Can the appearance on BBC Autumnwatch give Leighton Moss Reserve a much needed boost?

Programme Name: Autumnwatch - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Embargoed for publication until: n/

Programme Name: Autumnwatch - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Embargoed for publication until: n/a - Picture Shows: Michaela Strachan, Chris Packham, Martin Hughes-Games - (C) BBC - Photographer: Emily Sandy - Credit: BBC

Areas all round Morecambe Bay could be given a boost by Leighton Moss’s starring role on television

Children looking for model bitterns in reed bed, Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve by Andy Hay rspb-images.

Children looking for model bitterns in reed bed, Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve by Andy Hay - Credit: Ben Hall (

The eyes of the nation were trained on the Lancashire coast for a week last month and though the Autumnwatch cameras have been turned off, the effects are still being felt.

Red deer stags Leighton Moss by Malcolm Welch

Red deer stags Leighton Moss by Malcolm Welch - Credit: Malcolm Welch

Wildlife at Leighton Moss starred in the BBC’s annual showcase of seasonal flora and fauna and the tv exposure has prompted a flood of visitors. But bosses at the RSPB reserve hope they won’t be the only ones to reap the rewards of the surge in interest – they would like to see the whole Morecambe Bay area benefit.

Reserve manager Robin Horner said: ‘We are hoping it will help put Leighton Moss on the map, but this wasn’t just about Leighton Moss. The key thing is that the programme gave a lift to all the area around the bay. We tried to highlight as many wildlife spectacles as possible and to promote nature tourism across the whole area.

‘We hope the programme will give impetus to our vision of raising awareness that Morecambe Bay area and the area around the bay is one of the top places to see wildlife. Autumnwatch gave a snapshot but the wildlife is there all year round.’

Leighton Moss, which sits on the edge of the bay and within the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, welcomes about 100,000 people a year but evidence from other sites which have hosted Autumnwatch is that numbers increase suddenly after the show.

‘The effect seems to vary from site to site,’ Robin added. ‘But we have made contingency plans for a large increase in visitors and hopefully places around the bay will see a surge in numbers too.’

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Among the wildlife featured on the show which has attracted more people to the area are flocks of thousands of starlings, rutting red deer and the huge numbers of wading birds feeding on the nutrient-rich Morecambe Bay mud. The reserve’s otters, bitterns and bearded tits also made appearances and the surrounding landscape provided a stunning backdrop to the creatures great and small which make this one of the wildest corners of Lancashire.

Morecambe Bay is one of only 12 Nature Improvement Areas in the UK – areas where landowners, businesses, communities and wildlife groups work together to help nature and animals thrive.

The three-year government-funded scheme was launched in April 2012 and encourages people to work together for the benefit of the wildlife in their area. Robin said: ‘Individual groups can only do so much working on their own, but more can be achieved by working together.

‘We are trying to connect fragmented habitats around the bay and its hinterlands. There are some really fantastic areas to try to unite and hopefully anyone who was not aware of the area before Autumnwatch will be now.’

Leighton Moss Reserve

Getting there

Leighton Moss reserve is four miles north of Carnforth, with Brown Signs from the A6. Typing LA5 0SW into your satnav should get you there. If you’re using public transport, Silverdale railway station is close to the reserve and there are regular buses from Silverdale and Carnforth.

What you’ll see

Winter highlights at Leighton Moss include flocks of siskins, wigeons and gleylag geese as well as large numbers of teals, shovellers and gadwalls. There are also water rails and if you’re lucky you may also spot (or more likely hear) a bittern.

What to do

Leighton Moss is the site of the largest remaining reed bed in the North West and three nature trails wind around the reserve which are suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. There are seven hides, as well as a visitor centre, shop and tearoom. Guided walks are available.

What’s the cost

Entry to the visitor centre and café is free. Admission to the hides and trails costs £5 for adults, £3 for concessions and £1 for children but is free to RSPB members and anyone who arrives by public transport or on a bicycle.