Astley and Bedford Mosses are areas of peat bog south of the Bridgewater Canal and north of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in Astley and Bedford, Leigh in north west England. They are among the last remaining fragments of Chat MossChat Moss is a large area of peat bog that makes up 30 per cent of the City of Salford, in Greater Manchester, England. , the raised bog that once covered a large area of south Lancashire north of the River Mersey. Astley Moss was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1989. Astley and Bedford Mosses, along with Risley Moss and Holcroft Moss, are part of Manchester Mosses, a European Union designated Special Area of Conservation.
Astley and Bedford Mosses are adjacent to the Liverpool to Manchester railway and bordered by agricultural land. They are a fragment of Chat Moss, the 25-square metre (30 yd2) lowland raised mire[a]Mire is an alternative name for a bog. that developed over tills and glacial flood gravels that overlie Triassic sandstones. The lowland raised bog, formed after the last ice age about 10,000 years ago on the site of a shallow glacial lake to the north of the River Mersey. Fen peat formed in an area colonised by reeds and rushes. Sphagnum mosses then colonised the area causing a change from fen to bog peat which became elevated forming a dome, the raised bog. Sphagnum mosses increase the acidity of the water resulting in highly specialised plant species, many found nowhere else.
Most of Chat Moss has been drained and reclaimed for agriculture or cut for peat. Astley and Bedford Mosses are higher than the surrounding land and retain a considerable depth of peat.
The habitats found on the mosses are modified mire, heathland, woodland and acidic grassland that have grown above the the cut peat surface. Areas of mire are dominated by common and hare’s-tail cottongrasses. Bog mosses are scarce but five types of sphagnum grow in patches in the cottongrass and in and alongside some ditches. Drier peat has attracted a monospecific sward of purple moor grass and birch has become established over a large part of the site. Heather is scattered throughout and dominates an area of heathland on the north eastern edge where cranberry is also found.
The mosses are attractive to wintering raptors such as hen harrier, short-eared owl and merlin and are breeding sites for curlew and long-eared owl. Nightjars may also breed.
In 2019 the Wildlife Trust started a project with Chester Zoo to release the Manchester Argus butterfly into the Manchester Mosses. Also known as the large heath, it had been locally extinct for more than 150 years. As part of the reintroduction project, in 2018, about 20 strands of lesser bladderwort, one of the UK’s few carnivorous plants, were planted in ponds at Astley Moss. It had been extinct for more than 100 years but by October 2019 between 4,000 and 5,000 strands were established in a ditch. The project also aims to reintroduce sundew and white beaked sedge.
|^a||Mire is an alternative name for a bog.|