I HAVE recently enjoyed a number of walks along the many now disused railway tracks in Cumbria.
This week I explored the line which once brought coke from the Durham Coalfields to fuel the iron ore furnaces in the Furness district.
The Smardale Gill Viaduct is a reminder of this time and now forms part of the excellent nature trail now well looked after by the Cumbria Naturalists’ Trust.
1*At the start or end of this walk take the time to explore the church dedicated to St Oswald.
There may have been a Saxon church on this site but the present building only dates to the mid 18th Century.
Also some time should be spent in the churchyard which is full of colour right into autumn.
From the school ascend the road and take first one and then another left turn on to Hobers Lane with the route signed to Garshill.
Continue to follow this track and go over a stile and then cross a bridge over a stream.
Follow a sign, over a walk stile and cross over the A685 to another stile on the opposite side of the road.
2*Continue ahead with conifer plantations firstly on the left and then on the right.
There are lots of limestone quarries and also what have been called Giant’s Graves or Pillow Mounds.
Actually these were artificial rabbit warrens taking us back to Norman times.
The rabbit, introduced to Britain in the 12th Century, was much sought after for both the fur and flesh.
Pass over a couple of obvious stiles and follow the line of a wall to a gate.
Go through this and the route then veers left and approaches Scandal Beck which is spanned by Smardale Bridge.
Do not cross this but bear sharp right.
3*Here are more Giant’s Graves and old quarries.
4*Continue to Smardale Gill Viaduct. Long before the railway came this area was a track used by Scottish drovers bringing their cattle to markets in England.
They even had their own inn, which was known as the Scottish Ale House.
At the time of the 1715 and 1745 rebellions plotters supporting the Stuarts against the Hanoverians met at the ale house.
At the viaduct turn left and follow the old railway. This is the place to combine a study of industrial history and wildlife typical of a limestone habitat.
All our motorways and buildings need cement and at one time limestone was an essential fertiliser for fields.
The Wildlife Trust has done well presenting this habitat and some areas can only be visited by special permit.
People should keep to the marked path and keep their dogs on leads.
Pass the railway cottage on the right and then bear left away from the old line.
5*At Smardale Bridge bear left and then right passing yet more old quarries and warrens.
Do not cross the bridge but keep Scandal Beck on the left. Pass through a plantation and negotiate stiles to approach the A685 and return to the start between the school and church.
Getting there: Find your way to Kirkby Stephen then follow the A685 in a south westerly direction to reach St Oswald’s Church where there is parking .
Distance: Four miles.
Time: Allow 2-3 hours because parts of the route is steep but mainly because there is much to see.