Hale Moss

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.


Near Milnthorpe

OS Map Reference

OS 1:50,000. Sheet no. 97
Grid reference SD 510 777
A static map of Hale Moss

Know before you go

3 hectares

Entry fee

All donations are gratefully received.

Parking information

No designated parking

Bicycle parking


Grazing animals


Walking trails

There are no waymarked routes around the nature reserve and walking (particularly on the mire) is extremely difficult due to the tussocky nature of the vegetation.

The nature reserve can be very wet especially in winter and wellington boots are recommended.


Hale Moss nature reserve has direct access from a public road. 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).


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open all year round

Best time to visit

April to August

About the reserve

Wildlife highlights

  • In spring - The delicate May flowering bird’s-eye primrose is a speciality of the site and early marsh orchids are flowering.
  • In summer - fragrant and northern marsh orchids grow in the open mire alongside the dainty blooms of grass-of-Parnassus and wild columbine. In late summer red admiral, peacock, small tortoiseshell and brimstone butterflies are on the wing.
  • In winter - the best time to see brown hare on the nature 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. 

Nestled between the tussocks you can find a number of orchids and rare wildflowers. 

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. 


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 immediately beyond the garage. Park on verge of the slip road here. Coming south from Milnthorpe take a left turn after the 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.

Contact us

Paul Waterhouse
Contact number: 01539 816300

Environmental designation

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Upcoming events at Hale Moss Nature Reserve

If there are any upcoming events at Hale Moss Nature Reserve we'll show them to you below.