. Where else can one find homes in Britain where doors are rarely locked, indeed where many of the houses have no locks!? The Holtsfield community does not, however, live in blissful isolation, but has many personal and group links with the wider local community. Over the years, they have organised and held many public events, such as art and craft fairs, fun days for children, a medieval fayre, a hypnosis show, a pub quiz, concerts ceilidhs and a benefit evening with Jo Brand and friends, all of which have been very popular with the residents of the nearby villages and Swansea.

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a Landrights campaign for Britain

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