A wildlife trust has taken ownership of the long-term lease of the "rare and irreplaceable" Astonbury Wood.

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust has purchased the 125-year lease from Hertfordshire County Council after major public fundraising campaign in 2021 saw £104,000 raised to secure the 17th century, 54-acre site.

The woodland, which lies to the east of Stevenage off the A602 near Bragbury End, is carpeted with Bluebells each spring, and is home to oak and hornbeam trees, as well as woodland flowers such as wood anemone.

Wildlife is also abundant, with the Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch found at Astonbury.

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"We are delighted to have secured the future of Astonbury Wood," said Lesley Davies, chief executive of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.

"Ancient woodland habitat, once widespread throughout the country, is now rare and irreplaceable.

"Some of the trees at Astonbury have stood there for centuries so we take our role as its custodians very seriously.

"It is a delightful place for people to experience wildlife and we will do everything we can to keep it that way and further improve prospects for wildlife through conservation management.

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"In the midst of a nature and climate crisis, we urgently need to protect more land for wildlife so this is an important step in the right direction."

The trust plans to provide new information to help visitors learn about the wildlife, as they follow established walking routes, which will help to ensure the protection of vulnerable species.