HNHS is delighted that Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust has been able to buy Balls Wood Nature Reserve and adjacent Hobby Horse Wood. The two woods comprise 145 acres (58.7 ha) of semi-natural oak and hornbeam ancient woodland with open rides supporting diverse plant and insect populations. The Trust has managed the woods for the Forestry Commission for over 30 years but can now do more to promote and monitor its wildlife.

Over 50 guests and supporters gathered at the wood on Wednesday 24 June for the official opening by Trust President Simon Bowes Lyon. The photograph (left) shows Judy Adams, HMWT CEO, Emma Brearley, Forestry Commission, representatives from Herts County and East Herts District Councils and Richard Ball HMWT Chairman at the entrance to the wood. Representatives from HNHS and other conservation bodies also attended.

Reserve warden, Andy Brown, told us that the Trust intend to improve the management of the 'rides' and open areas to encourage plants and insects and the many ponds and damp areas to encourage amphibians and reptiles.

Trust volunteers are surveying and recording wildlife on the reserve and have already found many additional species. The plant list is now up to 175, which is high for a woodland area and includes the rare Herb Paris. Butterflies abound, including Speckled Wood (photograph). The rare Purple Emperor was found here for the first time in many years in 2006.
Full details of the countywide Purple Emperor survey were published in the Hertfordshire Naturalist 2008.
Steve Chilton visited the reserve for HNHS in mid-May and found masses of wildlife, see his visit report and photographs here.