The rebuilt bridge over the River Lune

The rebuilt bridge over the River Lune

A bridge in the Yorkshire Dales national park that was swept away by Storm Desmond two years ago has reopened after it was rebuilt.

But the construction work on Fisherman’s Bridge near Sedbergh was also hit by heavy rainfall when the swollen river caused scaffolding on the structure to move, buckling the bridge.

Fisherman’s Bridge is the longest footbridge in the Cumbrian section of the Yorkshire Dales park and is well used as public right of way, linking Sedbergh and Firbank parishes. The bridge, next to the route of the Dales Way long-distance path, is the only one crossing the river Lune in a five-mile (8km) stretch.

Torrential 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.

A county surveyor's photograph of the original bridge

A county surveyor's photograph of the original bridge

Fisherman’s Bridge on the Lune near Goodies had stood for 60 years. A county surveyor’s note stamped 16 July 1957 recorded how much it cost £363 7s 10d (£363.39). The new bridge cost £110,000, with individuals and local groups donating £12,500 to the project.

The 35m-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.

After Storm Desmond, only the stumps of the four piers on the riverbed remained of the old structure.

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 130kg, have been bolted together to span the river and support a wooden walkway.

All that was left of the original bridge after Storm Desmond

All that was left of the original bridge after Storm Desmond

Nick Cotton, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority 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 30km. 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.

The bill for the bridge in 1957 was £363

The bill for the bridge in 1957 was £363

“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.”

The county council’s 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 £2,000 grant, was the Friends of the Lake District charity. 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.”

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