It’s situated a mile or so from the A5074 and is easy to miss if you’re not looking out for it. As you wind along the single track road keep your eyes peeled on your left until you spot a wooded lay-by large enough for about 4 cars. From there the entrance to the reserve is clearly signposted.
This is a reserve of two halves and at the end of the first short track you’re faced with a game-show style dilemma as two gates face you. The gate on your left leads into beautiful bluebell woods while the gate on your right leads out into open pasture. In front of you is an impeccable information board with a store of leaflets to help you make your decision.
Pass through the gate on your left and you are immediately immersed into wonderful English woodland. During May the woodland floor is covered in a carpet of bluebells and is there anything more perfect on a late spring day than wandering through a bluebell wood? The scent surrounds you as the purple haze of bluebells disappears off into the distance. At the far end of the woodland someone has very kindly placed a wooden bench next to Arndale Beck creating the most perfect spot for a picnic.
Dotted in among the bluebells were the white flowers of Wild Garlic and some other white flowers which we haven’t managed to identify yet; they grew mainly on tree stumps and appeared to prefer the shade, During the long hot summer months (a girl can dream!) I can imagine that this woodland provide a cool and relaxing haven for those in search of a little peace and quiet.
The open pasture section of the reserve is very different; pass through the gate to your right and you’re suddenly thrust into a bright, open landscape; it took my eyes a moment or two to adjust after the darkness of the woods. The first thing we noticed as we emerged were a large number of small grassy mounds. I’m sure I recall being told somewhere else that these were old ants nests but perhaps someone could put me right if I’m wide of the mark.
As we made our way around the pasture the next thing we noticed were small Violets (possibly Dog Violets?) which were scattered across the area. Also easy to spot were bright yellow Cowslips and Primroses; both very common but no less lovely even so. Being early May when we visited the two small tarns were both alive with tadpoles and on the surface Pond Skaters darted around in search of food.
Around us in the trees the blackbirds were signing away merrily and I was chuffed because I finally managed to see a Willow Warbler – I’ve heard them many times but this was the first time I was able to sit and watch one as it hopped through the silver birch trees warbling away.
As we headed back towards the car the pasture had one last surprise for us; wild orchids just off the main path (possibly and Early-Purple Orchid?) bobbing around in the light breeze. Orchids are such a lovely treat and always give me hope that summer is on its way.
Barkbooth Lot may not be the largest open space in Cumbria, nor does it boast dramatic views, but so much of the beauty of this wonderful county is captured in the multitude of wild flowers; it takes longer to pick them out and learn about them but it’s well worth the effort.