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Burns Beck Moss

Wild and undisturbed, this small reserve of raised and valley mires provides a habitat for many animal and plant species.


  • In spring and summer you can hear and spot wetland birds.
  • In summer many types of wetland specialist plants are in flower.
  • In this undisturbed place you stand a good chance of spotting mammals such as hare and roe deer.

How Burns Moss developed

10,000 years ago, retreating ice sheets created a small tarn where Burns Beck Moss now lies. Over the intervening period, plant matter and silt have gradually filled the tarn with peat and sediment to form a series of raised and valley mires. The raised mires are totally dependent on rainfall for moisture, whilst the valley bogs receive ground water which contains dissolved minerals and nutrients. Both sustain a variety of plant species which have become increasingly rare as other mires have been drained or planted.

Water specialists

Here you can find plants that thrive in these wet conditions such as bog rosemary, cranberry and a number of different sedges.  In spring bog myrtle is in flower - its crushed leaves give off a lovely resinous fragrance. During the summer you can see plants such as bog asphodel, sneezewort and marsh cinquefoil in flower.  The  most common species making up the wetland is sphagnum moss which holds lots of water on the mire.  16 species of this moss are found here!  Look closely amongst the sphagnum to find sundew - an small, insectivorous plant. Around Burns Beck look out for yellow water lily which flowers in the summer.

Haven for wetland birds

In places there are patches of willow carr and reedbed and this provides good habitat for a number of breeding birds.  You stand a good chance of seeing a tawny owl, heron and reed buntings.  In spring and summer you may see and hear birds such as curlew, snipe, sedge warbler, willow warbler, grasshopper warbler, meadow pipit and whinchat.

Wild and undisturbed

Fox, hare and roe deer love the undisturbed wild nature of Burns Beck Moss.  Butterflies too thrive here.  In spring look out for the green hairstreak butterfly, whilst later in the summer you may see the small pearl bordered fritillary and small heath butterflies flitting about.  Look out too for common lizard and frogs.

Restoring the wetland

Before the Trust acquired the reserve  attempts had been made to drain the site by straightening and deepening Burns Beck and later by  digging a network of drains to prepare the site for tree planting which thankfully never happened. Since we took over the site in 1995 we have reversed the drainage and installed a large number of dams which is enabling the site to hold water and become a wetland once more.

Burns Beck Moss was purchased by Cumbria Wildlife Trust in 1995 with help from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Getting here

By car: From A684 to Sedbergh take a right turn to pass  Killington Reservoir and continue until you reach a quarry where cars may be parked. (Grid Reference SD 596 881).
By bicycle: The reserve is 6.5km/4 miles from National Route 68 (Walney to Wear).
By public transport: Buses run from Kendal to Sedbergh

Nature Reserves Guide

Cumbria Wildlife Trust's Nature Reserve Guide, which provides information about all the Trust's reserves is available to buy now from our online shop.

Nearby nature reserves

Hutton Roof Crags
7 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Hale Moss
8 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Foulshaw Moss
9 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Near Sedbergh
Map reference
SD 596 880
Great for...
getting away from it all
lichens and mosses
stunning views
Best time to visit
Apr - Aug
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
15.10 hectares
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Level path with board walk and bridges.
Walking information
The reserve can be accessed directly from the public road. There is a level waymarked circular footpath around the eastern side of the reserve with sections of boardwalk and bridges crossing the wet areas (0.9km/0.6miles).
Park in the quarry (Grid Reference SD 596 881)
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Andrew Walter
Tel: 01539 816300