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Crosby Garrett, Nettle Hill, Smardale Gill, Cumbria
[ 16 km] Wed 13 Sep 2012

NY 7284 0945
The weather forecast wasn’t good but this is my only free day this week. Instead of driving straight to Crosby Garrett I decided to drive via Kendal and the A6 Shap road to see if any preparations had been made for the ‘Tour of Britain’ cycle race which rides from Carlisle to Blackpool today. All I saw was a couple of open topped busses at the Shap summit road. It was also raining which didn’t bother me much but wasn’t good for the cyclists. I drove through the lanes to Crosby Garrett and parked by the bus shelter. The village seems rather select with expensive houses and tidily mown grassed areas. I set off back along the Gallansay Lane road I’d driven into the village along. The lane climbs up slightly, under the railway, and then meets the Great Asby – Soulby road. I turned left and followed it to the Newclose Lane track on the left which heads south and out on to the moor.

Newclose Lane

Unfortunately the low cloud meant I wasn’t going to see much. The lane climbs past a reservoir and terminates at a gate then into open fell. I was on a pleasant green track for a while but when I saw the trig post on Nettle Hill decided to head off across open, and very wet, ground to the post and its surrounding low wall.

Nettle Hill trig post

It was wet and windy and not very pleasant so I headed back to the green path I’d been on.

Wet on the moor

It descended towards Bents Farm which is just off the Coast to Coast walk. A Camping Barn is advertised but as I approached the farm a sign pointed to the right saying ‘Permissive Path’.

Bents Farm Camping Barn

Sandy Bank signal box site today

Sandy Bank signal box pre 1931

I followed it across the field but found no way through so returned to the farmyard then down the farm track. At Brownber there is an interesting mix of rough and wet lanes. I follwed the wet and walled lane east to the line of the old abandoned railway where I turned left, through the gate and on towards Smardale. It’s a proper path now and soon reached the site of Sandy Bank signal box which was closed in 1931. It also marks the high point on the Kirkby Stephen to Tebay length of the railway line. A nice information board gives some information about it being excavated in Nov 2005.

Bridge on the line

Further along is a large boarded up house by the line but no visible access to it. Then came the massive structure of the Smardale Lime Kilns. The lime produced here was moved by rail to the steelworks in Barrow and also Darlington. The kilns will date from the time of the railway opening in 1861 but the quality of the lime wasn't too good so it ceased to be used in the 1890s.

Smardale Gill Viaduct

I continued on to my main objective. In the distance the Smardale Gill Viaduct came in to view. The rail line was closed in 1962 but sometime after 1989 the viaduct was saved from demolition. Fortunately it is now a grade II listed structure. It is 27.5m high 168m long and has 14 arches. The rain became very heavy and even though I managed a few grabbed photos I couldn’t risk getting my camera too wet. Further along the almost overgrown rail route is a small notice board to a railway crash in 1955 though no other information was given.

At Beck Lane is a small information board with a lovely painted picture of the railway area. Down Beck lane was the vehicle ford for the road and I’m glad there is a wooden footbridge. The walk along Tarn Lane back to Crosby Garrett was under torrential rain and the road was awash with water. It was so nice to get back to the car and in to the dry.

Smaradale Gill Nature Reserve

Footbridge and ford at Beck Lane