Aira Force Project Frequently Asked Questions

Aira Force waterfall in Ullswater

We're sure you have lots of questions about the walkways project and what it will mean for Aira Force in 2021. To help you find answers quickly, we've collected your frequently asked questions below. This page will be updated regularly, throughout the duration of the project.

What is happening at Aira Force?

We are replacing the existing viewing area with a dramatic steel platform which will be cantilevered out over the river gorge, providing inspiring views of the river and waterfall. We will also be enhancing a section of footpath, which has become increasingly unstable, to enable better access for a wider range of abilities.

Why is this being done? 

Over the last few years several attempts have been made to stabilise the trail leading to the waterfall, however, due to the steep bank and the underlying bedrock it has been difficult to create a well presented and long-term solution.

The viewing platform is uneven and suffers from standing water during wet weather. Over winter this water freezes, resulting in the mortar crumbling. The ongoing effects of this, coupled with heavy footfall from the site's popularity is causing the deterioration of this spectacular viewpoint.

How are you paying for the work? 

Estimated to cost around £189,000, the project is being funded in part by a grant from The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. The remaining amount, about 45%, will be covered by funds that the National Trust has been gifted through legacy donations and fundraising. These funds are restricted and can only be used on particular projects at particular places (we couldn’t use them to pay staff wages for example). 

How long will it take? 

The work will start in March; as long as we don’t have any delays it should take five months to complete. We hope the site will be fully open for August. 

How will the work impact on my visit? 

We will have to keep certain sections of footpath closed during the duration of the work to ensure the safety of visitors and so that the contractors can work as efficiently as possible. The one way system around the waterfall trails will ensure the site remains easy to navigate.

What will be the visual impacts of the work? 

Although we are making a visual change to some areas, changing from woodland track or stone to steel, the process of upgrading and renewing has been something that has happened at Aira Force for over two hundred years. For instance, the waterfall bridges have evolved from wood to stone, and steps have been introduced in slate to make the paths more accessible. Although the appearance will be different, we are continuing a tradition at Aira Force of access to this spectacular and inspiring place that will last for many years to come.

What materials are being used? 

A specialist steel, the material is designed to increase the footpath’s safety and accessibility, including in the winter months. It will also provide an enhanced experience of walking over this area due to the path being suspended over the existing bank, with small holes for drainage through which the visitor will be able to catch a glimpse of the drop and water beneath. It’s the same material that was used at the Bowder Stone Steps. 

Who is completing the works? 

Two local contractors, Lewis Conservation and Roland Hill will carry out the work. 

Is this an intrusive addition to a natural landscape? 

Aira Force provides a glimpse of a landscaped Victorian park with dramatic waterfalls, arboretum and rocks scenery. As a designed landscape Aira Force has developed a lot over the years, including the bridges moving from wood to stone. 

What will be the impact on nature during the works? 

As part of our planning process we completed an ecological and environmental survey. Natural England’s records of designated sites show that there are no sites with statutory protection in the vicinity of the proposed works. However, the National Trust’s own research shows that there are some notable trees and mosses in this woodland gorge.

The Aira Beck passes through a wooded stream valley. The beck margins have had long continuity of damp shady habitat and support rich ancient woodland flora. Our reports found lichens that occupy the wooded gorge will not be disturbed by the proposed works.

How long is this structure intended to last? 

Multiple options were reviewed for the project including masonry walls or a wooden viewing platform, these were discounted due to short lifespan. The steel decking will have a lifespan of circa 50 years. 

Is there a plan to change more of the waterfall trails to this type?

The trails at Aira Force are heavily used and under constant repair by our Ranger team. Currently there aren’t any sections in such poor repair as the two we are focusing on with this project, therefore there are not any current plans to undertake further changes to the trails.