Near Foxfield, the River Duddon flows into the open expanse of its estuary and splits into several channels that weave their way between mudflats and sand bars before entering the Irish Sea. The diverse range of coastal habitats attracts huge numbers of breeding, migratory and overwintering birds and holds a quarter of the UK's breeding population of natterjack toads. As such, the whole estuary is of national and international importance and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
North Walney National Nature Reserve
A patchwork of sand dunes, dune heath, salt marsh and intertidal mudflats that supports over 350 species from rare invertebrates to natterjack toads and a whole host of birds, especially waders. Over 300 different floral species have been recorded, including the rare Walney geranium that flourishes in the dry dunes. Access is on foot from the car park at Earnse Bay.
South Walney Nature Reserve
A similar diverse range of habitats can be found at the southern end of Walney Island, a reserve leased and managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust (CWT). Sand and gravel extraction has left behind large lagoons that attract numerous birds. Huge numbers of gulls breed here as well as the southernmost colony of eider ducks in Britain. An observation hide allows undisturbed views of the gull colony during the breeding season (May-June) and provides information on the fascinating life and behaviour of gulls. Two self-guided circular trails can be followed, one partly suitable for the disabled. Conveniently located bird hides allow close observation of birds in differing habitats. Grey seals can often be seen from Pier Hide and Groyne Hide at high tide. Access is from the car park 1 mile (1.6 km) beyond South End Caravan Park. Admission charge (CWT members exempt). Toilets on site (including disabled). No dogs allowed.
Foulney Island Nature Reserve
A long narrow spit of land projecting into Morecambe Bay formed entirely of pebbles brought from the Lake District by glaciers. Like Roa Island, Foulney was once a true island until it was connected to the mainland by a causeway in the late 19th century. The ‘island' is now a bird sanctuary, mainly for breeding terns (arctic, common and little) that travel vast distances to nest on the island's shingle banks. Amazingly, arctic terns travel here from Antarctica every year; Foulney Island being the only place in Cumbria where they regularly breed. Access to the reserve is from the car park on the Roa Island causeway. Please note that the causeway is inaccessible during high tides and no attempt should be made to return to the car park until the tide turns.
Ormsgill Quarry and Reservoir
Many of the buildings in Barrow are built of red sandstone hewn from Ormsgill Quarry. The site now provides panoramic views over the town and the Duddon estuary. A footpath follows the base of the quarry towards Ormsgill Reservoir, a noted refuge for waterfowl.
Sandscale Haws National Nature Reserve
A diverse coastal habitat of spectacular sandhills, dune slacks and salt marshes that is constantly changing in response to tides and winds. Fantastic views over the Duddon estuary to the Lakeland hills and Walney Island. Special events in summer organised by the National Trust. Open all year round with a network of paths (some suitable for the disabled) linked to the main car park.
Abbotswood Nature Reserve
Attractive mixed woodland on the eastern slope of the Vale of Nightshade. Waymarked routes throughout the wood and linking footpaths to Furness Abbey, Dalton and Millwood. Car park and toilets at the amphitheatre (south of Furness Abbey).
Crescent-shaped wood on the western edge of the Goldmire Valley, fronting an area of marshland. Footpaths link the woodland with Abbotswood Nature Reserve and the Goose Green picnic area at Dalton.