Westmorland Dales

Come off the M6 motorway at junction 38, head north towards Orton or east to Ravenstonedale and you’re entering a part of Cumbria known as the Westmorland Dales.
Absorbed into the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 2016, this is an area which boasts 79 Scheduled Ancient Monuments, 19 sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’s) and two National Nature Reserves, says the Friends of the Lake District.
The Friends are one of the organisations behind the Westmorland Dales Hidden Landscapes project which aims to reveal the ‘rich, spectacular but hidden heritage’ of the area.

Ravenstonedale. Five miles (8km) south west of Kirkby Stephen and tucked into the northern flanks of the Howgill Fells, Ravenstonedale has two pubs, a school and an 18th century, Grade I listed church. 
St Oswald’s is distinguished by its three-tiered pulpit, painted prayer boards and ‘collegiate style’ seating, the oak pews facing each other across the aisle.
South east of Ravenstonedale is the Fat Lamb pub and its adjacent Crossbank nature reserve. Roughly half way between the two places, the minor road passes Piper Hole, a traditionally managed hay meadow whose huge diversity of wild flowers led to it being chosen as Cumbria’s Coronation Meadow (celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation in 1953).

From Ravenstonedale it’s seven miles (11.2km) along the A685 to junction 38 of the M6 at Tebay. Once you get past Newbiggin-on-Lune you’re travelling west on one of the straightest bits of road in Cumbria, and that’s certainly saying something.
The reason is that the A685 uses part of the old Tebay to Darlington railway route which swung north eastwards at Newbiggin-on-Lune towards Kirkby Stephen.
A three and a half mile (5.6km) section of the track bed, between Newbiggin-on-Lune and a point near Smardale Hall, is Smardale Gill national nature reserve. The undoubted highlight of the walk along the footpath is the 14-arch Smardale Gill Viaduct.

Tebay. The most dramatic section of the M6 in Cumbria are the three miles (4.8km) through the Lune Gorge, just south of junction 38 at Tebay, the place where the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District national parks meet.
Tebay itself was once an important railway junction and in St James’ Church, a Cumbrian church more associated with the railways you’d be hard pressed to find.
The pews are like the seats of a railway waiting room, the cover of the Shap granite font resembles the wheel of an engine and there are photographs of steam engines and information panels about Tebay ‘in steam’ inside the church.
Not far from the village, on the M6, are the privately owned Tebay Services, whose farm shops and its suppliers - the farmers and producers - were the subject of a four part series on Channel 4 in the summer of 2021. Called A Lake District Farm Shop, the programmes attracted lots of viewers and plenty of good publicity in the national press. 

Orton and area. Two miles (3.2km) north of Tebay on the B6260 is Orton which on the second Saturday of the month hosts a farmers’ market, a former National Farmers’ Market of the Year.
Orton was also the birthplace in 1636 of George Whitehead, an important figure in the early years of the Society of Friends (Quakers). A number of properties in the village date from around his time.
North and north west of Orton are Orton Scar and Great Asby Scar respectively, two areas of limestone pavement which are home to a rich diversity of plants. You pass them both on the B6260 to Appleby.
It’s along this road, about one mile (1.6km) out of Orton that you can pull in on the left and admire the terrific views towards Tebay, the Lune Gorge and the Howgill Fells. Not long after that a minor road heads north to Crosby Ravensworth and the Lyvennet Valley.
Just over one mile (1.6km) east of Orton under Great Asby Scar - take the B6261 to Raisbeck - is Gamelands stone circle. The boulders were pushed over some 150 years ago but it’s still a lovely site.


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