Cottage Bottom Fields

Cottage Bottom Fields

As you walk around, you will notice that there are areas of short grass, long grass, shrubs and woodland planted in 1980. These different habitats suit different plants and a great variety of insects. They also provide food and shelter for many birds and mammals. This leaflet looks at just a few of the plants that you can see at the reserve and the insects that depend upon them for their survival.

How To Get There by Passenger Transport

BY BUS: Bedfordshire Bus Info line: 01234 228337, Mon - Fri 8.30am - 5pm
Travel Line: 0870 6082608, 7 days a week, 7am -10pm
BY TRAIN: National Rail Enquiries: 08457 484950, 24 hour service
Click here for the National Rail Enquiries website

How to Get There by Car

Dunstable is just to the west of Luton. The site is off the A5 (London Road) to the southern edge of Dunstable.

Start/Finish Point

The Fields can be accessed from Dunstable Road to the south or via a footpath from Southwood Road to the north.

Access and General Information

Surface types: You will walk across a range of surfaces from grass or uncultivated earth paths with and without ruts.
Linear Gradient: There are slopes steeper than 1:6 and of between 1:6-1:9.
Cross Falls: There are cross falls of 1:9 – the whole site is on a hillside.
Width Restriction: There is a minimum width restriction of 500mm.
Steps: There are eleven steps but these can be avoided.
Barriers: There are two kissing gates with a restriction of less than 1000mm and one kissing gate with a restriction of 1000-1500mm. There is also one one-step stile.
Public Toilets: Located nearby in Dunstable
Picnic Tables: None recorded.
Refreshments: Located nearby in Dunstable.
Seats: There is a children’s play area.

Short Grass

Some of Britain's loveliest wild flowers, such as the pyramidal orchid shown on the front of the leaflet, grow in short grass on chalk hills. The grass is best kept short by grazing animals and at certain times of the year there will be cattle, sheep or even goats grazing at Cottage Bottom Fields. From about mid-May to September, you may catch a glimpse of the common blue butterfly, which lays its eggs on bird's foot trefoil. The males have lilac-blue upper wings and silver grey under-wings with small rings on them.

Long Grass

The marbled white butterfly appears in June and prefers longer grass and feeds on tall grassland plants, such as field scabious. The caterpillars feed on grasses like red fescue and timothy grass.
Roesel's bush cricket is a recent addition to the reserve, having migrated from Hertfordshire in the hot summer of 1990. They are now well established at Cottage Bottom Fields and can be seen in the late summer.


Since the war Cottage Bottom Fields has not been grazed and this has allowed the hawthorn shrubs to take over, shading out much of the grassland. Recent management work has involved removing these shrubs or scrub to encourage the grasses and wildflowers to grow again. However, many animals rely on scrub for shelter and food, and so some of the shrubs will be left and small glades created between them. The gatekeeper butterfly, for example, never strays far from shrubs or the tall grasses growing near them. It has orange and brown wings and can be seen from mid-July to August.


Trees have been planted on two fields that had been ploughed to grow cereals. The new woodland includes Corsican pine and larch, with Norway maple, hornbeam, oak, beech, ash, field maple and cherry.
Along the northern boundary a strip of land has been left to develop naturally. Here young ash trees are now growing amongst the scrub and, in the long term, this area will become woodland too.

Visits to the Reserve

Visitors are welcome, but there is no parking at the site. The reserve is easily reached on foot from Dunstable along the Icknield Way or as part of a number of walks in the north Caddington area.
Please enjoy your visit and look after the reserve by:
• Keeping dogs under control especially where animals are grazing
• Not picking wildflowers
• Taking all litter home
• Guarding against fire
• Keeping to the paths
For more information contact:
Bedfordshire County Council 01234 228068