New bridge reconnects town and park

Date: Friday 23rd June 2017
Smiles from mayor Susan Leighton and Keswick Lions Club member Simon Parle as the new bridge is lowered into position.
Smiles from mayor Susan Leighton and Keswick Lions Club member Simon Parle as the new bridge is lowered into position.

A NEW footbridge reconnecting the centre of Keswick to picturesque Fitz Park was carefully lowered into place by a giant crane on Thursday.

Keswick mayor Susan Leighton said the former Knights Bridge was destroyed by the force of the River Greta and the debris it was carrying — including caravan segments — during a massive flood at the start of December, 2015, which also covered the park in water and left deep deposits of silt.

It is hoped that the footbridge, which has been replaced at a cost of more than £200,000, will be open to the public by the end of next month. It is higher than the previous structure and has been built to last.

Mrs. Leighton, who was chairman of Keswick Parks Trust when Storm Desmond hit, affecting 500 homes and businesses in the town, said it was great that the bridge was now being replaced, but it was sad it had taken so long.

Identifying the landowner on the other side of the bridge to Fitz Park, design issues and planning, as well as funding the uninsurable losses, had all contributed to the delays, she said.

The loss of the bridge had affected both locals and visitors walking though the park on their way to town. It also affected the Crosthwaite Road car parks, as the route across Knights Bridge was the easiest and safest way into town.

Mrs. Leighton said the parks trust was especially grateful to Keswick Lions Club and the town’s Steve Harwood, who acted as a planning consultant for the project.

As part of the scheme, the Lions had donated £20,000 for access ramps to be built and installed. The gift was the largest amount given by any club in the North West as part of a legacy project which is celebrating a century of Lions’ groups having been in existence.

Keswick Lions Club volunteer Simon Parle, aged 38, said the ramping — being constructed by building contractor Mike Fell Ltd., of Keswick — could be used by buggies and bikes.

It would also make the bridge more user-friendly for people with disabilities. “This is going to be our legacy,” he said. Michael Hawkins, managing director of MPM North West, said it had taken the firm eight weeks to build the bridge at its base in Maryport.

During the installation process, engineers from Northern Gas were on hand to oversee the operation, as there was a gas mains in the vicinity, but they were happy from a safety point of view.

A crowd of onlookers gathered to watch as the bridge was lowered into place without incident.