Around 400 different species of plants can be found at Smardale Nature Reserve which is situated along 3.5 miles of disused railway line.
Peter Bullard, former Director of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, and wild flower expert says: “Smardale is so good for wild flowers for several reasons. There are lots of different habitats; hillside, woodlands and wetlands, and there is lots of change in these habitats over the three and half miles. The post-industrial nature of Smardale has also had a positive impact, as the cuttings and embankments created as the railway was forged through the countryside have provided the poor limestone soils, where wild flowers thrive. All this cutting and creating has made niches for flowers that like different conditions; so rocky or wet or shady, there’s somewhere perfect for all kinds of plants.”
Limestone grasslands are a particularly rare habitat nationally and Cumbria is lucky to have several areas, around Kirkby Stephen and Morecambe Bay.
Peter continues: “There are lots of orchids at the nature reserve. More common ones like the spotted orchid and the marsh orchid and rare ones such as fly orchids. Rockrose is easily seen here but common wintergreen is quite rare and needs to be sought out. Herb-Paris can be found in the ancient woodlands. The beauty of looking at the flowers at Smardale is that they are all very close to the main footpath, so you don’t have to go far to find them.”