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Smardale Gill - BirdForum Opus

Photo by HelenB
View of Smardale Gill Viaduct with Scandal Beck in the foreground, looking NNE towards the Pennines, September 2003

England, Cumbria


Smardale Gill is a National Nature Reserve, 40 hectares in size, located near the small town of Kirby Stephen, Cumbria and is managed by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust. The reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and was developed along the disused track of the old Tebay to Darlington Railway. The walking trail crosses the magnificent Smardale Gill Viaduct.


Photo by HelenB
Looking SW along Scandal Beck from Smardale Gill Viaduct, September 2009

Notable Species

Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Curlew, Common Raven, White-throated Dipper, Garden Warbler, Ring Ouzel, Grey Wagtail


None reported.


Birds you can see here include:

Mallard, Common Merganser, Common Pheasant, Grey Heron, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Eurasian Woodcock, Black-headed Gull, Stock Dove, Common Wood Pigeon, Tawny Owl, Common Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Green Woodpecker, Eurasian Kestrel, Eurasian Jay, Eurasian Magpie, Eurasian Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Common Raven, Sky Lark, Barn Swallow, Common House Martin, Coal Tit, Eurasian Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Treecreeper, Eurasian Wren, White-throated Dipper, Goldcrest, Wood Warbler, Willow Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Eurasian Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Greater Whitethroat, European Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, European Robin, Common Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Eurasian Blackbird, Redwing, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, European Starling, Dunnock, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Common Chaffinch, Eurasian Bullfinch, European Greenfinch, Common Redpoll, Eurasian Siskin, European Goldfinch, House Sparrow

eBird Bar Chart of species seen at Smardale Gill

Photo by HelenB
Entrance kiosk at the north end of the reserve, near Smardale Hall, July 2010

Other Wildlife

Red squirrels are making a comeback here. Roe deer are occasionally seen. The Scotch Argus, a butterfly not normally seen this far south, is found at Smardale Gill and also Arnside Knott in south Cumbria.

Site Information

History and Use

The Cumbria Wildlife Trust first purchased land at Smardale Gill in 1978. This was followed by more acquisitions and the Trust finally bought the disused railway line from British Rail in 1991. The Tebay to Darlington railway line had been closed since 1962 and the viaduct, built in 1861 and owned by the Northern Viaduct Trust, fell into disrepair. Repairs were completed by 1992 and the site finally became a National Nature Reserve in 1997.

Areas of Interest

Photo by HelenB
Red squirrel feeding on larch cones, July 2010

Access and Facilities

  • Map reference: NY 727 070
  • 3.5 miles (6km) of level walking along the old railway track route, with ramps at both the Smardale Hall and Newbiggin ends, where there is parking. NB: the parking area at the Smardale Hall end is very small
  • Path connects with several other public footpaths, including the Coast to Coast Walk
  • Dogs are only allowed if on a leash/lead
  • Open at all times
  • No entrance charge
  • No toilet facilities

Contact Details

Reserve Manager: Andrew Walter

Photo by HelenB
Scotch Argus butterfly, a specialty of the reserve - Cumbria is its most southerly point in the British Isles, August 2013

Recommended Citation

External Links

Content and images originally posted by HelenB