Brown Moss is a complex of ponds, marsh, heathland and bog in north Shropshire close to the town of Whitchurch.
The relatively small site is part of the much wider RAMSAR designated Meres and Mosses landscape, formed by glacial retreat during the last ice age. Brown Moss was known as one of the richest sites in Shropshire for plants with over 200 species recorded, gaining designation as a SAC (Special Area of Conservation) in 1992, mainly for the presence of nationally rare Floating Water-plantain Luronium natans.
Freshwater Habitats Trust have long been aware of the importance of Brown Moss: a single pond at the site was chosen to be surveyed as part of the National Pond Survey (NPS) in 1997. This pond was resurveyed by us in summer 2015 and showed that, remarkably, plant species diversity had increased in the intervening 18 year period. This is why the site has been awarded Flagship Pond status and is one of the most important pond sites in Shropshire. The heathland and woodland in which the ponds at Brown Moss lie is common land where historically livestock would have grazed, keeping the site open and creating the perfect condition for a diverse range of wetland plants.
During the Flagship Ponds project the site was surveyed for the rare Pond Mud Snail Omphiscola glabra (the site management plan mentioned an old record from the 1980s). Amazingly these surveys revealed that 7 of the 13 ponds on the site support this rare and declining mollusc, making this site a stronghold regionally and one of the only known sites in Shropshire.
Tubular Water-dropwort Oenanthe fistulosa was known to occur at Brown Moss yet had be absent since 2008 despite local botanists searching. It was thought to be extinct. In 2016, following management work to reduce shading around pools, 3 plants were discovered. When returning to resurvey the area in 2017 the plants had spread and around 30 plants were recorded. The site is also home to many important plants including Orange Foxtail Alopecurus aequalis, Lesser Marshwort Apium inundatum and the extremely rare liverwort, Channelled Crystalwort Riccia canaliculata for which Brown Moss is currently the only know site in the England.
As a Flagship Pond site Freshwater Habitats Trust are able to provide training and support to the local community and help Shropshire County Council look after the freshwater environment for future generations.
Accessibility: Some Flagship Pond sites are accessible to the public, and some are not. If in doubt, consult maps for rights of way, look online for site information, or contact the site manager, and follow any instructions on site. It is up to you to check whether you require permission to visit and access the ponds on a site.
Site owners/managers: Shropshire County Council