image of Foulshaw moss landscape -copyright ian alexander waite

Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve © Ian Alexander Waite

Ospreys use Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve as a nesting site. To visit for free see the directions below. Work to install board walks is ongoing but visitors can get to the raised viewing platform.

Location

Near Witherslack
Witherslack
Cumbria

OS Map Reference

1:50,000 Sheet 97
Grid reference SD 458 837 (reserve car park)
A static map of Foulshaw Moss

Know before you go

Size
350 hectares

Parking information

Small parking area on site

Bicycle parking

Yes

Grazing animals

Cattle at times

Walking trails

From the car park there are various routes along boardwalk, one of which which crosses one of the best areas of remnant vegetation to a viewing platform (1km/0.6 miles).

From the car park there is a circular walk which crosses one of the better areas of remnant vegetation on boardwalk to a viewing platform and then uses the main track to return (0.8km/0.5 miles).

Please keep to waymarked paths and trails. The ground off the path is very soft and there are areas of deep water.

Access

Take care! No access off the boardwalks. The ground off the path is very soft and there are areas of deep water.

Ticks and adders are present on the reserve in large numbers.

Dogs

On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open all year round

Best time to visit

April to August

About the reserve

A precious peat bog

Peat has formed over thousands of years from the remains of the humble bog plant Sphagnum moss.

These remains, halted from decaying fully due to waterlogging and acidity, have eventually built to form a dome of peat that’s higher than the surrounding land.

Drainage and tree planting in the 1950s–60s meant much of the wetland wildlife was lost, but these species are now returning following the Trust’s ambitious 15-year restoration of the site. 

What makes Foulshaw Moss so special? 

Lowland raised mires like Foulshaw Moss are one of Western Europe’s rarest and most threatened habitats.

Around 94% of this unique habitat has been destroyed or damaged in the UK, so these remaining areas are incredibly important for a range of wildlife.

Water-loving Sphagnum mosses, carnivorous sundews, cranberry and bog-rosemary are just some of the plants that thrive here, creating a living carpet of colour that’s interspersed with the soft white heads of cottongrass in early summer.

 These mossy hummocks and pools provide essential nesting and feeding ground  for wetland birds such as moorhen, snipe and the elusive water rail, whilst birds of prey including hobby, sparrowhawk, buzzard and peregrine take advantage of the abundance of prey.

Foulshaw Moss is an incredibly peaceful nature reserve that offers something special for all wildlife enthusiasts.

Although the landscape is challenging, boardwalk makes visiting easy-going, with routes leading through peaty pools or out onto the open moss where many different butterflies, moths and insects are found.

Wildlife highlights

  • A pair of ospreys breed here in the summer – enjoy the sight of these majestic birds of prey from the viewing platform as they soar above the moss
  • An abundance of dragonflies and damselflies, including the rare white-faced darter and emperor dragonfly, can be seen around the many pools
  • Listen for the secretive water rail or head onto the boardwalk to spot tree pipit, stonechat, snipe and teal
  • Look for the nationally scarce argent & sable moth which flies during the day 
  • Spring – Green hairstreak butterflies fly in May, tree pipits and stonechats display over the bog, warblers and cuckoos sing in the woodland, ospreys return from Africa.
  • Summer- Huge numbers of dragonflies including the rare White faced darter dragonfly, large heath butterflies, lizards, adders & nesting ospreys.
  • Autumn- Heather flowering purple, migrating birds include ospreys passing through in September, red deer rutting.
  • Winter – Both marsh harrier and hen harrier visit the site, large numbers of snipe and teal arrive, and red deer can be seen from the raised platform.

Habitat restoration   

In partnership with Natural England, the Trust has been carrying out significant habitat restoration works which aim to raise water levels and secure the long term future of Foulshaw Moss.

Conifer trees have been removed from around the edges as they have served to dry the peat and excavators have blocked drains and created small low bunds that retain water on the bog.   

Following the completion of restoration works, improvements to parking and access will be made, with new walkways and signage planned. 

Slowly we are seeing the characteristic bog vegetation of Sphagnum moss, cotton grass, cranberry and bog rosemary reclaiming the site.

White-faced darter reintroduction

The white-faced darter is a specialist dragonfly only found in acidic pools on lowland peat bogs.

During the late twentieth century huge swathes of habitat were lost and the white-faced darter was reduced to just two known sites in Cumbria.

In 2010 a joint project with the British Dragonfly Society enabled larvae to be taken from the remaining site and reintroduced to pools at Foulshaw Moss, where they had lived prior to drainage of the bog for forestry in the 1950s.

 A total of 55 adult dragonflies were recorded emerging from the introduction pools  in 2011 and by 2016 numbers were close to 2,000, which is a fantastic success for this  rare dragonfly.

Recent history

Foulshaw Moss was purchased in 1998 with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Since then, a number of additional areas have been acquired.  

Getting here

By car:

From Kendal take A590 towards Barrow-in-Furness. At the end of the dual carriageway at Gilpin Bridge, continue for 1km/0.6 miles. Immediately before a signed parking layby on the west-bound carriageway, a track leaves the road. Go through the gate and follow the track until a small car park is reached.

From Grange/Barrow-in-Furness on the A590, pass the junction for Witherslack and continue for 0.6km/0.4 miles. The track to the reserve is on the right immediately after the parking layby. Please take care when turning into the reserve from this direction, as the road can be extremely busy.

By bicycle:

The reserve is on National Route 70 Walney to Wear (W2W) and National Route 700 The Bay Cycleway.

By public transport: 

Buses run from Barrow-in-Furness, Ulverston, Newby Bridge, Grange-over-Sands and Kendal to Witherslack.

Contact us

Paul Waterhouse
Contact number: 01539 816300

Environmental designation

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)

Further information about Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve

Upcoming events at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve