Tar Barrels in Nightingale Valley

The Friends of Brislington Brook are often asked about the Tar Barrels in Nightingale Valley, how they got there and whether they can be removed. This page is dedicated to everything we have found out about them, their future and the potential hazards to people and animals. 

Q. Where are the Tar Barrels?

From the Hill Lawn entrance to Nightingale Valley, the Tar Barrels can be found on left hand side of the Brislington Brook between the first bridge across the brook (if you don’t cross the brook) and the London Plane Tree. At the section closest to the bridge there is also lots of broken glass and glass bottles.  

The Tar Barrels start from the area if you don’t cross over the Brislington Brook.
The Tar Barrels end just before the London Plane Tree. 

Q. How did they get there?

It isn’t clear when the tar barrels were dumped there. You will hear lots of stories about where they came from. One favourite is that they were dumped there by the Americans at the end of WW2, but this is almost certainly untrue.

Another version is that they were a waste product from Butler’s tar works, which is long gone but was situated on the River Avon at the bottom of Troopers Hill. It was a huge refinery and produced large amounts of pollution. It is now a modern housing estate but was once a horribly polluted tar refinery. 

There are other companies that have been named with possible links to the barrels including Anglo Asphalt. At the time the barrels were dumped Nightingale Valley was an unauthorised landfill site and the tar barrels were just one more bit of landfill.

You can listen to the oral histories on this site here:- https://discoverbrislingtonbrook.wordpress.com/oral-history/

You will hear one of the contributors confess to setting fire to the barrels as a youth. This would have caused the tar in the barrels to melt and potentially run into the stream. This may be why the tar gives the appearance of running into the brook.

If you know something about the barrels or have a family member who does please get in touch. We would love to know more.

Q. Can they be removed?

We are often asked whether it’s something we can do as a friends group or whether we can encourage Bristol City Council to have them removed. To shed some light please see this link to a BBC News article from 03 August 2012 – BBC Website

Q. Do they pose a risk to people, animals or the Brislington Brook?

As the BBC News link suggests “A Bristol City Council spokeswoman said the authority had been aware of the situation and been monitoring it for “many years”. “The drums are empty and there is no evidence of any contamination of the area or localised oil pollution and no adverse environmental impact,” she said. “We will continue with our monitoring and will, if there has been any change to the situation seek advice from the appropriate authorities.”

We hope this page helps to answer any questions you might have. If not please do get in touch and we will do our best to answer your question. 

All pictures above were taken by the Friends of Brislington Brook on 06 May 2018.