Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve

Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve by Phillip Gates FlickrThis reserve supports important limestone grasslands. Also on the reserve is an ancient semi-natural woodland and woods on the slopes of Scandal Beck gill. The section occupied by the disused rail line is 3.5 miles long. The reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the amount and variety of flora and fauna.

Along the embankments of the former rail line and in the grassy areas are blue moor grass, alpine bistort, bird's eye primrose, butterfly orchids, common spotted orchids, bird's foot sedge, wild thyme, melancholy thistle and bloody cranesbill.Cranesbill at Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve by Stephen Craven

The blue moor grass is a magnet for the Scotch argus butterfly as the larvae feed on it. Other butterflies on show in July and August are the dark green fritillary, the northern brown argus, the large skipper, and the common blue.

The woodland (Demesne Woods) is mostly ash and hazel but there are also birch, elm, and oak here. Beneath the trees grow herb Paris, wild garlic, sweet woodruff, stone bramble, and bird's nest orchid. Further into the more ancient part of the woods primroses, ramsons, ferns, and bluebells can be spotted.

Buzzard by David Packman Hampshire CamIn the woods are roe deer and red squirrels. Summer birds in the reserve are the long-tailed tit, pied flycatcher, redstart, and wood warbler. Year round birds are the treecreeper, buzzard, and sparrowhawk.

Smardale viaduct used as a footpath to Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve by Carl BendelowMap Reference:
OS 1:50,000
Sheet No 91
NY 727 070
Area along railway line open to all; for other parts of the reserve non-members need to have a permit–tel. 01539 816 300 for details.
From A685 4km east of Ravenstonedale or .75km south of Kirkby Stephen rail station turn onto road signed to Smardale. Cross over rail line and turn left at junction. Do not follow sign for Smardale at this point, instead cross disused railway, turn left at once and left again for car park.

Photos courtesy of Phillip Gates , Stephen Craven , David Packman , Carl Bendelow .

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