Exploring Westmorland Dales
Join me, Debbie North as I explore the Westmorland Dales.
The area lies to the north of the Howgill Fells in Cumbria, extending over 200 sq km from Maulds Meaburn in the north to Tebay in the south-west and Ravenstonedale in the south-east.
Kirkby Stephen Railway Station
Grid Ref NY 772067
My adventure begins at the railway station in Kirkby Stephen. Lying close to the border of the Yorkshire Dales in Cumbria, Kirkby Stephen Railway Station serves the town of Kirkby Stephen.
The station building is a wonderful example of Midland Railway architecture at its best, and was the only station on the line to have the luxury of a first class waiting room.
The station is just over 1.5 miles (2 km) from the town (and over 150 feet (46 m) above it) at Midland Hill. There is a multi-use footpath which runs through the fields alongside the busy A685 over the former Stainmore Railway to Halfpenny House where it joins the lane from Wharton Hall. From here there are stunning views over towards Mallerstang and Wild Boar Fell.
Jubilee Park Kirkby Stephen
Grid reference: NY769073
Jubilee Park on the south side of Kirkby Stephen has a mature wood planted by Andrew MacKereth, the Workhouse Manager, around 1887 to commemorate the jubilee of Queen Victoria. It was a ‘labour of love’ for Andrew as he planted the woodland which is made up of horse chestnut, lime and beech trees which turn glorious shades in autumn. Much of the rest of the garden has now been left wild as a nature reserve, with the orchids in the meadow. The old bandstand provides a great place to rest and to soak up the wildlife, whilst the willow garden provides a place of adventure for children.
The Town of Kirkby Stephen
Grid reference NY772088
The market town of Kirkby Stephen lies at the head of the Eden Valley. There is a good range of shops, pubs and cafés. Take a visit to the Parish Church to see the Loki Stone and enjoy a walk down by Franks Bridge.
Podgill Viaduct Walk
Grid Refence NY 772 074
About a mile and half from Kirkby Stephen is Podgill Viaduct, a Grade II listed structure. This walk follows the permissive path along the disused railway line, now owned and managed by the Northern Viaduct Trust.
From the Stenkirth Park car park near Nateby Kirkby Stephen the route leads through the gate and down the path and onto the track. Take a slight detour to see the water cascading over the rocks below the Millennium Bridge. After a heavy rainfall the sight and sounds of the water crashing over the boulders is pretty spectacular.
The route from here is very easy access – a flat track made of compounded aggregate and tarmac – ideal for a manual wheelchair user. About a mile along the track the views begin to open up across attractive valley of Pod Gill down and Ladthwaite Beck.
Here you are walking across the viaduct. The viaduct is built of local limestone and has 11 arches, each of 30 feet span, giving it a total length of 466 feet, and a maximum height of 84 feet.
You can turn around and retrace your steps or you can continue on into the pretty village of Hartley and then onto Kirkby.
I would recommend the walk suitable for manual wheelchairs.
A Stile Free, Accessible walk from to Smardale Gill Viaduct.
Grid Reference NY 742 083
It’s a cracking walk which follows the disused railway line from the village of Smardale and is ideal for a seasoned manual chair user (that’s someone with arm muscles like Popeye) as it is relatively flat and it is a solid track all the way along to the viaduct. When I did they walk I used the power wheel attachment on the front of my wheelchair which was perfect for this walk. A mobility scooter would be fine too.
Smardale is a Cumbria Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve and it is free – although donations to the Cumbria Wildlife Trust are gratefully received. The scenery is absolutely stunning and the wildlife is in abundance, including red squirrel and Scotch Argus butterfly.
From the carpark at Smardale follow the boardwalk up the track. This is the only uphill bit of the walk but the effort is worth it. Spend time here looking for red squirrel in the tree tops. There are several benches along this section, perfect for sitting whilst on squirrel watch. At the top of the track pass through the gate and follow the signs back onto the trail.
Good news! The path is flat all the way along the rest of the route. This section of the track passes through Demesne Wood. The embankment in springtime is an explosion wild flower, including pansies and Fly orchids.
About a mile and a half into this walk you will reach the Smardale Gill (or Smardalegill – all one word on the OS map!) Viaduct with its 14 stones arches which take the track over Scandal Beck. It stands 90 feet tall and here you get the feeling you’re in a most remote place. It was designed by the Cumbrian engineer Sir Thomas Bouch as part of the South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway, which crossed the Pennines to carry coke to the iron and steel furnaces in the Barrow area and West Cumberland. The trains may have gone but the viaduct is still standing and the views are in abundance. The viaduct is in constant need of repair and maintenance and the Northern Viaduct Trust relies on donations and grants to keep this wonderful structure in good repair.
It’s your choice now. You can turn around and return the way that you came – or continue on. After the Viaduct, the track becomes grassy and potentially muddy in places. There are plans to extend the purpose built track, which will be cool but for now I’d recommend this be the turning around point for manual wheelchair users. You really do need a sturdy all-terrain wheelchair for the next section to ensure smooth and safe passage.
If you venture on you will reach Smardale Gill Quarry, the old kilns and a dilapidated house that looks as though it belongs in The Blair Witch Project, which many folk who walk the coast to coast will be familiar with. There’s about another 2 mile of track from here to explore before you reach the road once more.
You can wheel as much or as little as you want along this route…. The main thing is to enjoy it.
Smardale car park grid reference: NY 742 083; nearest postcode: CA17 4HG
Grid Reference : NY 622084
Orton is a 13th Century small market village which looks out over views of Orton Scar and the Howgills. Bridges cross and re-cross the two village becks enclosing a small central green that shares space with 17th and 18th century cottages.
Standing proud on the hillside is All Saints Church, a welcome site for people passing by on the coast to coast. The building dates from the 13th century and the white tower can be seen from miles around.
No visit to Orton would be complete without a trip into the chocolate shop.
A stile free walk around Orton.
A beautiful stile free walk which takes in the rugged landscape of the Westmorland Dales in the Yorkshire Dales. The route follows quiet country lanes and bridle paths, ideal for an all-terrain wheelchair.
The walk begins in Orton. Walk up towards to the church on the quiet B6260. You will come to a small road on your right. Follow the road until the next track on your left. Continue along the track following the beck. At the end of the track take the footpath towards Mill House Farm. Follow this track to the ford. At the ford turn right across the fields. At the road, turn left and continue onto Friar Biggin Farm. Once passed Scarside farm take the bridle path. At the track turn right and continue past the stone circle, which will be on your left. This is Gamelands stone circle, one of the largest in Cumbria. At the bottom of the track turn right and follow the quiet road back into Orton.
Grid Reference NY626160
Not far from Orton is the sleepy village of Maulds Meaburn and it’s here that I am going on a short, but beautiful river walk. Meaburn, meaning meadow stream.
In the reign of Henry 2nd, a brother and sister were given land by the crown. The King reclaimed Sir Hughes land called it Kings Meaburn whilst the sister was allowed to keep her share – hence the name Maulds Meaburn
Maulds Meaburn River Walk
Explore the sleepy village of Maulds Meaburn on this easy access river walk, ideal for a powered wheelchair user. Accessible toilets are available in the village.
Grid reference NY685083
Sunbiggin Tarn is a site of special scientific interest. It is teaming with wildlife and a number of rare flora, so a good place for nature lovers. A perfect spot for a cup of tea and some serious birdwatching.
Grid Reference NY593134
Oddendale is a hamlet in Cmbria, England, near the large village of Shap. In the hamlet is the finest of the Crosby Ravensworth stone circles. It is located 580m south west of Oddendale Hall Farm on an escarpment of Limestone within a few metres of the ridge of the watershed of the Lyennet and Lowther valleys.
The outer circle of 34 stones has a diameter of 27.1 metres, with the tallest stone only 64 cm high. The inner circle is is 7.4 metres in diameter forming a kerb of almost contiguous stones around a low mound, with the tallest being only 40cm high.
Grid Reference. NY728094
Exploring the history of Crosby Garrett is a fascinating experience, from the mighty six arched viaduct which stands at 55ft high, to St Andrew’s perched proud on the steep hill. The views over the fells to the North, East and South are breath-taking.
Grid Reference NY 6789 1302
The village lies about 5 miles south of the historic county town of Appleby-in-Westmorland and about 2 and a half miles south west of the village there is one of the most magnificent features in the whole of the dales – Great Ashby Limestone Pavement
A Circular, Stile Free Walk around Great Asby Scar
This 5.5 miles circular walk is suitable for a 4x4 all terrain wheelchair as the terrain is rugged.
Great Asby Scar National Nature Reserve (NNR) contains some of the best examples of Limestone Pavement in Britain.
Limestone pavements are nationally rare and have been extensively damaged by removal for garden rockery stone. Since the glaciers of the last ice age melted (about 10,000 years ago), weathering of the limestone has created deep fishes, or grikes, which divide the pavement into blocks called clints . These create unique homes for a whole host of wild flora and fauna.
And when on the moors listen to the sounds of the curlews, the meadow pippets and skylarks.