News story

Confirmation of Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses Site of Special Scientific Interest

Natural England has confirmed the extension to the boundaries of Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI in Cumbria.

Two people standing on the peatlands at Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses Site of Special Scientific Interest in north Cumbria
Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI © David Hirst/Natural England

The Board of Natural England has given its approval to confirm the notification of Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Cumbria.

The decision was agreed by the Natural England Board meeting in open session on 4 November 2015.

SSSIs represent the best sites for wildlife and geology and there are more than 4,100 SSSIs in England, covering around 8% of the country. SSSI status gives legal protection that ensures that the nationally important wildlife and geology of a site is recognised in its management and future use.

Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI in Cumbria covers a large area of lowland raised peat bog - a nationally rare and threatened wildlife habitat - of which nearly 95% of the original area has been lost or significantly damaged in the United Kingdom.

The site is of national and international importance for the evidence of environmental change recorded in its peat deposits, and for the range of rare wildlife which the habitat can support, including:

  • a wide range of insects
  • specialist plants that have adapted to living in bog habitat, including the insectivorous sundew
  • birds such as snipe, merlin, curlew and lapwing
  • small mammals, amphibians and reptiles

Natural England’s Chairman, Andrew Sells, said:

The evidence clearly shows that the lowland peat bog habitat and associated vegetation give this site real national importance and tremendous potential for further restoration and enhancement.

Natural England’s Board has agreed that extending the boundary of the SSSI will make a significant difference towards that aim.

In addition, peat sequences dating back to the early Holocene contain evidence for variations in climate and cultural change over time through their pollen records, dated via radio carbon analysis.

Cumbria’s peatbogs provide a unique historical environmental record, an archaeological treasure-trove and have an important function as a carbon store. Lowland raised peatbogs such as Bolton Fell Moss and Walton Moss have formed over many thousands of years through the growth and decay of sphagnum mosses, which are vital for the active formation of peat.

Natural England’s Area Manager for Cumbria, Simon Humphries, said:

I am delighted that the Natural England Board has given its approval to confirm the notification of Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI.

Lowland raised bogs can provide a haven for rare wildlife as well as an important carbon store to help tackle climate change. Designation will help to ensure the restoration of this internationally important site.

Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI was notified on 13 March 2015 under section 28C of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as inserted by Schedule 9 to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Previously, 2 SSSIs were notified covering some of the lowland raised peat bog habitats in the area - Bolton Fell Moss SSSI (last notified 2001) and Walton Moss SSSI (notified 1985). The newly confirmed Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI includes both of these previously notified SSSIs. The notification brings the special interests of the overall area within a single designation, combining the 2 previously notified SSSIs and with substantial extensions covering more than 460 ha. The Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI covers an area of just short of 1,000 ha.

The long-term aim for the site is to re-establish an active peat forming bog surface within 30 years. The site will become a nature reserve for community use, education and enjoyment. Wider benefits include the site’s role in the provision of carbon storage and a study of the ecosystem services that it provides funded through the Cumbria BogLIFE project.

Natural England’s Cumbria BogLIFE project brings new opportunities to showcase restoration techniques for lowland raised peatbogs, monitor the recovery process and to raise awareness of the importance and value of Cumbria’s remaining peatbog sites. The project will pioneer new ways for re-establishing bog vegetation on sites where peat has been extracted, which it’s hoped will become demonstration sites to showcase this approach to managers of peatbogs across Europe. Practical habitat management work is already underway at several lowland peatbog sites in Cumbria and further work will take place over the next 5 years, including on the Bolton Fell and Walton Mosses SSSI.

Natural England is responsible for notifying SSSIs, ensuring they are managed appropriately and assessing and monitoring their condition.

Published 16 November 2015