Conservation work is underway to protect Watford's ancient woodlands from future extinction.

Littered among the town's numerous estates, tower blocks and busy roads are a handful of nature reserves, home to species of animals, plants and trees that have survived for hundreds of years.

Working to keep these areas alive for the enjoyment of future generations are residents who live close to the protected areas.

The Friends of Harebreaks Wood (FoHW) and Friends of Albans Wood (FoAW), recently planted young trees to reclaim land that had grown sparse.

Harebreaks Wood, off Leggatts Way, is an ancient sem-natural woodland filled with oak, ash, beech and cherry trees. It is also abundant with bluebells, birds including woodpeckers, thrushes and long-tailed tit, and animals such as foxes, deer and bats.

Serge Mozota, 48, joined FoHW 18 months ago, when he began attending community meetings to discuss the future of the Bill Everett Leisure Centre.

He said: "Trees don't last forever. It's not a glam or sexy activity but it's important because when trees fall and there's nothing to replace them, the wood gets smaller and smaller."

Historically, Harebreaks Wood was a natural barrier between Gammons Farm and Leggatts Farm, and is classed as an ancient semi-natural woodland by Natural England because it has been untouched since 1600 and retained native trees and shrubs.

Serge, an IT consultant, said: "In 1883, it didn't really matter to preserve it but in 2007, it does matter because there's so little left.

"When you've got it you take it for granted. When it's gone, it's gone forever. It takes hundreds of years to develop but you can completely obliterate it in two months."

Steve Harvey, chairman of FoHW, from Beechwood Rise, got involved in the group because he realised how "unappreciated" the wood was.

He said: "As green issues have grown in people's minds, it's come up and up in the agenda of councils to support and protect these places.

"The good thing is that it hasn't changed massively over the years. There could have been very gradual decline in some of the species, such as bluebells. If we can maintain the various biodiversity of plants, we can maintain the biodiversity of animals too.

"We want people to use it and enjoy it but by the nature of using it does put it under threat. That's why we need to encourage people to use it in a responsible way."

Joyce Bennick, from Valley Rise, fought for five years to gain nature reserve status for Albans Wood, in Woodside. The area is also a County Wildlife Site and listed on the Ancient Woodland Inventory.

Joyce, FoAW secretary, said: "It's lovely. I listen to it early in the morning. It's got loads of wildlife and different species of funghi, and it needs protecting."

For more information, visit or for details of the town's nature conservation projects.