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 focused on reopening sections where it was safe to do so. The raised boardwalk section reopened in March 2016 meaning 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.
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.
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 recognise 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.
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.
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.
We will appoint an engineer to plan, design and carry out the repair work.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you would like any further information please contact Area Ranger, Cath Johnson, on 01768 871 407 or email Cath.Johnson@lakedistrict.gov.uk
If you would like to be notified of any significant updates regarding the Keswick to Threlkeld path developments.