Risley Moss Nature Trail

Risley Moss

Risley Moss is a Local Nature Reserve on the edge of Warrington in Cheshire. It is a beautiful mixed woodland of Oak, Ash and Birch teeming with wildlife next to a wild boggy Mossland Conservation Area steeped in history. During the industrial revolution Risley Moss was stripped of its peat, then during the Second World War it was the site of a vast munitions factory. These days Risley Moss is a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. The Woodland Hide is a particular favourite of mine, I can sit in it for hours listening and watching the many woodland birds, and in all my visits I have never once failed to see the Great Spotted Woodpecker. There is also a spectacular Observation Tower that gives a wide panoramic view of the Mossland Conservation Area. If you live within the mass conurbations of Liverpool, Warrington and Manchester and want somewhere idyllic to escape too then Risley Moss is ideal, especially on a quiet weekday. The Visitor Centre, Facilities, Woodland Hides and Picnic Areas are all disable friendly. It is also really easy to find just off the M62.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the Risley Moss car park at grid reference SJ664920. To get to the Risley Moss car park leave the M62 at junction 11 and follow the A574 for a mile until you reach a roundabout. At this roundabout turn left, then go straight on at the next two roundabouts. There are brown Risley Moss signs approaching each roundabout.
  2. From the car park head to the Visitor Centre. This is a must do before walking around the reserve. There is lots of fascinating information on the past, present and future of Risley Moss accompanied by excellent old photography. There are also toilet facilities at the Visitor Centre.
  3. There is a handy map on a board outside the front of the Visitor Centre which is worth looking at. It shows the routes of the three trails in the reserve. The Acorn Trail being the easiest, then there is the Woodland Trail and the Nature Trail. Each is depicted by its own symbol on the signs around the reserve.
  4. From the front door of the visitor centre turn right and head north to north east along what is the Acorn Trail and Nature Trail. The path is signposted to Picnic Area where you will pass a few picnic benches on the right and then a pond on the left.
  5. Three hundred metres after leaving the Visitor Centre you will reach a path junction. Here do not turn right towards the Woodland Hide, instead continue along the same path signposted to the Tower.
  6. After a few metres the path turns right avoiding a gated lane and heads towards the huge wooden Observation Tower. You can climb up the wooden steps into the tower for a great view across the Mossland Conservation Area.
  7. From the Observation Tower you are most likely to see Wildfowl and Birds of Prey. There are often friendly bird spotters with huge telephoto lenses beneath the tower that will be more than happy to tell you of the weeks visitors. These can oftne include Buzzards, Hen Harrier, Harris Hawk, Kestrel, Sparrow Hawk, Short Eared Owl, Hobby, Peregrine Falcon and even Osprey have been known to visit the moss.
  8. The other view from the Observation Tower is that of the surrounding county of Cheshire. There is a constant distant view of planes coming in and out of Manchester Airport. On the far horizon the Peak District and Cheshire's highest point Shining Tor with the pyramid shaped top of Shutlingsloe on its right.
  9. From the Observation Tower retrace your steps back to the path junction you were at earlier. This time turn left and follow the signs to the Woodland Hide. After eighty metres turn right down a short path to reach the Woodland Hide.
  10. This Woodland Hide is one of my favourite places. I have been known to sit for hours watching the magical woodland scene. There are feeders in front of the hide and a Silver Birch stump stuffed with fat. Keep still and patient for less than half an hour and you are highly likely to see a Great Spotted Woodpecker.
  11. From this Woodland Hide I have seen Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrow Hawk, Grey Squirrel, Fox, Pheasant, Domestic Cat, Bat, Yellow Hammer, Starling, Green Finch, Bull Finch, Chaffinch, Robin, Jay, Long Tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Magpie, Swallow, Wood Pigeon, Nuthatch, Mouse and more.
  12. From the Woodland Hide head back to the main path then turn right. A hundred and twenty metres along the path you will reach the path from the Visitor Centre on the right. Don't turn right here, instead continue along the Nature Trail on the path sign posted to the Mossland Hide.
  13. The path passes through open grass areas and meadows surrounded by birch woodland. After five hundred metres you will reach a path to the left sign posted to the Mossland Hide. The Mossland Hide is a hundred metres along the path through the birch woodland.
  14. The Mossland Hide is a great place to see migratory Wildfowl and if you are lucky Water Voles. There isn't as much activity as the Woodland Hide but it is still worth a visit on the off chance of seeing something special. You cannot and should not go beyond the Mossland Hide, there are organised ranger walks out on to the Mossland Conservation Area, but it is a dangerous and fragile environment.
  15. From the Mossland Hide retrace your steps along the hundred metre long path through the woods to the main Nature Trail path. When you reach the path turn left and head along it as it now bends right and back on itself.
  16. As you walk around the Nature Trail it is worth wandering off to explore the many boggy ponds and small meadows. The ponds have an abundance of Newts, Toads, Frogs and Dragonflies. The Meadows are colourful all year round with wild flowers and buzzing with Butterflies, Bees and other Insects. Rabbits can often be seen around the edges of the meadows and picnic areas. The moss is also home to Common Lizards and Adders.
  17. You will eventually reach a path off to the left sign posted to the Visitor Centre via Minimoss Trail and Steps. Turn left here for a more scenic and adventurous route back to the Visitor Centre. The path heads through boggy forest, over a stream then turns right up the steps to the Visitor Centre.
  18. At the Visitor Centre you will see one of the original horse drawn Peat Carts that would have been used to take the peat from the moss to road and rail and eventually the industrial cities and farms. If you hadn't already visited the Visitor Centre then make sure you do. There is a donations box in the Visitor Centre for anyone wishing to donate to the good cause of feeding the birds and looking after this fabulous place.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer 276 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 109 Map Click to buy Pathfinder Guides Cheshire Nature Reserves in Cheshire

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.