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Waitby Greenriggs

A secluded and tranquil railway cutting and embankment where a wealth of wildflowers can be seen in the summer along with many species of butterfly


  • Visit in spring you will see lots of primrose and cowslip.
  • In May - look out for the rare and delicate birds-eye primrose.
  • June is the best time to see the many species of orchid on the reserve.
  • Later in the year devil's bit scabious and grass of parnassus are abundant in August.

Wildflower haven throughout the summer

From May to August Waitby Greenriggs is a succession of fascinating wildflowers. Plants typical of upland meadows such as wood cranesbill, oxeye daisy, knapweed, yellow rattle, and betony are abundant in the grassland. You may need to look closely to spot the birds-eye primrose flowering in the wetter areas of the reserve in May. In June you can find the striking yellow globe flower and salad burnet. In July you will find meadowsweet, harebell and restharrow, whilst later in August blue flowers of devil’s bit scabious are easy to spot. You may have to look carefully to see the white petals of the slender grass of parnassus or the diminutive pale mauve autumn gentian.

Orchids in abundance

Did you know that many orchids are pollinated by nightflying moths attracted by white petals or strong scent?

Orchids here are usually at their best in mid to late June. Northern marsh, fragrant and common spotted orchids along with lesser butterfly orchid and the delicate fly and frog orchids are found here. For dedicated plant twitchers, Watiby Greenriggs is the only place in Cumbria where all three sub-species of fragrant orchid grow together. Be sure to return to the reserve in July to see the beautiful marsh helleborine.

Butterflies on the wing

With such a profusion of wildflowers, the reserve is a haven for butterflies with over 15 different species. Early in the summer you are likely to see orange tip butterflies, common blue and meadow brown then later on small white and red admiral. You may also see ringlet and dingy skippers.


Rabbits, hares and lizards can often be seen on the nature reserve and frogs breed in the old drains alongside the track. Look out for buzzards which are often seen soaring above the reserve. In summer listen out for warblers singing in the woodland areas whilst in winter you might see flocks of long tailed tits which are frequently seen feeding in the hawthorn hedge.

Keeping it special

The nature reserve is maintained by annual late summer sheep grazing and manual scrub control.

Railway inheritance

Waitby Greenriggs occupies a short section of the old Stainmore Railway and the Eden Valley branch line where these two lines converge. When the navvies created the cuttings in the 19th century, the bare limestone was soon colonised by plants from the surrounding area but only those species that could grow on the very thin soils such as autumn gentian. Over time the cuttings and embankments have developed a very diverse grassland flora with over 200 species of flowering plant recorded. The four hectare reserve was initially leased by the Trust for its botanical interest, but in 1986 British Rail donated the land to the Trust.

Getting here

By car: From A685 between Ravenstonedale and Kirkby Stephen take the minor road signed Smardale (0.75km/0.45 miles south west of Kirkby Stephen West Station). Take the right hand turn for Waitby, go under the railway bridge and turn right at junction. Waitby Greenriggs Nature Reserve is approximately 0.75km/0.45 miles from this junction.

By bicycle:The reserve is 1km/0.5 miles from National Route 71 Walney to Wear.

By public transport:Trains run from Appleby in Westmorland and Dent to Kirkby Stephen West. Buses run from Oxenholme, Sedbergh and Brough to Kirkby Stephen

Nature Reserves Guide

Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Nature Reserve Guide, which provides information about all the Trust’s reserves is available to buy now from our shop online.

Nearby nature reserves

Smardale Gill
1 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Augill Pasture
5 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Tarn Sike
6 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Near Kirkby Stephen
Kirkby Stephen
Map reference
NY 757 086
Great for...
Best time to visit
May - Aug
Get directions
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Public transport
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Opening Times
Open at all times
4.40 hectares
Local Wildlife Site (LWS)
Stiles and steps
Walking information
The reserve is accessed directly from the public road via a stone stile. there are steps down the embankment onto the track bed. Once on the track the route along the reserve is level (0.8km/0.5 miles from entrance to far end). The two parts of the reserve are connected by a footbridge. On the southern section of the reserve, steps connect the upper and lower tracks.
Park on the road near the entrance immediatly before the bridge
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Cattle at times
Reserve manager
Andrew Walter
Tel: 01539 816300