[T]he National Trust working with local contractors has installed an emergency bridge after High Nook Farm was cut off when a bridge over High Nook beck was damaged by the heavy rainfall on 22 November.
The farm track crosses the beck just outside the farm yard, and the existing bridge was undermined by the beck when it was in spate after heavy rainfall which caused flooding across Cumbria, not just cutting off the National Trust tenant farmer and his young family off from the road, but also cutting off the cattle from their winter silage feed.
Because no work can be carried out in the river at the moment to protect the fish spawning habitats, the National Trust have hired a temporary bridge – the only one in the country that would work for this location – which was lifted into place on Monday by local contractors Stobbarts.
Ricky Fee, Operations Director for Stobbarts said “The bridge had to be split into four sections to manoeuvre it up the narrow lonning then reassembled on site. But the narrow lanes weren’t the biggest challenge – that was the time pressure!”
Fish had to be rescued from the beck before the construction began. West Cumbria Rivers Trust rescued 45 trout and 12 eels from the construction area, releasing them downstream. “I was amazed to see so much life in a little beck,” said Ricky Fee, “I enjoyed the fish rescue so much I’m going to volunteer some time this summer to help on other projects”.
Mark Astley, National Trust area ranger for Buttermere Valley said, “It was really important to reconnect High Nook Farm with the road, and with their livestock, as quickly as possible. I’ve been so impressed with the skill of local contractors Stobbarts, and it also means this popular walking route is reconnected in time for the Christmas break. At the National Trust we’re working to help our upland landscape become more flood resilient. This work will only become more important as extreme rainfall events like this become more frequent.”
Tenant farmer David Allen said “Both the builders and the National Trust have worked excellently, I can’t knock them. It’s a difficult time of the year, with poor access and the weather was against them, they’ve worked really well.”
The temporary bridge has a ridged surface so the National Trust is advising horse riders and cyclists to dismount for their own safety while crossing the bridge. The bridge and will be open to the public from Friday 22 December and will stay in place until summer 2018 when work will start to repair the existing permanent bridge once the Environment Agency restrictions on working in rivers are lifted.