“ Address: Carnforth / Lancashire / Telephone: 01524 701601 „
Leighton Moss is a lovely nature reserve in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, near Carnforth in Lancashire. Leighton Moss is owned and managed by the RSPB and is the largest area of reed bed in the North of England.
The nature reserve is signposted from the M6 motorway (junction 35a) and is about three miles from the motorway exit, mostly through country lanes (tip, follow the signs for Leighton Hall first, then Leighton Moss).
Parking is easy at Leighton Moss, there are two large car parks, on the reserve and over the road. There is an entry fee (£4.50 for adults, £1 for children), but, as usual, RSPB members get in free. I am a member of the RSPB as I want to support the superb work that they do for wildlife and the countryside in the UK, but as a frequent visitor to nature reserves, I find that my membership actually saves me money. Leighton Moss has some wheelchair access, the visitor centre and a couple of the hides are also accessible. The paths are, in general, smooth and dry. There are over 4 miles of paths on the reserve.
Leighton Moss is home to a number of reed bed specialist bird species that are rare in the North of England. This is the only place in the north where bitterns (a very rare type of heron), and bearded tits breed. The reserve is also home to marsh harriers, an impressive, large bird of prey.
A herd of red deer also use the reserve and can often be observed feeding or resting, from some of the hides. The views across the reserve are really lovely, looking over to the nearby Warton Crag, a large limestone hill which is also a nature reserve. At the lower hide, which is the furthest from the visitor centre, otters are now often seen, usually early morning or late evening.
There are, of course, a large number of other birds present on the reserve. Plenty of bird feeders mean that the commoner species are easy to see (bizarrely, ducks use the feeders outside the reserve entrance and you can find yourself tripping over these totally fearless birds as you get out of your car).
The hides look out onto the lakes where large numbers of ducks and geese can be seen. The "Eric Morcambe" (named for the comedian who was also a keen birdwatcher) and Allen hides are a small drive away. These look out over an area of salt marsh and shallow, brackish pools. Different species including lots of wading birds can be seen here.
The facilities at Leighton Moss are excellent. There are toilets, of course, which are clean and hygienic. There's a nice RSPB shop which sells lots of nature related items, such as books, DVDs, bird food, as well as a small range of clothing. There is also an excellent restaurant. As with all RSPB café's, it's not cheap, but the quality is really good. There's a nice selection of food, and the staff try to source produce from local farmers etc. Every time we go to Leighton Moss, we make a point of stopping for a meal.
It's worth noting that Leighton Moss is extremely popular with schools (and rightly so), but this does mean that if you go in term time, there's a good chance of a large group of children filling the hides.
Leighton Moss is a really nice place to visit. Placed in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty means that there's loads to see in the local area and it is popular with tourists. If you're interested in wildlife, it's well worth a visit if you're in the area.
Leighton Moss is an area of extensive reed beds and salt marshes near Morecambe in Lancashire. It is the largest remaining habitat of its type in the north west of England and the whole site is owned and managed by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).
I have some very fond memories of this Nature Reserve as a young Child, when my Parents used to bring me here en route to our holidays in the Lake District. This vast expanse of reed beds was always something magical to me, with its footpaths that cut between these reeds, which at over ten feet high must have appeared huge when I was so small.
In later life I have visited similar habitats in Norfolk and Suffolk and especially around the Norfolk Broads but when I first started to come here this type of vegetation was unique to me. There is certainly nothing of this same scale near to where I live in South Yorkshire and indeed this is the most northerly area of extensive reeds in Europe.
Leighton Moss occupies an area of land on a peninsula between the Villages of Arnside and Silverdale, near Carnforth, approximately ten miles to the north of Morecambe and just to the south of where the Lake District National Park begins.
Leighton Moss is most famous for its Bird life and there are several species of Bird that breed here at their most northerly locations in Britain. These include Marsh Harrier, Bitterns and Bearded Tits.
The Bittern is perhaps the reserves most famous resident. This is a large brown bird that belongs to the Heron family. The male of this species emits a foghorn like booming noise to attract a female and with the right weather conditions this sound can travel for over five miles. There are around ten pairs of Bitterns that breed here which represents around half of the British breeding population (the remainder being in Norfolk and Suffolk). Despite its huge size this is a very secretive Bird that is seldom seen but if you visit Leighton Moss during the Springtime you cannot fail to miss the bizarre experience of the booming males.
In additional to the vast number of Birds that are attracted here this is also one of the best places that I know to watch Otters. These rare aquatic British Mammals are surprisingly common here and can often be seen swimming across the lagoons.
The footpaths through this reserve are of very good quality. In most places they are on top of raised wooden platforms that span the marshy ground below. These platforms have then been covered with small stones to make them suitable for wheelchairs.
Walking along the footpaths with the reeds towering above your head on either side it is more or less impossible to see any form of Wildlife at all, which can sometimes be quite frustrating. To overcome this problem there are wooden viewing hides located every hundred metres or so along the route. These wooden huts not only provide shelter if the weather is bad they also look out over open stretches of water and marsh where the Wildlife is a lot more visible. All of these hides are suitable for wheelchair access and have nice wide doors. Many of them are raised on stilts to enable better views.
There is a large car park located close to the entrance into the reserve and a visitor centre can also be found here, which is housed inside an old farm building. There is an admission charge for non-RSPB members to visit the reserve and a permit must be obtained from this visitor centre. Also located within the visitor centre is a Gift Shop a Tea Room and toilets that are equipped for disabled access.
Current admission charges are as below:
Child - £1.00
Concession - £2.50
Family - £8.00
The reserve is sign-posted from the A6 north of Junction 35a of the M6 Motorway.
Leighton Moss is open at the following times:
Reserve - Daily from 9am to 9pm or dusk.
Visitor centre daily from 10am - 5pm.
Both the reserve and visitor centre are closed 25 December.
Leighton Moss Nature Reserve
Telephone: 01524 701601
Follow the nature trails and enjoy the wildlife.