Astley Moss SSSI

Astley Moss is a nature reserve partially owned and managed by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which means it’s been designated as a protected area for conservation purposes.

Astley and Bedford Mosses are situated next to the Liverpool to Manchester railway and are bordered on the other side by agricultural land. It represents one of the largest remaining fragments of Chat Moss, a lowland raised mire some 25 km2 in size that developed over tills and late-glacial flood gravels overlying Triassic sandstones of the Sherwood Sandstones Group. The majority of Chat Moss has been drained and reclaimed for agriculture or cut over for peat.

Key habitats

  • Modified mire communities
  • Heathland
  • Woodland
  • Acidic grassland.

These habitats are all developed over the cut peat surface and subject to variations of wetness according to the residual topography or drainage patterns.

Ecology of the area

  • Existing areas of mire are dominated by common cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium and hare’s-tail cottongrass E. vaginatum with occasional deergrass Trichophorum cespitosum.
  • Bog mosses are scarce but Sphagnum cuspidatum, S. recurvum, S. tenellum, S. fimbriatum and S. subnitens occur in patches in the cottongrass, between tussocks of purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea or in and alongside some of the ditches.
  • Heather Calluna vulgaris, although scattered throughout, dominates one area of heathland at the north eastern edge of the site, where cranberry Vaccinium oxycoccus also occurs.

The peatland has been restored by raising the water table and reversing the effects of drying where the mire community was replaced by a monospecific sward of purple moor grass in which very few other species are present. Downy birch Betula pubescens also began to establish, this was removed as part of the restoration in 2006.


The site is important for birds, in particular wintering raptors such as hen harrier, short-eared owl and merlin, and it supports breeding species such as curlew and long-eared owl.


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