Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Cumbria Wildlife Trust manages over 40 nature reserves throughout Cumbria extending to over 3000 hectares. Two of these nature reserves are in the vicinity of Kirkby Stephen and are on disused railway lines which link with Kirkby Stephen East railway station. They are Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve and Waitby Greenriggs Nature Reserve. Both will be open to visitors during the 150 anniversary celebrations and in addition there will be free transport to the Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve with guided walks on each of the three days and refreshments will also be available to purchase. There is limited parking at both nature reserves although we are hoping to arrange extra parking at Smardale Gill.
Nature Reserve Guides of all the Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserves will be available for purchase for £7 at Kirkby Stephen East and these give directions to the nature reserves. In addition there are free leaflets for the Smardale Gill nature reserve.
Map reference, OS1:50000 Sheet no 91 NY 727 070
The nature reserve provides 6km/3.5 miles of level walking. The railway line does not have a consistent surface being grass on some sections and railway ballast/cinder on others. There are ramps at the Smardale Hall and Newbiggin ends.
The Trust first purchased land at Smardale Gill in 1978, however there have been a number of subsequent additions. The railway line was purchased from British rail in 1991. The site became a National Nature reserve in 1997.
At the northern end, the nature reserve includes the steep wooded slopes of the gill carved by the Scandal Beck, whilst south of the Smardale Gill Viaduct, owned and restored by the Northern Viaduct Trust, the character changes and you find yourself in rolling countryside typical of the area. Woodland has probably been present at Smardale Gill since the medieval period and as a result a great diversity of plant species can be found here. Many of the trees are multi-stemmed, evidence that coppicing has occurred in the past. In summer bird species include redstart and pied flycatcher whilst buzzard, treecreeper and sparrowhawk may be seen all year round. Non-native tree species, planted in the woodland are gradually being removed. The grassland, which has colonised the railway cuttings and embankments, is also very rich in species due to the underlying limestone rock.
The guided walks will start at the Smardale Hall end where there will be toilet facilities and refreshments. The walks will follow the line to just beyond the Smardale Gill viaduct, possibly as far as a limestone quarry and two large limekilns. It will be too late in the year for most of the orchids to be in flower but late species such as bloody cranesbill and knapweed should be seen. The nature reserve is one of only two sites in England where the Scotch Argus butterfly can be seen and it is possible that one or two may be in flight. The maximum distance will be about 5 km.
Self guided walks are also possible with a free nature reserve leaflet. There are information boards along the line as well as bench seats at intervals.
Map reference OS 1:50000 Sheet no.91
NY 757 086
The nature reserve is accessed directly from a public road via a stone stile. There are steps down from the embankments onto the track bed. Once on the track the route along the nature reserve is level (O.8km/.5 miles from the entrance to the end).On the southern section of the nature reserve, steps connect the upper and lower tracks. The Trust purchased the nature reserve in 1987 from British Rail.
Waitby Greenriggs occupies a short section of the old Stainmore railway and the Eden Valley branch line where these two lines converge. The cuttings and embankments have developed a very diverse grassland flora with over 200 species of flowering plants. In August devil's bit scabious, grass of Parnassus and autumn gentian appear. Up to 20 species of butterfly can be seen on the nature reserve over the course of the summer. Rabbits and hares occur on the nature reserve and frogs breed in the old drains alongside the track. Tawny owls have bred and buzzards are frequently seen.
Smardale Gill to Waitby Greenriggs.
It is possible to walk from Smardale Gill to the Waitby Greenriggs nature reserve by following a permissive path along the disused line linking the two reserves. From Waitby Greenriggs, footpaths across fields lead to Kirkby Stephen. Leaflets describing the route will be available at Kirkby Stephen East Station.
Click HERE to visit the Cumbria Wildlife Trust web site