Leighton Moss RSPB reserve

Leighton Moss
Nature reserve
Greylag geese at Leighton Moss
Country England
County Lancashire
District City of Lancaster
Coordinates 54°09′47″N 2°48′04″W / 54.163°N 2.801°W / 54.163; -2.801Coordinates: 54°09′47″N 2°48′04″W / 54.163°N 2.801°W / 54.163; -2.801
Biomes Reed bed, Coastal lagoons
Animal Bearded reedling, Eurasian bittern, Pied avocet, Western marsh harrier
For public Open year round except Christmas Day
Protection status SSSI, SPA, Ramsar Site and AONB

Leighton Moss RSPB reserve is a nature reserve in Lancashire, England, which has been in the care of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds since 1964.[1] It is situated at Silverdale near Carnforth, on the edge of Morecambe Bay and in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Leighton Moss contains the largest area of reed beds in north-west England.[2] The site provides habitats for many species of wildlife, including bitterns and red deer. As a wetland of international importance, it was designated a Ramsar site in 1985. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area, and an Important Bird Area.[2]

The RSPB reserve also protects an area of Morecambe Bay, where a saltmarsh provides a habitat for birds such as avocets.[3]


In 1822 the moss came into the possession of Richard Gillow, grandson of the Lancaster furniture manufacturer Robert Gillow. Using steam technology, Gillow drained the moss for agriculture. Although the soil is of good quality, by 1918 the land was flooded again, as drainage appeared to have become uneconomic. The area was used for duck shooting.

The RSPB initially leased the moss and then purchased it from the Leighton Hall estate.


The reserve is entered through the visitor centre (a converted farmhouse) containing a shop and a tea-room. The centre also contains an education room.

There are seven observation hides, which were renewed in 2012 with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. One is named after comedian Eric Morecambe.[4] There are also nature trails.

Management issues

The reed beds are managed to prevent them drying out and also to prevent saline intrusion from the coast. Despite such control of ecological succession, the breeding bittern population (measured by "booming" males) has been in decline. This may be related to the reed beds being relatively mature.

In 2015 there was controversy about a plan to cull "excess" numbers of deer, which were blamed for damaging the reeds.[5]

Media interest

In 2013 Leighton Moss hosted the BBC's Autumnwatch programme.[6] The programme returned in 2014.[7]

Opening times

The reserve and visitor centre are open daily all year round (except Christmas Day) from 9 am to dusk and the visitor centre from 9.30 am – 5 pm (4.30 pm November–January inclusive). Entrance is free for RSPB members and those who come by public transport. Silverdale railway station is just a few minutes' walk away. The reserve is on a proposed cycle way around Morecambe Bay.[8]


  1. UNITED KINGDOM Ramsar Site 323
  2. 1 2 BirdLife International. "Important Bird Areas factsheet: Leighton Moss". Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  3. "Avocets flourish at RSPB Leighton Moss nature reserve". BBC News. 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
  4. "Eric Morecambe's daughter brings sunshine to new Leighton Moss bird hide". Westmorland Gazette. 2012. Retrieved March 31, 2013.
  5. Dickinson, Katie. "Plans to cull red deer". Westmorland Gazette. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  6. "Silverdale's "ancient aura of wildness"". Lancaster Guardian. 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  7. "BBC's Autumnwatch". Westmorland Gazette (www.thewestmorlandgazette.co.uk). September 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
  8. "Test ride for new cycle way". Sustrans. 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2015.

Further reading

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