Fenn’s, Whixall, Bettisfield, Wem & Cadney Mosses Site of Special Scientific Interest, straddling the English/Welsh border near Whitchurch, is of international importance for wildlife.
Main habitats: Peatland
Area: 948 ha
Site map: Nature on the Map.
The Mosses are one of the most southerly lowland raised bogs in Britain and, at 948 hectares (2,340 acres), are the third largest.
You can download a leaflet describing this reserve.
Lowland raised bogs are slow-growing domes of Sphagnum bogmoss peat, fed only by rainwater. Bogmoss absorbs and acidifies the rain, water-logging the peat surface so only specialised plants and animals survive. Dying plants, together with pollen from vegetation on and around the bogs, become ‘pickled’ as layers of peat, forming giant storybooks of the last 12,000 years.
Raised bog plants and animals are now rare as so many bogs have been drained for peat cutting or for conversion to farmland or forestry. In ten years, commercial peat cutting for gardening or fuel can remove peat that took one thousand years to form.
The reserve is 6.5 km south west of Whitchurch, 16 km south west of Wrexham, south of the A495 between Fenn's bank, Whixall and Bettisfield. There is roadside parking at entrances, and a large car park at Manor House. There is also a bus service which passes nearby.
The reserve is near Route 45 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network.
Tracks, accessed through squeeze gaps, are grassy or peaty and generally level. The firmer, flat canal towpath is accessible by ramp/path from the Morris's and Roundthorn Bridge car parks. Disabled people can drive along the level stony old railway line by arrangement. There are pubs and small shops nearby.
The natural environment can be hazardous. Please:
Keep to the way-marked routes. The Mosses are riddled with deep, flooded and partly vegetated ditches.
Do not smoke on the Mosses at any time of the year. Even small fires can cause extensive damage.
Watch out for adders. If bitten keep calm and seek medical attention.
Do not collect plants or animals.
Keep dogs on a lead from March to July, and otherwise at heel.
The three interlinking circular trails contrast the rainwater-fed open wilderness of Fenn’s, Whixall & Bettisfield Mosses NNR with the lush groundwater-loving carr woodland along the popular Llangollen Canal and the shelter of butterfly-rich glades with the open views of pasture and hills from the canal towpath.
In a joint venture between Natural England, the Countryside Council for Wales and British Waterways, the three trails start from either Morris’s Bridge (SJ 493355) or the Marl Allotment at Roundthorn Bridge (SJ 501357) on the canal. They link to the Manor House NNR Base, Whixall, and Fenn’s Old Works on the disused railway line in Bronington.
The trails range from 2 km to 4 km long and can be combined to create longer walks of up to 7 km. The routes, marked by a series of arrowed posts, are easy to walk.
The Mosses are still one of the best lowland raised mires in Britain, despite near-destruction by commercial peat cutting. The central area became a National Nature Reserve in 1990, and large-scale cutting was stopped. Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales are now restoring the Mosses by clearing smothering trees and bushes and damming the peat cuttings to restore bog water levels. Now bogmosses and cottonsedges cover the Mosses again. Wildfowl, waders and dragonflies abound once more, and the irreplaceable archive of the past is being ‘repickled’.
Walk through the outer wood and scrub to the central quiet wilderness of restored peat cuttings under their expansive open skies. In the wetter areas, peatforming carpets of our 13 Sphagnum bogmoss species and snowy spring-time heads of bright green and red hare’s-tail and common cotton-sedge cover the Mosses. Pretty cranberry, bog rosemary, bog asphodel, insect-eating sundew and lesser bladderwort are spreading out. Along tracks and peat baulks, birch bushes, golden autumn bracken and white winter swathes of purple moor-grass mark drier areas.
Today, 1,900 species of invertebrates thrive on the Mosses; large heath butterflies, white-faced darter dragonflies, bog bush-crickets and raft spiders, back from the brink of extinction, are spreading from their refuges in the old commercial and handcuttings. In spring, calls of breeding teal, mallard, curlew, skylark and meadow pipit fill the air, and yellow four-spot chasers dart. In summer sunshine, acrobatic hobby catch our myriad dragonflies, and ‘churring’ nightjar hoover up dusk’s clouds of moths. Listen for the plop of water voles – don’t tread on basking adders!
Britain has a large proportion of the world’s raised bogs. We are all responsible for caring for them. Bogs counteract global warming by forming peat. Using peat in your garden releases this carbon, and robs rare creatures of their home. You can help by: