What we do

What we do

Duddon details

History of the landscape


What we do   

The Duddon Estuary Partnership was set up in 1992 to bring together representatives from a range of interest groups and organisations to help ensure no harm came to wildlife interests in the area.


The Partnership meets 3 times a year to raise and discuss current issues affecting the area. We have a consultative, advisory and educational role.


Key members of the Partnership include:


Local authorities, Natural England, Environment Agency, Town and Parish Councils, Ramblers Association, West Cumbria Sea Sports, Millom Nature Reserve Group, Wildfowlers Association, Country Landowners Association, Kirksanton Community Group and local businesses.


Cumbria County Council provides the secretariat to the Partnership. For more information contact Brian Crawford (Chair) crawford-brian@sky.com


Duddon details

Some Basic Facts about the Duddon

The Duddon is a large sandy estuary lying between Morecambe Bay and the West Cumbrian coast. It opens into the Irish Sea just north of Barrow. A total length of shoreline of 45 kms encloses a total area of 3500 ha. making it the second largest estuary in Cumbria after the Solway Firth.


The Estuary is broad inlet with hills on either side forming the western boundary of Furness.  While mainly long and narrow, it widens considerably at the seaward end with the landscape merging northwards into the coastal plain, southward into Walney Island and westwards into the sea itself. The main elements in the landscape are the intertidal areas, the defining hills, and extensive dunes at Sandscale Haws and Haverigg supporting important and varied wildlife.


There are a wide variety of wildlife habitats in the Duddon. See ‘Special Qualities’ for details. At low water the Estuary is an extensive tract of sand and silt, dissected by narrow channels of water. Areas of saltmarsh particularly in the upper reaches are also extensive with much variation between them. The National Trust owns the dunes at Sandscale Haws.


The northern tip of Walney Island, an unusual barrier island, bounds the south-east corner of the estuary while to the north, Hodbarrow sea wall, a tidal barrier protecting former iron ore workings and flooded when pumping stopped in the 1960’s, forms an enclosed lagoon. Some of this area is owned and managed as a bird reserve by RSPB. At the head of the estuary near to Duddon Bridge is an extensive system of raised mires.


While the upper estuary is mainly rural in character, the outer estuary is more urban. To the east of the Walney Channel is port town of Barrow, perhaps not strictly on the estuary. Then in the estuary proper there are a number of small towns and villages notably Millom/Haverigg close to the north shore, while on the east side there is Askam/Ireleth, Kirkby and finally Broughton at the northern tip. The total population around the estuary is estimated at 56,000 (excluding Barrow).


History of the landscape

The Duddon Estuary is a landscape shaped by geological forces, glaciers, then finally, man. While continuous human activity around the estuary goes back to the Neolithic and early bronze age, apart from a number of stone chipping sites, flints and stone axe finds, there is little visible evidence of these periods in the Duddon. Later in the 12th and 13th centuries monks from Furness Abbey started developing the area; Sandscale was once a holding of the Abbey and much wooded land was cleared at this time, possibly for iron smelting and for providing pasture. Not much else was recorded until the 19th century when the development of the great haematite iron mines of Hodbarrow and Roanhead and Ironworks at Millom and Askam imposed an industrial overlay on what had been a rural backdrop. Haematite was the prime source of iron ore prior to the invention of the Bessemer process. However these developments had little impact further inland with the upper estuary remained largely pastoral and apart from the small market town of Broughton, thinly populated. Today the curious Hodbarrow Lagoon and a few other artifacts as well as the settlements of Millom and Askam provide the only evidence of this rich industrial heritage.


Farming and fishing have continued in a reduced role and the area is developing tourism, one of Cumbria’s growth industries. The area has needed to search for a new purpose and economic base, which it can sustain.








Duddon Estuary Partnership

Duddon Estuary from Barwick rails


Looking over Askam to Hodbarrow


Sandscale looking over Askam brickworks


Haverigg wind farm


Sand ripples at Haverigg


Over Askam to Black Combe


Boats at Haverigg


Looking north from Askam pier

Photographs courtesy of Peter W Robinson 1993, 96, 97

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