The Box Moor Trust cares for many diverse habitats which make up the Trust estate, including woodland, chalk meadows and the River Bulbourne.
Roughdown and Sheethanger Commons are home to many rare species of wild plants and insects.
Lower Roughdown, a 19th century chalk quarry, is now a designated Site of Special Scientific interest, managed by the Trust under direction from Natural England. Now home to orchids, gentians and many other species characteristic of former chalksoil grazing land, the grassland flora also boasts a very rare colony of self-regenerating juniper.
The old chalk mines underneath Roughdown Common support bat roosts, a winter hibernation site instigated by the Trustees in cooperation with the Hertfordshire Bat Group.
The goldcrest, the smallest bird on the British breeding bird list, is common in the yew woodlands at Westbrook Hay and, when the spring and summer visitors arrive, the woods and hedgerows are alive with birds such as chiffchaffs, willow warblers, blackcaps, garden warblers and their beautiful songs.
Skylarks are becoming scarce in the modern countryside, but they are in evidence over the estate grasslands and the land is carefully managed to encourage them. Birds of prey include kestrel, hobby falcon (in summer), sparrowhawk, red kite and common buzzard. Both little and tawny owls nest on Trust land and attempts are being made to introduce barn owls to the undeveloped grassland at Westbrook Hay.
There is very little standing water on the higher parts of the estate, apart from the dew pond at Howes Retreat and the woodland and Old Barn ponds at Westbrook Hay, which have environmental as well as educational value. These have encouraged frogs and several species of dragonfly and damselfly to colonise and are rich in invertebrate species.
Small mammals are abundant over much of the estate, a sign of a healthy environment, and those creatures that prey on small animals such as weasels, stoats and foxes are common. Badgers visit the grasslands, as do muntjac deer and the occasional fallow deer, and roe deer are often seen on Bulbourne Meadow.
Since 1999, the Trust has had dormouse boxes in the woods of Westbrook Hay. The boxes are inspected every year and it appears that male wrens find them very handy! However, there has been some scant evidence of dormouse occupation, so we believe that they are returning to the woods at Westbrook Hay. On the other hand, the Edible Dormouse or Glis Glis is very much in evidence!
The undulating landscape at Bovingdon Brickworks (a legacy of its former life as a clay quarry) makes it valuable as a conservation area. There are no great rarities, but the site supports a broad range of insects including solitary bees, wasps and butterflies that appreciate the mixture of grassland and bare earth. Birds such as linnets, song thrushes, kestrels, whitethroats and finches have all been recorded here, as has the increasingly rare turtle dove.
Butterflies and moths are abundant. At least ten species of butterflies can be seen throughout the summer including Green Hairstreak, Marbled White, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Orange Tip, Common Blue and Comma. These populations continue to be boosted by the Trust’s efforts to increase the food plant potential of its land holdings.
The estate is watered in the valley by the rivers Gade and Bulbourne which are chalk streams, a globally rare habitat. Sightings of kingfishers along the whole stretch of the Bulbourne where it flows through Trust land are not infrequent and the old watercress beds at Gadespring and Old Fishery provide an ideal environment for them. The pure white little egret, which has been gradually extending its range northwards across the country, is also often seen on this site. There has even been an occasional sighting of a water rail.
In 2020, the Trust ran a project to reintroduce the nationally endangered water vole back to the local area. Surveys have shown that this reintroduction has been successful with signs of their presence throughout Boxmoor.
The Trust’s lands also play host to many rarities and firsts. A good example of this would be the recent sighting of a Jersey Mocha moth. In September 2016, Trust chairman David Kirk and local lepidopterist Ben Sale undertook a session of Moth Trapping at Roughdown Common. During this session they managed to observe and catalogue a Jersey Mocha, which was later confirmed as the first ever sighting of this species in Hertfordshire! This is not only good news with regards to the biodiversity of the Trust, but also the wider Hemel Hempstead and Hertfordshire region.
Amphibians & Reptiles
These galleries will show you a selection of wildlife photographs, all taken on the Box Moor Trust estate. If you would like to submit a please click here. All photos have been taken by members of the local community who take a keen interest in the bountiful wildlife that is commonplace within the Box Moor Trust.