Latest update on the Keswick to Threlkeld railway path with Cath Johnson, Area Ranger.
Following the floods in December 2015, the Keswick to Threlkeld Railway path suffered serious damage. Two of the old railway bridges that cross the River Greta, and around 200 metres of the path surface were washed away. One of the remaining railway bridges (Rawsome Bridge) was left severely damaged and at risk of collapse.
We have since reopened half of the route, including the raised boardwalk so walkers and cyclists can now enjoy a popular one kilometre section of the path.
In the interest of public safety we have closed off all damaged and missing bridges in the remaining half of the route and we ask everyone to take note of the warning signs and not to remove any of the safety fencing or notices.
The Lake District National Park is committed to working with the community, landowners, businesses and other organisations locally to reconnect the route between Keswick and Threlkeld for the enjoyment of walkers, cyclists and those with limited mobility. Due to the extensive scale of the damage it is estimated that this could take up to two years.
You will find new information panels near the path indicating where alternative routes are available.
We are now working to develop plans for reconnecting the route for use by walkers, cyclists and people with limited mobility, at locations where the bridges are missing or damaged. We will keep the public updated by sharing project information, including the information presented at the public meetings held by Capita on 11 January.
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What have you been doing to reconnect the Keswick to Threlkeld Railway Path?
The floods in December 2015 caused extensive damage to the path: two bridges that cross the River Greta and around 200m of path were washed away and Rawsome Bridge was later closed to ensure public safety. There was also significant damage to the river banks resulting in the river changing its course and widening in width – from 27m to 47m in places.
Our initial priority has been to make sections of the path and bridges safe and also find alternative routes for users.
Next we are reopening sections where it is safe to do so. The raised boardwalk section reopened in March 2016 and means people can now enjoy around half of the route. The third stage is to look at designs, costs and construction for the permanent reconnection of the route, including removal of bridges from the river channel.
Why is the reconnection of the route taking so long to complete?
The damage to the route must be considered within the wider context of the 2015 flood damage to the public right of way network across the whole of the National Park. As a result of the floods, 560km of 3100km of paths were affected, resulting in a full programme of flood recovery and resilience work which is likely to be ongoing for a number of years.
The significant damage caused to the Keswick to Threlkeld Railway path gave us a range of complex challenges to address, including:
Please see our latest map with alternative routes.
You have now removed the bridges that were lying in the river. Will they be reused?
Both Brundholme Bridge and Low Pearsons Bridge became unseated during the flooding and lay in the River Greta until we were able to remove them in September 2016. Unfortunately both bridges were not suitable to be reused; we took advice from consultant engineers to explore alternative options for saving the bridges, however our priority was to remove them quickly ahead of next winter to improve the downstream flood risk.
Removing historic bridges is something we would avoid if possible, however the damage caused to the Keswick Railway path route has left us with a set of complex and challenging issues which we need to prioritise and carry out in the most safe and cost-effective method. While Brundholme Bridge may have appeared to be in a re-useable condition, the river had widened to such an extent and that the specialist advice was to remove the bridge in its entirety.
We fully acknowledge the aspiration of groups interested in preserving the heritage and future reinstatement of a railway between Penrith and Keswick. We commissioned a consultant engineer to assess the future viability to carry a modern railway and the report concluded that most of the bridge infrastructure was not considered to be consistent with current railway standards and a considerable amount of work would need to be undertaken in order to reinstate the railway.
Although our aim is to restore the route primarily as a path for all: wheelchair users, pushchairs, cyclists and walkers alike, we have assured these interested groups that we will not do anything that would compromise the line becoming a railway in the future.
What are you doing to reconnect the route?
These challenges mean we must adopt a fully-considered approach to reconnect the route in a sustainable, robust way that will secure access for the long-term enjoyment of all users.
We are currently working with consultant civil engineers to produce a proposal for repair options, outlining:
Stage 1 - clearing the River Greta of damaged infrastructure, bridge stabilisation and a solution to repair a length of damaged embankment. This is our immediate priority and the works are subject to funding.
Stage 2 – to develop costed options and proposals to for locations where the bridges are missing, to enable use by walkers, cyclists and people with limited mobility. This longer-term reconnection is subject to funding.
Once we have the civil engineer's report towards the end of 2016, we will be able to start exploring funding for the long-term reconnection. We look forward to inviting the community and interested parties into a fuller consultation about the future reconnection of this popular route.
How will you fund the repair and recovery of the route?
The current estimate to reconnect the Keswick to Threlkeld Railway Path is up to £5m. However, once we have the consultant civil engineer’s report, we will be able to produce a project plan for the long-term reconnection of the route. We plan to develop a fundraising strategy to enable us to move ahead with the works required.
Who will carry out the work?
We will appoint an engineer to plan, design and carry out the repair work.
How long will it take?
Because of the complexity of this project, and the fact that we are still reviewing the various options to reconnect a route between Keswick and Threlkeld, we estimate the project is likely to take up to two years.
Why can’t you install temporary bridges to replace the damaged and missing ones?
While temporary bridges have worked well in reconnecting other parts of the Lake District affected by the floods, we don’t believe it is the best option for this route. We have to balance the costs of installation against the overall costs for repair and long-term reconnection.
Are there any alternative routes for walking and cycling?
There are alternative routes for walkers and cyclists and we are adding new routes as they are confirmed. Currently access exists for Coast to Coast cyclists from Keswick, via the Castlerigg Stone Circle, to the permitted route at Threlkeld Bridge. Walkers can still access the Latrigg paths via Spoony Green Lane. We are working with Cumbria County Council to open the Brundholme Road up to walkers and cyclists.
Please see our latest map with alternative routes.
Can I walk through Brundholme Woods?
The permitted paths around Brundholme Woods are currently not accessible, due to flood damage. We have undertaken work, with the Lake District National Park volunteers, to discourage access to unsafe parts of the path. This entailed the removal of sleeper bridges and stiles. We urge people to please take notice of the signs and cordons, which are in place for public safety. We are planning to open an alternative route, for walkers, through Brundholme Woods.
Can I walk through the section at Wescoe?
During the floods, a 100m section of path was washed away at Hag Loning (Wescoe end of the railway path). The land adjacent to the path is private property and extremely important to the farmer as they are used as lambing fields. We are concerned that attempts are being made to access Brundholme Woods via these fields. At this time of year pregnant ewes and lambs are particularly vulnerable to disturbance, especially from dog walkers. We are urging the public not to climb the fence and to respect that the fields are private property.
Will the route ever become a railway?
Our aim is to restore the route primarily as a path for all: wheelchair users, pushchairs, cyclists and walkers alike. We will not do anything that would compromise the line becoming a railway in the future.
Are you repairing Rawsome Bridge?
While the bridge may appear to look stable and therefore possibly to repair in situ, there are many factors to fully consider and prioritise as part of the overall reconnection. These include challenging site access due to the size, location and condition of the bridge, the range of engineering solutions and associated funding options. Solutions for the future reconnection of the path, including stabilising and repairing Rawsome Bridge, are currently being explored by specialist consultant engineers.
By the end of 2016 we will have an indication of a preferred route following the engineer’s report; until then, we will not repair or dismantle Rawsome Bridge. This places us, and the users of the Keswick Railway Path, in a challenging interim period where safety remains our priority, therefore we implore people to take notice of the signs and fencing which will be updated with the latest information.
Why are you asking canoeists to not use the river near Rawsome Bridge?
To date the route across Rawsome Bridge remains closed off and we have placed a warning notice at the canoe access point at Threlkeld Bridge (NGR NY 314 246).
The damaged bridge is just over one kilometre downstream from this point - the third footpath bridge. Due to two further bridge collapses downstream there are underwater hazards present in the main stream of the river, such as trees and debris from landslides – even parts of caravans. Local kayakers have warned that the river is now very different to what it was before the flood - it is harder and much more committing. We have provided warning signs upstream of the bridge and ask users to take notice of these signs.
Where can I find out more information about the recovery work?
If you would like any further information, please contact Area Ranger, Cath Johnson, on 01768 871 407 or email Cath.Johnson@lakedistrict.gov.uk