Butterburn Flow

Butterburn Flow - Duncan Hutt

Butterburn Flow. Image by: Duncan Hutt.

A wild and remote area of blanket bog on the Northumberland-Cumbria border, alive in spring to the haunting cries of the curlew.


12km north of Gilsland on the Cumbria/Northumberland border

OS Map Reference

NY 673 763
A static map of Butterburn Flow

Know before you go

450 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Car parking on roadside near the River Irthing bridge.

Walking trails

There are no paths on site, and rivers in the area rise rapidly in heavy rain. The ground is therefore wet, and boggy making it difficult to traverse. Wellingtons or good walking boots should be worn and great care is advised when walking on site.


There is no official access point and no signs. However, access is best gained from the high point 3km/ 2 miles to the end of the surfaced road past Butterburn Farm at grid ref:  NY 660 758. There are no paths on the reserve and the terrain is uneven with regular blocked drains.


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times


Best time to visit

June to August

About the reserve

This remote site is the largest of the Border Mires and is one of only three sites in the country that represent the transition between hummock-hollow mire and true patterned mire. Sphagnum magellanicum, sphagnum papillosum, cross-leaved heath and cranberry dominate the area.

Other local and rare plant species include great sundew, tall bog sedge and few-flowered sedge and waders, including dunlin, breed at the site. In summer look out for the distinctive white flowers of cloudberry, a plant more usually found at higher altitudes.

Butterburn Flow is a blanket bog, meaning that it lies over the landscape like a wet blanket. It receives moisture from groundwater as well as from rainfall. Surprisingly, it’s relatively intact with a high water table as there’s been little artificial drainage in the past. As a result, peat is still actively growing and an abundance of sphagnum moss, which forms extensive lawns and hummocks, known as patterned mire thrives in this wet environment. 

The site is managed in partnership with the Forestry Commission.

Contact us

Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Contact number: (0191) 284 6884
Contact email: mail@northwt.org.uk

Environmental designation

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)