Natural England - Duddon Mosses NNR

Duddon Mosses NNR

Duddon Mosses NNR is a tranquil wetland habitat; the perfect place to escape and enjoy some solitude.

 Duddon Mosses NNR

County: South Cumbria

Main habitats: Peatland and Fen

Why visit: At Duddon Mosses you’ll discover one of England’s few remaining peatland habitats, with striking views over the Lakeland Fells and the sea. This quiet haven, hidden at the top of the Duddon Estuary, provides a welcome sanctuary for plants, animals and human visitors alike!

Star species: Duddon Mosses is recognised for its international importance as a raised peatland habitat, supporting some specialist bog flora. The nationally rare and distinctive moss Sphagnum pulchrum can be found here. Look out for its bright golden-orange colour. Other un-common bog species found here include bog rosemary and cranberry.

The bog flora and conditions here also support a wide variety of invertebrates. One specialist of the Mosses is the bog bush cricket. This large green insect has distinctive long antennae and can often be seen clinging to plants just off the boardwalk. This animal is very near to its northern limit here.

The mix of wetland and woodland on the reserve offers a plethora of breeding and feeding opportunities for birds. In summer passerines arrive to make use of the scrub and woodlands. Birds of prey such as buzzard and barn owl will make use of the open landscape of the Mosses – perfect for hunting for small mammals – and water-loving birds such as waders and pink-footed geese enjoy the tranquillity of the reserve in winter-time.

Seasonal highlights


Breeding birds arrive and begin to nest on the ground. Make sure you keep your dog on a short lead from 1 March to 31 July to give these birds a fighting chance! Listen for the bubbling song of the curlew, and the scratchy song of the stonechat rattles from low bushes. Buzzards are vocal as they perform territorial displays in the skies over the Mosses.


The best time to see the bog flora. In late spring and early summer, the fluffy heads of cotton grasses and yellow bog asphodel provide a delightful show. 

The invertebrate life on the bogs also springs into action! Bog bush-crickets are common on the raised bogs, and their high-pitched ticking ‘song; can be heard from late June through the summer. Dragonflies and damselflies can be seen hunting over the mosses or even basking on the boardwalks. 


In late summer and early autumn the heather across the Mosses flowers, adds a purple hue to the landscape. As the bog asphodel fruits in autumn the plants turn a deep orange colour, continuing to colour the bogs. The trees on the bog edges complement this as their leaves change colour and are shed.

Fungi can also be seen fruiting across the reserve, including the poisonous fly agaric toadstool of fairytales with its bright red and white spotted cap.

Kingfishers may be spotted in autumn as they become more mobile and move towards the coast.


Winter brings grazing geese, notably a large flock of pink-footed, while wader roosts may attract merlin, peregrine falcon and even hen harrier.

Roe and red deer can be spotted readily as the days shorten. After a snowfall look for their distinctive tracks, but remember to stick to the boardwalks and paths.


The landscape at Duddon Mosses has been shaped over thousands of years by natural processes and human land use. The Duddon valley was created during the last ice age, which ended around 15,000 years ago. Following the retreat of the ice and a rise in the level of the sea, estuarine clays were deposited across the coastal plain. With the very high rainfall of this area, shallow lakes formed on these clay plains. The Duddon Mosses were formerly part of the estuary of the river Torver, coming down from the Coniston Fells. A gradual change in vegetation took place over time, through fens and wet woodland, towards conditions where sphagnum moss rapidly laid down a considerable depth of peat. This led to the formation of the characteristic ‘domed’ raised bogs we see today.

The peat at Duddon is over 7000 years old and up to 6m deep. The peat preserves pollen from the plants that have grown on and around the Mosses over the last 7,000 years. Analysis of the types of pollen has given us a valuable picture of climate change since the last Ice Age. Experts also believe the raised bog could be home to archaeological remains.

At first glance the Duddon Mosses NNR appears wild and natural. A closer look reveals numerous signs of human activity on the lowland raised bog. Historically these wild Mosses have always been viewed either as a resource of peat to be exploited or as a wasteland to be made more productive. Their very wet ground conditions served to protect them from all but the lightest of human influence in the past 3000 years, but extensive peat cutting for fuel in the 18th and 19th centuries affected many of the peripheral zones of the Mosses where access was easiest.

Attempted drainage for conversion to agricultural land or to forestry means that some of the Mosses have become too dry to support sphagnum mosses. These have become covered with heather and trees.

In 2004 the international importance of the Duddon Mosses was recognised by their designation as a Special Area of Conservation. Major funding from the European Union has allowed significant progress with wetland restoration and the purchase of many parts of the Mosses so that they can be managed specially for nature conservation. Works to restore the water-table have included blocking of drains and scrub removal. In time, these re-wetting practices should allow active bog flora to re-establish and peat formation to re-commence.

How to get there

By train

The nearest train station is Foxfieldexternal link on the Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle line.

By bus

Stagecoach run a limited bus service (No. 7, 7A & 7B) from Barrow town hall and from Millom market square, which stops at Broughton-in-Furness, Grizebeck and Kirkby-in-Furness. For detailed public transport information call Traveline on 0871 200 22 33 or visit their website link

By car

We regret that there is no local parking at Duddon Mosses NNR and as a consequence we advise that that you park at Broughton Square or Kirkby-in-Furness and walk to the reserve from here. Both villages of Broughton and Kirkby can be found on the A595 which runs from Barrow-in-Furness, along the Cumbria coastline to Carlisle.

On foot

There are a number of public footpaths and minor roads providing access to the nature reserve from Kirkby-in-Furness, Grizebeck, Foxfield and Broughton-in-Furness. A limited number of footpath and boardwalks pass through the National Nature Reserve. The Cumbria Coastal Wayexternal link passes along the southern end of Angerton Moss. The National Nature Reserve can be found at SD 23853. For further details of public rights of way consult OS Explorer Map OL6.

Visiting the reserve

The nearest public toilets can be found at Broughton-in-Furness. Shops and public houses can be found at Foxfield and Broughton-in-Furness.

Most of the NNR is Access Land but this is a fragile habitat and, due to the uneven terrain and numerous water-filled cuttings and ditches, access is difficult and potentially dangerous. It is recommended that visitors keep to the boardwalks and hard tracks at all times.

A limited number of footpaths cross the mosses. Boardwalks are provided in places, but in other areas the path can be rough and sometimes very wet underfoot. Whilst boardwalks are suitable for wheelchair users, we regret that the paths leading to these may not be; particularly after heavy rain.

Ticks are found on this reserve and Lyme disease is present in this area of the country. Visitors are advised to take adequate precautions such as covering arms and legs, and checking for bites after their visit.

Student and community groups

Students and professionals are invited to conduct studies on our National Nature Reserves particularly studies that are designed to demonstrate management best practice. Please contact the Senior Reserve Manager to discuss and gain relevant permissions.

Want to get involved?

Natural England holds a number of events and activities across south Cumbria nature reserves each year. Past events have focused on moths, butterflies, fungi, trees and birds of the nature reserve. For details of current events please visit our north west events page or see posters at the nature reserve.

We have volunteer opportunities on National Nature Reserves throughout south Cumbria. Whether you have specialist skills you wish to use, or are looking for a chance to get some hands on experience, we’d love to hear from you.

See also our section on volunteering with Natural England.

Further information

Please contact Senior Reserve Manager, Steve Benn, on 015395 31604 or email

There is no site office at Duddon Mosses.
Roudsea Wood NNR Base,
Fish House Lane,
LA12 8PE.
015395 31604