Once a large freshwater lake this unusual wetland habitat has a number of rare plant species. A speciality of the site here is the delicate bird's eye primrose, whilst other species include the black bog-rush, wild columbine and fragrant orchid.


  • In spring look out for the delicate bird's-eye primrose. Early marsh orchids are flowering and brimstone butterflies are on the wing.
  • In summer you can find grass of parnassus and fragrant orchids.
  • Late summer is a good time to see butterflies such as red admiral, peacock and tortoisehell.
  • Winter is the best time brown hare on the reserve and keep an eye open for buzzards.

How the moss formed

Hale Moss was once covered by a large freshwater lake that extended right across the valley floor. The skeletons of millions of aquatic animals, that lived and died in the lake, formed a layer of calcareous marl. The lake eventually filled up with vegetation and this formed a peat layer over the marl. At Hale Moss the marl layer has been re-exposed through man's activities (possibly peat cutting or ploughing).

Waterlogged world

The water-logged marl provides an unusual habitat.  The main species you can see are large tussocks of black bog rush and purple moor-grass.  In and amongst these tussocks you can find a number of rare species.  Look out for the diminutive bird's-eye primrose which flowers in May, or in summer the delicate white flowered grass of parnassus.  Wild columbine, early and northern marsh orchid and fragrant orchid also grow on the open mire area.  On the northern edge of the moss alder buckthorn grows.


To the north of the wet area is a woodland of mainly Scots pine with birch and sycamore. Hazel and holly form a shrub layer in places and you can find early dog violet and herb Paris. 


A ride was cut through the wood for a gas pipeline in 1967 and this is now dominated by hemp agrimony. Butterflies are attracted to this plant and, in late summer, the ride can be full of red admirals, peacocks, small tortoiseshells and brimstones. The larvae of brimstone butterflies feed on the alder buckthorn.

Keeping it special

Management includes maintaining the open mire area by scrub clearance and periodic mowing of areas of mire.When trees within the woodland fall down they are left in situ to create dead wood habitat for invertebrates.

Hale Moss was purchased by Cumbria Wildlife Trust in 1972 and 2003.

Getting here

By car: From the A6 travelling north from Carnforth take a right turn for Burton immediatly beyond the garage. Park on verge of the sliproad here.  Coming south from Milnthorpe take a left turn after the Lakeland Wildlife Oasis. Access to the reserve is via a stile through the hedge or, if this access is waterlogged, via a gate at the northern end of the reserve into the woodland (opposite Lakeland Wildlife Oasis)
By bicycle:  The reserve is 1.6km/1 mile from National Route 6.
By public transport: Buses run from Kendal to Hale.

Nearby nature reserves

Hutton Roof Crags
2 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Warton Crag
3 miles - The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside
Grubbins Wood
4 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Near Milnthorpe
Map reference
SD 510 777
Great for...
Best time to visit
Apr - Aug
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
2.90 hectares
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
There is a stile onto the reserve. No paths and difficult terrain.
Walking information
The reserve has direct access from a public road. There are no waymarked routes around the reserve and walking is extremely difficult due to the tussocky nature of the vegetation. Wellies are recommended, especially in winter
Park on verge of sliproad but please do not obstruct other traffic or block field gates.
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Simon Thomas
Tel: 01539 816300