Summer walk: Ravenstonedale Circular

 Ravenstonedale Circular  2/09/17 ‘A’ Ken Armstrong  ‘B’ Janet Heckels

46 members set out on a dry cool day. After a coffee stop in Barnard Castle we travelled the short distance to the small village of Ravenstonedale. 20 members set out on the ‘A’ walk then 30 minutes later 24 members set out on the ‘B’ walk following the initial route of the ‘A’ party. We admired the quaint stone built houses and pretty gardens as we passed through the village then our way became blocked by a flock of sheep penned in across the public footpath. However, we got permission to walk through the farm yard and cross a field containing cows to return to the original path. We crossed grassy fields most of which contained either cows or sheep and climbed over various stiles and eventually reached Newbiggin-on-Lune. After crossing the busy A685 we followed a stony track to a bridge where we ascended a short steep path onto a disused railway track. The railway was built in 1857 to transport coke from the coalfields of Durham to furnaces in Barrow for the production of iron. The track now forms part of the Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve. It was a level walk along the track with a feast of wild flowers on both sides. The purple hues of field scabious and devilsbit scabious were prominent. There were also lots of butterflies, mainly red admirals and peacocks. Lunch was spent on a grassy bank in the warm afternoon sunshine. We carried on then descened to Smardale Bridge, originally built for the pack horses of the 15th century carrying wool/goods from Kirkby Stephen. We didn’t cross the bridge but turned left where we spotted quite a rare flower – grass of parnassus – not a grass, instead getting its common name from the translucent green stripes that adorn the white petals of the cup-shaped flower. Once widely distributed, it is now confined to the damp pastures, moors and marshes mainly in the north of the UK. As we climbed a stone stile a hare darted beneath the feet of Ken Nevin as he stood waiting his turn. There was a steep climb across the fields but the views of the surrounding rolling hills were superb. We admired the distant view of Smardale Gill viaduct then continued on. At Park House farm we watched the farmer using his sheep dog to round up the sheep in the field we were about to cross. After a couple of fields and going under the underpass we arrived back in Ravenstonedale. Plenty of time to enjoy refreshments and visit the local church of St Oswald’s which unusually for a church in Cumbria, follows the ‘collegiate’ plan where rows of pews face into the central aisle.  The ‘A’ party had time for refreshments before we travelled to Barnard Castle for the evening stop.

Flowers: betony, bloody cranesbill, devilsbit scabious, eyebright, field scabious, grass of parnassus, greater burnet, greater knapweed, harebell, heath bedstraw, meadowsweet, oxeye daisy, ragwort, red clover, rosebay willowherb, silverweed, st johns wort, tormentil, tufted vetch, water forget me not, yarrow.

Other: brambles, hare, haws, owl pellets, peacock butterflies, red admiral butterflies, sloes. The best walk this year for the flora and fauna.

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