Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Wild and remote area of blanket bog on the Cumbria-Northumberland border alive in spring to the haunting cries of the curlew. Cloudberry, great sundew and bog rosemary and several species of sphagnum moss are found.
- The wildness and remoteness.
- See plants typical of mires as well as some more unusual species.
- Upland birds such as curlew.
A watery world where peat is still forming
In this wild and remote place the most abundant plant you will find is Sphagnum moss, forming extensive lawns and hummocks (known as patterned mire). Sphagnum magellanicum and Sphagnum papillosum are the main species, but there are many other sphagna including several uncommon species. Growing amongst the Sphagnum are many other species typical of this wet habitat. You can find bog asphodel, cross-leaved heath, cranberry, common heather, cottongrass and white beak-sedge. At Butterburn flow you can also find great sundew, an insectivorous plant, and bog rosemary. In summer look out for the distinctive white flowers of cloudberry, a plant more usually found at higher altitudes.
Butterburn Flow is the largest of 58 mires which straddle the border between Cumbria and Northumberland, collectively known as the Border Mires. Butterburn is bounded on two sides by the River Irthing which itself forms the border between the two counties. During the 20th century, this area was planted with conifers by the Forestry Commission, forming Kielder Forest, the largest forest in England at 50,000 hectares. The peat bogs within the area were generally avoided although some planting and drainage did occur on the edges of the bogs and some sites were drained in preparation for afforestation. Unlike the Trust's other mire nature reserves, which are raised bogs, Butterburn Flow is a blanket bog, meaning that it receives moisture from groundwater as well as from rainfall. Unlike the other sites, the bog is relatively intact with little artificial drainage and therefore a high water table.
Keeping it special
Butterburn Flow is owned by the Forestry Commission and managed by Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
By car: Butterburn Flow lies 16km/9.5 miles north of Gilsland. From the centre of the village, cross the Irthing and take the first right signed for Butterburn, Gilsland Spa and Spadeadam. After 3km/2 miles, the road ahead becomes private MoD access. Bear right here (the road is signed as a dead end). Follow this road for 8 km/5 miles to Butterburn Farm and continue for a further 3km/2 miles to the end of the surfaced road. There is no official access point and no signs, however access is best gained from the high point in the road at Grid Ref NY 660 758.
By bicycle: 4 miles from a National Cycle Network on-road route.
By public transport: Buses run from Brampton to Gilsland.
Nature Reserves Guide
Cumbria Wildlife Trust's Nature Reserve Guide, which provides information about all the Trust's reserves is available to buy now from our online shop.