Police spent six hours moving on a large crowd of people who had gathered in woodland for a birthday party.

Hertfordshire Constabulary is reminding people that the country is still in the middle of a public health emergency after it was called to a mass gathering on the outskirts of South Oxhey on Saturday.

Police received reports of crowds off Ashburnham Drive at around 7.15pm and said it began talking with the organisers of the event.

Officers learned many of the attendees had travelled from London to celebrate a birthday.

Police say they were unaware the event was taking place and spent several hours trying to move partygoers on.

It does not appear any arrests were made. Crowds were eventually dispersed by 1.15am.

Police were called to woods off Ashburnham Drive. Credit: Google Street View

Detective Inspector Stewart Moulding wrote in a neighbourhood watch email to residents: "We completely understand residents’ frustration and know it caused great upset to those living nearby.

"Our role is to prioritise public safety, so calls of this nature have to take precedence. We experienced a busy weekend across Hertfordshire and were dealing with several events of this nature simultaneously.

"We strive to plan for every eventuality however there was no intelligence to suggest this gathering was taking place. Officers attended several times to ensure there were no crimes committed."

The detective inspector also explained why officers were not more "robust" when dealing with the crowds.

He said: "There were large numbers of intoxicated people and it took us some time to disperse the attendees. We understand some residents feel we were not robust in our response but safety is paramount when dealing with crowds.

"The last thing we want is to provoke disorder where people are injured.

"Though restrictions have eased, we’re still in the middle of a public health emergency. Being separated from our friends and family has been incredibly tough, but we need to continue to tackle this virus. One of the easiest ways to do this is to avoid large, unlicensed gatherings.

"We’d like to thank all South Oxhey residents who have worked with us and adhered to social-distancing guidelines. We know you’ll continue to act responsibly as the restrictions ease further."