Frequently asked questions

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.

Our initial priority was to make sections of the path and bridges safe and also find alternative routes for users.

We now have funding and planning consents in place for the permanent reconnection of the route. This will include rebuilding and repairing the remaining 5 kilometres of the trail, and the re-opening and extending of the ‘big tunnel’. Additionally two new bridges will be constructed and another will be extensively repaired and improved. Also, 200 metres of brand new path will be created and work will be carried out to stabilise the river bank and repairing drains and walls along the way.

Why is the reconnection of the route taking so long to complete?

The damage to the route was 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 still ongoing.

The significant damage caused to the Keswick to Threlkeld Railway path has given us a number of complex challenges to address including the high cost of the project, funding challenges, flood resilience, river access, environmental obligations and riverbank stabilisation.  

We have had to ensure alternative routes are available to route users, and continue to work with partner organisations and neighbouring landowners to find further routes that benefit the community and visitors.

Please see our latest map with alternative routes.

Who will carry out the work?

We are pleased to announce that Cubby Construction Limited will be undertaking the work to create a the new multi-user trail between Keswick and Threlkeld along the old railway line.

What are you doing to reconnect the route?

These challenges mean we have had to 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.  

The extensive works will include rebuilding and repairing the remaining 5 kilometres of the trail, and the re-opening and extending of the ‘big tunnel’. Additionally two new bridges will be constructed and another will be extensively repaired and improved. Also, 200 metres of brand new path will be created and work will be carried out to stabilise the river bank and repairing drains and walls along the way.

How will you fund the repair and recovery of the route?

A £7.9 million funding package has been agreed to allow work to start on the final phase of reconnecting the Keswick to Threlkeld multi user trail. Funding has been approved so far from Highways England and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Additionally, community fundraising by the Lake District Foundation has resulted in a £130,000 donation all which will enable the project to go ahead.

Will the route be closed during reconnection work?

From Tuesday 27 August 2019 the route will be fully closed while on-site work activity increases, including the frequency and volume of machinery moving materials onto the site and particularly at Keswick Station. It was inevitable that this section of route would have to close and the entire work site will be subject to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, which govern how a construction site must be managed to protect workers and anyone the work affects from harm. The health and safety of the site will be the responsibility of our contractor – Cubby Ltd.

Currently we plan to close the route until works are complete in December 2020, however, we recognise the inconvenience caused by the closure and will continue to look for any opportunity to reopen sections, where it is safe, practical and efficient to do so. We hope to be able to re-open the section between Keswick Leisure Centre and Forge Lane once the bridge refurbishment and path maintenance is complete. We will continue to update the webpage and will send out regular updates throughout the project.

How long will it take?

We plan to have completed the work by the end of 2020.

Can I use Brundholme Road while the work is ongoing?

The Brundholme Road (U2229) has a Cumbria County Council Highways order to prohibit use by all traffic due to its dangerous condition. Therefore we cannot recommend it as an alternative route between Keswick and Threlkeld whilst the railway path is closed.

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. The permitted route at Threlkeld bridge on the C2C route is closed. 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. The alternative route is now closed.

Can I walk through the section at Wescoe?

During the floods, a 100m section of path was washed away at Hagg 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. 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?

Yes, the reconnection plans include extensive repairs and improvements to Rawsome Bridge.

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.

What about trees in the area?

The woodlands along the old railway line are in our (or adjacent) landownership and have been actively managed for over 20 years. Works such as coppicing, thinning, felling and planting constitutes good woodland management and supports a varied and healthy wildlife habitat.

Due to the size and scale of the construction works there has been an inevitable loss of trees. We will compensate for this loss by providing additional tree planting once the work is complete. The numbers of trees to be planted will exceed those removed or cut back during construction works. Total trees to be planted will be a minimum of 1,500 which is a 3 to 1 ratio.

How will you ensure red squirrel habitat isn’t disturbed?

Red squirrels are an important native species and it is an offence to intentionally damage anywhere they may use for shelter or protection. The trail reconnection involves felling trees around the path. Before any felling work is undertaken, the trees will be surveyed for any signs of activity and we will ensure that plans are in place to prevent any unnecessary disturbance. We will be replacing the felled trees with new, broadleaf, saplings. In time they will increase the availability of food and shelter for red squirrels throughout the year. The mixture of species and ages of trees in the woodlands surrounding the railway path provides valuable habitat and natural corridors which will enable the red squirrel population to move away from any disturbance to other areas of woodland.

Why are you using tarmac to resurface the trail?

Following the destruction from Storm Desmond in 2015, the results of consultations with the community, public and stakeholders indicated a preference for a trail that would be suitable for a wide variety of users, such as walkers, cyclists, runners and people with limited mobility. We also considered build and maintenance costs, flood resilience, durability, environmental consents and stakeholder views.

There was no obvious funding available during the initial stages, meaning the full route was unusable and, in parts, unsafe for the foreseeable future.

Once we knew what type of trail was required, it allowed funders to be approached. Given the popularity of the route with cycling users, Highways England was identified as a potential funder. 

Highways England standards for this type of route require bound surfaces. Given the user needs and preferences research, we and Highways England both agreed that a bound surface was the most appropriate proposed solution. The business case and application for funding to Highways England was made and approved on this basis.

A number of surfaces were considered. These were Granite Dust, Ultitrec, Flexipave, Nuflex, bituminous surface (tarmac) and surface-dressed bituminous sub-base (tarmac). We assessed a number of factors, including environmental impact, estimated construction cost, user benefits and problems, durability, maintenance requirements, annual maintenance costs (which would be funded by LDNPA’s limited budget), estimated lifespan, build costs and whole life costs over 20 years. Using this criteria, a bituminous surface and binder on sub-base (tarmac) was the most suitable option.

The designs were shared with the local community and stakeholders both ahead of the full planning application and during the statutory consultation period in June 2018.

The use of tarmac wouldn’t be appropriate on the majority of trails in the National Park, but with our changing public needs and climate, the use of a tarmac surface was considered appropriate in the locality and the project was given planning permission, with a number of conditions attached, which have now been met.

Highways England has further stated: “If the Lake District National Park Authority wish for consideration to be given to a non-bound alternative (as an agreed variation from the standard), the agreement and financial contribution would need to be reviewed. If delivery was to slip to next financial year, Highways England’s contribution would also need to be reviewed relative to Highways England’s funding for the period 2020-25.”

The specification is in line with the national advice from Highways England, which states: “The long-term integrity, comfort, safety and aesthetic appeal of cycle routes is dependent on the chosen construction design. Unbound surfaces shall not be provided on cycle routes.” (Highways England Interim Advice Note 195/16 Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network).

In Highways England’s 2018 Cycling and Accessibility Annual Report it states: “We have published new design standards for cycle traffic (Interim Advice Note 195/16 Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network) which will ensure the needs of cyclists are fully accommodated in all future scheme designs. These standards were developed in collaboration with Sustrans, British Cycling and Cycling UK. The new standards have been accompanied by a comprehensive training and e-learning programme for designers.”

Are there plans for vehicles or driverless pods to run on the trail?

There are no plans to run driverless pods on the Keswick to Threlkeld Railway Trail. The feasibility, design, consent and construction of the trail does not include the use of pods.

Vehicles are not permitted on the trail, other than the usual authorised access for monitoring and maintenance of the trail and surrounding woodland property.

However there are plans for the Lake District National Park Authority to take part in a driverless pods pilot study in a controlled environment within our visitor centre, Brockhole on Windermere. We believe that this is the first time that such a technology has been tested outside of an urban environment. The purpose of the pilot is to understand whether this is a suitable mode of transport for the Lake District and to help change the way people think about low carbon sustainable transport. We have previously explored opportunities to use disused rail lines, such as Penrith to Keswick, as well as other locations to potentially trial driverless pods. No feasibility work has been carried out on any location other than Brockhole and we have no funding or projects to pilot driverless pods beyond Brockhole at the current time.

In the long term, we are aware of local groups seeking to secure the re-opening of the Penrith to Keswick rail line.  We share the aspiration to see disused rail track beds be reused and our planning policies seek to safeguard the route.

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

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