Lochs and Mires of the Ale & Ettrick Waters IPA

Location: Scottish Borders, north east and east of Selkirk. Most of the component sites for this IPA surround the Whitlaw Mosses National Nature Reserve, which is alongside the A699, east of Selkirk.

Grid Reference: NT 506 290

Lochs and Mires of the Ale & Ettrick Waters IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • The species richness of stoneworts in surface standing waters.
  • One of the best UK examples of threatened habitats of:
    Mires and quaking bogs with both calcareous and acidic vegetation;
    Nutrient poor lakes with sparse vegetation;
    Nutrient rich lakes with abundant vegetation;
    Alkaline fens
  • These areas of wetland support a diverse range of fen communities and are of particular importance as a northern outpost of rich-fen types rare in Britain.

    Whitlaw and Branxholme are basin fens in a landscape like corrugated cardboard, with the damp fens in the hollows which are fed by ground water. The peat in them is many metres deep in places and they contain nationally scarce plants, mosses and liverworts.

    The IPA is of particular importance for its strong population of the rare slender green feather-moss, in decline elsewhere, and the stonewort species to be found in the water bodies. Some areas are carpeted with sphagnum bog-moss, but the habitats occurring here also include lichen rich willow scrub, sedge swamps, herb meadows and grasslands. The presence of a northerly element in the diverse flora, particularly coral root orchid, alpine rush, holy grass, cowbane and narrow small-reed and the absence of some species characteristic of rich fens in southern Britain make the sites unique.