9th June 2012
I was still at home in Burnley at noon, watching incessant rain and wondering how I could occupy the legs and the camera. I hatched a plan and gambled on there being better weather elsewhere.
Scroll down for photos and a description of the walk....
Hellifield Railway Station
Here comes the 13:40 to Carlisle. I reckoned that if nothing else, I could go for a ride on a train and sit in a pub. But if the weather was better around Kirkby Stephen, then there is plenty of scope for a walk.
Compare the photo on the left with the 09:40 service earlier in the year, when Peter and I got off the train at Settle due to overcrowding. This was the lead carriage of three and I'm sure there were are a few passengers elsewhere. On the right, the train leaves for Appleby and later, Carlisle. My route starts with a walk up the road, past the cottages, just in view.
Not sure about the name of the lane, but it does lead to the small hamlet of Smardale. The weather was much better in eastern Cumbria than East Lancashire and this walk promises much, I'm looking for an old railway viaduct that cannot be visited by road and cannot be seen unless you're on foot.
This area in Waitby CP, west of Kirkby Stephen, has many small, rounded hills. Could these be glacial deposits, drumlins, perhaps?
Wild Boar Fell
Wild Boar Fell can be seen beyond two more little hills; Little and Great Whitber.
Unwittingly the route I chose happened to also be part of the Coast-to-Coast walk, hence a few greetings and a well worn track. The map indicated two walls running almost in parallel and here they are. The history of such must be interesting.
The river flowing into Smardale comes from Ravenstonedale, the dismantled railway is coming in from Newbiggin-on-Lune along a feature called Severals Gill.
Smardale Gill Viaduct
This is what I've come to see. Part of the disused South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway "Stainmore Line" which used to carry coke from Durham to Barrow-In-Furness, for the steel industry. The sunshine is a bonus, just "dry" would have been good enough today.
I crossed the bridge and climbed up to the old railway line.
The Disused Railway Line
My map does not indicate a right of way, but it is clear that walkers are allowed along the trackbed and such is owned by The Cumbria Wildlife Trust.
Disused Line or Not?? - Hover your pointer over the image....
Could that be the clumsiest piece of photo-shopping ever? The quarry would have had a siding here for loading; research suggests that the Stainmore Line was mainly single track in this area, despite the viaduct being wide enough for two lines.
This is "Railway Walking" at its best! Miles from any roads and not a cyclist in sight. Bring a small rug and a picnic and spend a little time at Smardale Limestone Kilns, you will not be disappointed!
These were the only other walkers I saw on the old trackbed.
A warning sign advises against doing anything "risky". The viaduct is owned by The Northern Viaduct Trust, an entity formed with the original purpose of buying this viaduct off British Rail, some 20 years after the last train had crossed the arches. Think about the long-haired, baggy trousered odd-balls in their anoraks, carrying genuine '70's Adidas shoulder bags (not the retro ones on sale now); if it wasn't for them, this may well have been demolished by now.
The Trackbed Walk
Here the Settle to Carlisle Railway crosses the Stainmore Line. The Stainmore pre-dates the S&C by about fifteen years.
Railway Cutting 1
Railway Cutting 2
The cutting in photo 1 has been driven through solid rock, however....the cutting in photo 2 is quite different! A study of the "walls" reveals a much looser rock composite and much more post-railway debris. I suspect that cutting 2 has been driven through glacial deposit, this could be the heart of a drumlin!
Eden Valley Railway
Here the Stainmore Line joins the Eden Valley Railway and runs to Kirkby Stephen East Railway Station. The EVR trackbed is in the trees. The EVR has a short section of track in place at Appleby and runs preserved trains. It looks as though they got the ones, nobody else wanted :-( and it's not clear where the trains run to.
The Stainmore Railway Company
at Kirkby Stephen East. The last part of the walk along the old trackbed is a little untidy. You can get as far as Greenriggs Farm and then you have to leave the line and head north into Kirkby Stephen. Another venture by men who don't like spending too much time at home.
The Walk to Kirkby Stephen Railway Station
The S&C line's station is someway out of the town and "they" have made a good footpath to keep walkers off the main road.
Good catch! That looks like food for the nest.
Kirkby Stephen Railway Station
Another fine station on the Settle to Carlisle Railway. Maybe us "locals" take it for granted, but the Settle to Carlisle is more than just a railway line. It's a gateway to many fine walks; it's a peep at Victorian railway history; it's a look at miles upon miles of open countryside. Just a shame the ultimate destination is Carlisle, get off before the end.
Walkers: Just Me.
Time taken: 4hrs 10 mins over a distance of about 10 miles.
Route: KS railway station, up the A685 to the Smardale turn off, along the "B" road to the Coast-to-Coast signpost and then over Smardale Fell to Smardale Bridge. Pick up the old trackbed and follow such all the way back as far as Greenrigs and then into the south of Kirkby Stephen before picking up the footpath back to the station.
Weather and conditions: Sunny intervals, breezy. Declining to full cloud and a little light rain.
Greetings Count: Some "Coast-to-Coasters" early on and then the one group on the old line.
Richard's Refreshment Review: Nothing on offer on the walk and no time to visit Kirkby Stephen town. The outbound train had a refreshment trolley, many of the S&C trains have these trolleys - check the timetable to avoid disappointment.