A new £5m Lake District bridge: From beautiful stone arches to a single span stainless steel structure – and more room for Pooh sticks

Posted by Derek Mason

27th April 2021

When a bridge is so much a part of your community that the tearoom overlooking the River Eamont sells bridge-shaped gingerbread biscuits, the loss of that bridge is felt quite hard.

That’s exactly what happened when the 18th Century stone structure at Pooley Bridge was dramatically washed away during Storm Desmond in December 2015.

Speaking to The Guardian, Granny Dowbekin’s Tearoom owner, Colin Hindle said, “It felt somewhere between a bereavement and a disaster movie unfolding in front of us”.

Pooley Bridge lies to the North Eastern end of the Lake District National Park, and the original structure was a Grade II listed 3-span stone arch bridge. It was a critical link between the two sides of the town, as well as being attractive to tourists.

So even though the bridge was replaced with a temporary Bailey bridge after three months, the loss of the bridge was felt strongly. What is great about this story is that a lot of consultation went on to ensure residents were happy with the new design.

Designed by Knight Architects, who are bridge specialists, the new bridge is the first stainless steel bridge to be built in the UK. It spans 40 metres and has a single road lane and two pavements. It widens from 7.5m to 9.5 m at the centre – with the wider section requested during the consultation, so that there would be room to play Pooh sticks.

It’s a clean, modern design, and what’s interesting, from a structural point of view, is the way that it was built offsite before being brought to the site and lowered into position.

Due to the tourist season, running from May to October, and the salmon spawning season from October to May, there was a limited time window for the bridge to be put in place. So it was prefabricated off-site in Darwen, Lancashire, in four chunks, then put together in the car park alongside the river, where the concrete arch was also poured. Weighing in at 100 tonnes, the entire bridge was then lifted into place using the biggest crawler crane in the UK. This all happened in January 2020, with the bridge finally opening to the public in October 2020.

The single span structure has been deliberately designed so that no piers are needed in the river, thus reducing the risk from flood waters and making the structure much more likely to survive any future floods.

According to Cumbria County Council, the £5m bridge project used approximately 80 tonnes of stainless steel, 2000 tonnes of concrete and 650 square metres of locally sourced stone. All materials have been left raw, so there will be no need for costly repainting at any point.

It took 250 people around 10,000 person hours to construct the bridge. And, importantly, the locals seem happy with the result. It might not make a great biscuit, but it’s an elegant result. As the tearoom owner, Colin Hindle put it, “They built the best bridge they could in the 1700s. We owe it to the future to build the best bridge we can now – and I think they’ve done exactly that.”

Isn’t this the ethos that all of us want to bring to our projects? To build the best bridge, building or any other structure that we possibly can?

If you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.

If you would like to see what the new bridge looks like and for more information, please click here.

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