PAUL Beattie was thanking his lucky stars after part of his garden collapsed into a huge hole.

Urgent tests are being carried out by a housing association following the collapse – which appears to be the latest in a series of holes to appear in Holtspur, Beaconsfield.

Mr Beattie, 55, said: “I nearly went with it. I had been carrying on with the gardening and noticed the lawn started sagging.

“I thought 'that's a bit strange' and went to get a cane to poke at the ground a bit. Just as I was coming back it fell through.

“I couldn't believe it when I saw how deep it was – it was lucky because that was pretty much where I had been standing.”

The father-of-one lives in an L&Q property on Cherry Tree Road and called the housing association after the hole appeared on Wednesday last week.

He added: “They were very good and came out within about an hour. They said they would be looking at the whole area.”

Mr Beattie, who has pancreatitis and is on incapacity benefit, is now fearful of walking in his garden in case another hole appears.

Another property on adjacent Rowan Close has a board over part of its garden. The occupier confirmed that a hole had appeared but did not wish to comment.

The Bucks Free Press understands part of another garden on nearby Upper Riding has also collapsed in recent weeks.

James Howell, a spokesman for L&Q, said: “We fully appreciate residents’ concerns and are urgently carrying out a range of tests to identify the cause of this problem.

“It is possible that there used to be a gravel pit under the area and underground soil movement may have caused the holes to open up.

L&Q has arranged for Thames Water to see if water leaks may have caused soil movement, as well as ordering CCTV/pressure testing to be carried out on the drain runs in rear gardens to see if these have broken down, he said.

Mr Howell added: “Once the results of these tests are known and we have been able to identify the cause, we will carry out all the remedial works.”

Shirley Scrivener, chairman of conservation group the Friends of Holtspur Bank, said: “This has happened a lot in Holtspur. The geology is such that there is a gravel layer on top of the chalk.”

She remembers one 'swilly hole' – as they are known locally - in North Drive being about 30 meters wide.