Flora and Fauna
The Trust’s holdings have many unique features, one of the most important being the only remaining area of old sheep-grazed chalk downland in this part of Hertfordshire.
Roughdown and Sheethanger commons are orchid-rich and home to many rare species of wild plants and insects. One of the shrub species unique to this type of habitat is wild juniper, a small conifer, the berries of which are used to flavour the distilled spirit gin.
Larks are becoming scarce in the modern countryside, but up to date there are at least six pairs over the estate grasslands. Birds of prey include kestrel, hobby falcon (in summer), sparrowhawk and even, on rare occasions, red kite and common buzzard. Both little and tawny owl nest on Trust lands and attempts are being made to encourage barn owls to the undeveloped grassland at Westbrook Hay.
At present there is very little standing water on the higher parts of the estate, apart from the newly created dew ponds at Howe’s Retreat and Westbrook Hay. This has encouraged frogs and three species of dragonfly to colonise and is another long term project to increase the number and variety of wildlife habitats. The educational as well as environmental value of a pond is enormous.
The estate is watered in the valley by the rivers Gade and Bulbourne. The latter is the main river but, at present, it is substantially polluted by a number of sources and from the canal spillways. Efforts are being made by the Trustees to create a biological filter by the provision of planted reed beds at suitable sites.
Butterflies and moths are abundant. At least ten species of butterflies can be seen throughout the summer. Again development plans aim to increase the food plant potential of all the Boxmoor Trust land holdings.