Smardale – 15th July 2023 – Richard Dixon

With a very poor weather forecast in prospect only 4 members went on the field trip to Smardale. Fortunately we were on the edge of a weather system for most of the time with thunder close by but not overhead. We did have to endure some torrential rain though at times.

The trip began at Waitby Greenriggs – 500m of a rich flower meadow which occupied our skills at finding and identifying orchids including marsh, fragrant, common spotted and hybrid orchids along with common twayblade. Moving on to the Smardale car park we began our flower identification. I had gone on a one day walk led by Naturetrek some years ago so I knew where the plants were in a chronological order but couldn’t id them so we were indebted to Conn for finding them.

Joe received the first mars bar when he spotted a couple of fluffed up fledglings on a branch – juvenile spotted flycatchers with an adult nearby. Great views and then we found a family of blackcaps foraging in the undergrowth. July is not the best time for birdwatching there and we only saw 28 species but with Conn’s assistance we were enthralled by all the flora.

The wind and rain kept most butterflies out of sight but 5 species were recorded with meadow brown the most plentiful.

Jill received her mars bar for finding the black horehound and I was awarded one for finding the broad leafed helleborine. However the main recipient had to be Conn for identifying all the flowers as I called them out – she deserved all the mars bars. I recorded over 40 species but we certainly saw more which were identified but not recorded.

The weather brought the trip to an end at 3.30 with the visit to Sunbiggin Tarn, the CWT reserve at Tarn Sike and an orchid rich patch near the Shap turn off the M6 all abandoned.

Smardale is an excellent place to visit but to get maximum enjoyment it is essential to have someone who is interested in flora. When the viaduct is reopened a linear walk from one end to the other would be ideal if you have two cars.