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Bridge over the Lune reopens

Bainbridge, 18 December, 2017

The longest footbridge in the Cumbria part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park – Fisherman’s Bridge near Sedbergh – has been rebuilt and reopened, two years after the original was swept away during Storm Desmond.

The well used public right of way connects Sedbergh and Firbank parishes and is the only crossing in an 8 kilometre (5 mile) stretch of the Lune.

Individuals and local groups donated £12,500 to the project, which has cost a total of £110,000.  The 35-metre long bridge took eight weeks to construct and was a year in the planning.  An official opening event is being arranged for early in the New Year.

The work was managed and carried out by Cumbria County Council (CCC) and its contractors in partnership with Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) rangers and volunteers.  

The project had plenty of drama and difficulty.  Very heavy rainfall in November swelled the Lune to such an extent that the scaffolding on the newly built bridge was swept away, buckling the almost finished structure. But even that late setback was overcome with the help of a crane and some spare parts.

Fisherman’s Bridge on the Lune near Goodies had stood for 60 years. A County Surveyor’s note stamped 16 JUL 1957 recorded how much it cost (see attached).  After Storm Desmond, however, only the stumps of the four piers on the riverbed remained.  

The new bridge was designed with only one pier, to create less obstruction to flow during flood events. A total of 22 steel beams, each weighing 130 kg, have been bolted together to span the river and support a wooden walkway.  

Nick Cotton, YDNPA Member Champion for Recreation Management, was one of the first people to walk over the new bridge.  He said:  “When Fisherman’s Bridge was swept away, we were left with a big gap in the public rights of way network.  The nearest crossing to the north is the Crook o’Lune road bridge and to the south it’s Lincoln’s Inn Bridge.  Fisherman’s is in fact the only publicly accessible footbridge over the Lune between Kirkby Lonsdale and Tebay, a distance of more than 30 kilometres. It forms part of the circular ‘Quaker Trail’ out of Sedbergh.  It is really good news that it has been reinstated.  

“Luck didn’t seem to be on our side during the construction phase, as we seemed to be battling very wet weather. But the finished bridge makes all the effort worthwhile.  We are particularly proud that our ranger service and volunteers rose to the challenge. Fisherman’s Bridge is certainly the biggest and most complicated structure we’ve built in a while.

“I’d like to thank all the local residents and groups for their generous financial contributions towards the new bridge – and also to Cumbria County Council for their unstinting work and attention to detail.  I’d particularly like to thank the Capstick family of Hole House Farm for their support and co-operation in allowing access for our machinery over their land.”

CCC Countryside Access Officer, David Clare, said: “The responsibility for Fisherman’s bridge has always been shared equally between the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and ourselves and that situation did not alter after the Park was extended last year and this has been honoured by both authorities from the outset.  

“It has been a privilege to work alongside the YDNPA to achieve the common aim of restoring public access over the River Lune in such a beautiful part of Cumbria.”

One group to chip in to the project – with a £2000 grant – was the charity, Friends of the Lake District.  Policy Officer Jan Darrall said: “Friends of the Lake District were delighted to support this important river crossing.  Since Storm Desmond walkers in the area have had a long diversion to cross the Lune and it is brilliant that people can once again enjoy this delightful part of Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales National Park.”

A timeline of the construction of the new Fisherman’s Bridge:

-Late summer 2017:  CCC contractors carry out preparation work. They break up the damaged piers and remove them from the river; raise the height of the one retained pier and clad it in stone; and repair the abutments on both banks.  Work was held up by a flood in early October.

- After the flood, a trackway is installed over the field leading from Hole House farm to the bridge to protect the ground.

- Scaffolding goes up early November.  

- YDNPA rangers and volunteers move the bridge components to the riverside and begin assembling the bridge.

- After three weeks work, with the main structure nearing completion, torrential rain on Wednesday 22 November causes the river to rise to flood levels.  The supporting scaffold is dislodged and swept away and in the process the larger of the bridge beams are bent and twisted.  CCC devises a plan using the temporary trackway from Hole House Farm to get a crane to site.  The damaged half of the bridge is lifted off the piers intact, laid out on the bank and repaired using parts gathered from spares and other pending projects. 

- Friday 1December, the repaired bridge is back on the piers and secured.  Finishing touches such as steps and gates are added the following week.  

- The temporary trackway is removed on Wednesday 13 December.

- Result:  walkers can once again cross the Lune at this beautiful spot.

Fisherman’s Bridge funders:

-The Yorkshire Dales Society in memory of Ken Willson

-The Friends of the Lake District (Environmental Improvement Grant)

-The Ramblers Kendal Group

-The Ramblers Lake District Area Council

-The Ramblers Lancaster Group

-Sedbergh Anglers

-Sedbergh Parish Council

-Sedbergh Walking & Cycling Group

-Dales Way Association

-Generous support from local residents and cooperation of the farmers on both sides of the River Lune.

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