Generosity of Eden couple who are wild about wildlife

Date: Monday 15th April 2019

UP to 50,000 visitors a year are expected to visit an idyllic corner of Eden, thanks to a £200,000 project which has included the formation of a new car park for Smardale Nature Reserve.

Stephen Trotter, chief executive of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said the new car park sits in the middle of two of its nature reserves, Smardale Gill and Waitby Greenriggs, now known collectively as Smardale Nature Reserve, near Kirkby Stephen.

“We can now put visitors in the right place, not breathing down the necks of residents,” he said.

The trust has been attempting for a number of years to find a solution to the car parking problem at Smardale, which has become a real issue for local residents. It was delighted when an adjoining landowner agreed to sell his one-mile section of the former railway which links Smardale with Waitby.

Michael and Elizabeth Lamb, of Orton, were about to celebrate 60 years of marriage and they felt the money should be put towards purchasing the section of the former track rather than on a party. An oak tree, with a plaque, has been planted at the entrance to the new car park in recognition of the generous gift of the couple, who have lived in Orton since 1974.

This new section of nature reserve adds additional wildlife interest, and a new accessible walkway has been constructed along with the new car park. The walkway has been built by Appleby company Siba from recycled plastic

material. Mrs Lamb said she was very impressed and praised Cumbria Wildlife Trust for having done a “wonderful job”.

Reserves officer Andrew Walter, who has worked for the wildlife trust for about 25 years, said the Smardale reserve was a “work in progress”. “A nature reserve is a dynamic thing, it is ever changing,” he said.

With the extension of the Westmorland Dales national park now covering the area, it is expected that more visitors will want to explore what’s on offer.

The new car park also features railway-style cabins, linking to the area’s past heritage, where visitors can find information explaining the beautiful wildlife that can be seen at the reserve, such as the unusual Scotch argus butterfly, orchids and red squirrels.

Feeding stations for red squirrels have been established, along with a rope bridge.

The new car park, walkway and information panels have been made possible by grants of up to £90,867 from the Rural Development Programme for England through Cumbria Fells and Dales, up to £15,820 from the sustainable development fund through Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, and £8,000 from Eden Community Fund through Eden Council.

An official opening event is to be held on 30th May.