Wybunbury Moss NNR is situated in south Cheshire, at the centre of the 'Meres and Mosses' Natural Area, where it forms part of a series of peat bogs or 'Mosses'.
Main habitats: Peatland
Why visit: Wybunbury Moss is a rare example of a floating peat bog where a 3 metre thick raft of peat overlies a 13 metre deep lake.
Ice movement and erosion in the last Ice Age scraped a series of depressions in the landscape. Over time these either filled with water (creating a series of lakes known locally as Meres) or began to accumulate peat, forming peat bogs or Mosses. Ssubsequent subsidence of the rocks underlying the peat-filled basin has left a raft of peat floating on an underground lake, one of only three known examples in the UK known to have formed in this way.
Star species: The peat raft is carpeted in sphagnum moss, along with cotton sedge, cranberry, bog rosemary, white-beaked sedge and the insect-eating sundew. A Midlands rarity also found here is the mud sedge Carex limosa. Fen species including saw-sedge Cladium mariscum and marsh cinquefoil Potentilla palustris are found in the more nutrient-rich conditions around the edge of the Moss.
The Moss is also important for its invertebrate populations for which it is one of the most notable sites in Cheshire. A huge species list includes two rare spiders (Carorita limnaea and Gnaphosa nigerrima) and a leaf beetle Cryptocephalus decemmaculatus which is not found anywhere else in England.
The peat raft is surrounded by reedswamp, woodland and meadows where marsh violet and heath-spotted orchid can be found.
Please note that there is no public access to the central part of the Moss which is very dangerous due to soft, unstable peat. There are, however, public rights of way which circle the reserve and a concessionary path which crosses part of the peat body.
The continuing presence of the many rare species on this reserve is dependent on maintaining a high water table and nutrient poor conditions. Historic working of peat at Wybunbury has led to a series of ditches being dug across the site, drying out the bog surface and allowing birch and pine trees to encroach across the Moss, creating conditions unsuitable for many of the typical bog species.
Since the 1980s Natural England and its predecessor bodies have been gradually removing trees and blocking ditches to restore the Moss to its former pristine state. The Moss is also prone to nutrient enrichment from the surrounding land. The meadows surrounding the Moss are part of the protected area and are managed to minimise inputs of nutrients such as agricultural fertilisers which would upset the fragile ecology of the Moss.
Wybunbury Moss originally formed about 8000 years ago in a shallow hollow left at the end of the Ice Age. However, at some point in the last 5000 years salt deposits underlying the Moss have dissolved away creating an underground cavern into which the overlying rocks have subsided, resulting in a much deeper basin with a raft of peat floating on its surface.
In the eastern part of the reserve, which is composed of a solid layer of peat, the peat has been worked in the past, presumably as a source of fuel for local people.
We encourage the use of sustainable transport whenever possible.
The reserve is located 4 miles south of Crewe, near to the village of Wybunbury.
Bus services connect Wybunbury with Nantwich and Crewe. See the Traveline North West website for details.
Access to the reserve is via minor roads from the M6 and the A500.
Public footpaths circle the reserve. These can be accessed from the churchyard surrounding the old church tower.
There are no on-site facilities. The nearest refreshment facilities are in Wybunbury village.
For more information contact the Enquiries service on 0300 060 6000.