The opening ceremony at the Bobbin Mill tunnel mouth. Photo: LDNPA

The opening ceremony at the Bobbin Mill tunnel mouth. Photo: LDNPA

A popular Lake District trail has reopened five years after Storm Desmond destroyed parts of its route.

Renovation and improvement of the Keswick to Threlkeld railway trail has cost £7.9m.

For the first time in almost 50 years, the Bobbin Mill tunnel under the A66 can now be walked and cycled through after tons of rubble were removed from the structure.

Two pupils of St Herbert’s Primary School joined national park authority chief executive Richard Leafe and the mayor of Keswick Paul Titley at a ceremony to officially reopen the trail on Friday, exactly five years since bridges and paths were swept away by the storm, during which 174mm of rain fell on Keswick.

The national park authority said the trail has been fully reconnected and enhanced. New picnic benches, seats and perches at viewpoints have been installed as well as new on-site interpretation to tell the national park local history and heritage story of the trail and give information on local wildlife and flora and fauna.

“In 2015 Storm Desmond brought the worst floods the county has seen,” a spokesperson said. “As a result two of the original Victorian railway bridges that cross the River Greta and around 200m of path were completely washed away. Rawsomes Bridge was deemed unsafe and the well used route between Keswick and Threlkeld was completely cut off.

“As much as possible the Lake District national park found some alternative routes but through feedback it was clear how important the route was to the communities of Keswick and Threlkeld, visitors to the area and to local businesses. As part of the design stage, a survey showed that the reconnection of the trail could be worth around £2m to the local economy.”

A £7.9m package was agreed to enable the project to go ahead, with funding from the European Structural Investment Funds which support innovation, businesses, low-carbon activity to improve local growth and create jobs. Funding was also received from Highways England, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and the Lake District Foundation.

The project included: rebuilding and repairing 5km of the trail; construction of two new bridges and extensive repair of a third bridge; re-opening and extending of the Bobbin Mill railway tunnel; work to stabilise the river bank along the route; the creation of 200m of new path; and the entire route being made more resilient to future flooding.

Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority said: “This has been the most ambitious construction project we’ve undertaken as a national park authority.

“It’s taken five years to complete due to the scale, but we’re thrilled to be able to reopen the trail on the anniversary of Storm Desmond. I’d like to thank all of our funders and project partners for their input and the local community for their initial fundraising and for their patience whilst the work was ongoing.

“I very much look forward to using the trail and seeing others make use of this fantastic safe, local route which provides a sustainable transport link between Keswick and Threlkeld.”

More details of the trail are on the Lake District National Park Authority’s website.

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