Frequently asked questions

Last updated 18 January 2021

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?

Cubby Construction Limited are carrying out the work to create a the new trail between Keswick and Threlkeld along the old railway line.

What are you doing to reconnect the route?

The original trail suffered extensive damage during the floods in December 2015.  Two of the old railway bridges that cross the River Greta and around 200 metres of the trail surface were washed away, and Rawsome Bridge was left at risk of collapse. This presented us with many complex challenges and 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 works include rebuilding and repairing the 5 kilometres of the existing trail: re-opening and extending the Big Tunnel (Bobbin Tunnel). Two new bridges have been constructed and Rawsome’s Bridge has been repaired. We have also created 200 metres of brand new path and work will be carried out to stabilise the river bank and repairing drains and walls along the way to protect the trail and surrounding land from future flooding events.

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 trail. Funding has been received from Highways England, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP) and Northern Powerhouse. Additionally, community fundraising by the Lake District Foundation has resulted in a £130,000 donation.

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.

There are no current plans for sections of the Keswick to Threlkeld Railway Trail to be opened before the planned completion date of December 2020. The management of the site is currently the responsibility of our contractor, Cubby Limited, and as such, under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, the trail is a construction site and must be managed to protect workers and the general public from being injured or harmed by construction activity. This includes safe-working in relation to Covid-19.

If the situation were to change, we will keep people informed through our website, in the Keswick Reminder and regular emails (to subscribers) throughout the remainder of the project; this would include information about any opportunities to reopen sections where it can be done in a safe, compliant and practical way.

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.

Please see our latest map with alternative routes

Can I walk through Brundholme Woods?

Many of 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 from Brundholme Road, through Brundholme Woods to the railway trail is now closed.

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.

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.

Who will be able to use the trail?

Prior to Storm Desmond the route was very well used by the local community and visitors to the area; mainly on foot and by bike. During the feasibility and design stages of creating the new trail we received feedback from over 2300 people telling us they would appreciate a traffic-free route for - walking, dog walking, cycling, running and use with prams and wheelchairs by people with limited mobility. So we have designed and are now building a trail to meet these needs. The route will not be open to vehicles, apart for necessary maintenance traffic, and it is not a bridleway so will be unavailable for horse riders.

LDNP is both the developer and the planning authority. How was planning permission granted?

By law, all applications for planning permission in a National Park are determined by the National Park Authority.  This includes applications made by the Authority.  The application was publicised by site notice and an advert in the Keswick Reminder.  Before making a decision we also sought the views of other consultees including Keswick Town Council, Natural England, the Environment Agency and Cumbria County Council. Like all applications for planning permission, the proposal was assessed taking into account our policies and other material considerations (material considerations are other factors which are relevant to planning and the decision in question).  The application was considered by Development Control Committee in August 2018.

Will the finished path be accessible for people with limited mobility?

The Keswick to Threlkeld Railway Trail will was one of our “access for all” Miles without Stiles routes. These are promoted routes across the National Park suitable for people with limited mobility, including wheelchair users, families with pushchairs, and the visually impaired. Our grading system: for 'all', 'many', or 'some', is based on gradients and surface conditions.

Routes for all are:

  • Suitable for everyone, including pushchairs and people operating their own wheelchairs
  • Gradient: No more than 1:10
  • Surface: Tarmac or smooth, compacted stone with a diameter of 10 mm or less. Path width will be a minimum of 1 metre with passing places
  • We have designed the route to ensure that it can be accessed by users with mobility issues

Railway trail gradients

Desirable maximum and minimum path gradients are determined by considerations of safety and usability. Excessively steep gradients can present barriers to some users and can also be hazardous. Gradients that are too slack can lead to standing water, which can be inconvenient and deter some from using a path. Gradients between 2% (1:50) and 5% (1:20) are regarded as gentle slopes and within the recommended national guidelines for people with limited mobility. The current slope from the Travis Perkins underpass, up towards the tunnel is 3% (1:33) and the slope down to the tunnel has been designed at 2.5% (1:40).

Railway trail crossfalls (camber) On footpaths and cycle paths, the crossfall should usually be 2.5% (1 in 40). This provides a good balance between the need to remove surface water and the needs of users. The original path had serious drainage problems due to the compacted stone and aggregate material that we used to maintain it over the decades. This often resulted in scouring and surface erosion. Our original design for the path crossfall was 2.5% (1:40) crossfall. This is the standard cross fall gradient for footways and cycle ways in Cumbria. The design has since been altered to reflect the Sensory Trust 1:50 recommendation.

What are you doing about Woodland Management?

We started woodland management around the Latrigg Close area of the trail in February 2020. The woodlands along the old railway line are in our (or adjacent) landownership and have been actively managed for over 20 years. The trees in questions have been coppiced and thinned out. Works such as coppicing and thinning constitutes good woodland management and supports a varied and healthy wildlife habitat. Managing the trees also ensures the safety of people using the trail and prevents damage to the adjoining properties.

Coppicing is an ancient woodland management technique which allows the trees to re-regrow. Trees naturally retrench (shedding their branches to extend their lifespan) and coppicing can be an excellent way of simulating this to increase the lifespan and encourages the tree to put energy into re-growth above the ground. It also increases woodland biodiversity, as greater amounts of light can reach the ground, allowing other species to grow there. Many of these species are food sources for butterflies and other insects, which in turn provide food for birds, bats and mammals.

The residents of Latrigg Close were consulted in advance of the works and 1:1 meetups took place when requested. An ecological survey was carried out in advance of the works and confirmed that there were no bat roosts or red squirrel drays in this area.

The work required a Forestry Commission tree felling licence in order to fell trees. This ensures that all woodland management is appropriate for the conservation and preservation the woodland.

Re-instatement planting will take place on the areas of embankment where the clearance operations have taken place. This will include indigenous species in order to encourage improved levels of biodiversity. As the trees and shrubs will take time to mature,  we will look at some form of fencing/barrier to protect the residents’ privacy whilst this area matures. The nature and type of fencing will need to be carefully chosen, but this is something that we are looking at putting in place as soon as possible.

Will horseriding be allowed on the new trail?

Prior to Storm Desmond the route was very well used by the local community and visitors to the area; mainly on foot and by bike and was not available to horses. During the feasibility and design stages of the project we carried out an extensive stakeholder and user survey, which did not highlight the need to include horse traffic.  We received feedback from over 2,300 people telling us they would appreciate a traffic-free route for walking, dog walking, cycling, running and use by people with prams and wheelchairs and those with limited mobility.

As a result the reinstated Keswick to Threlkeld Railway trail has not been designed for use by horses  and a number of design features and sections of infrastructure are simply not compatible with safe use by horses and their riders.

In addition the route is linear and does not have particularly good connections to other routes - which have footpath status or are along narrow lanes. Also the permitted routes (to/from the old railway line route) are on privately owned land and limited to pedestrian use only.

Concern has been raised locally about how we will manage any potential conflict and issues arising between existing users. As well as encouraging mutual respect between users we will periodically review access requirements and user groups as part of our on-going management and this could include a review of how to safely permit horse use in the future.

How can I find out more about the project?

Please contact Cath Johnson, Area Ranger by email or call 01768 871407

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