Improving the walkways at Aira Force

Aerial view of main falls at Aira Force, Cumbria

On 1 March we will begin a project to enhance the walkways at Aira Force. We’re hoping to thrill visitors by replacing an existing viewing area and footpath, unstable and unsuitable for long term use, with a dramatic steel platform, cantilevered out over the river gorge, to provide inspiring views of the river and waterfall.

The £189,000 project is being part funded by a grant from The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. The remaining amount, about 45%, will be covered by funds gifted through legacy donations and fundraising, these funds are restricted and can only be used on particular projects at particular places.

What’s the plan?

We are working with two local contractors, Lewis Conservation and Roland Hill, who will install steel gantry walkways and viewing platforms to replace the existing ones in two areas. The first area is an unstable section of footpath on the east side of Aira Beck, the second is focused on the lower viewing platform at the base of Aira Force falls which suffers from standing water, crumbling mortar and icing in the winter.  

Eroded banks and footpaths will get new supports as part of the Aira Force walkways project.
Close up of bank erosion underneath footpath at Aira Force, Cumbria
Eroded banks and footpaths will get new supports as part of the Aira Force walkways project.

Over the last few years we have made several attempts to stabilise this section of footpath but due to the slope and the underlying bed rock it has been difficult to get the posts in sufficiently to be able to hold the path in place. We’re excited about this project, it’s an innovative solution to a persistent problem, it will recreate the drama that Victorian thrill-seekers sought out here many years ago.

This approach will provide sustainable support to the banks which are heavily eroded. The materials are designed to increase the footpath’s safety and accessibility, including in the winter months. 

The work will take place between March and July, with the new sections of footpath in place and open to the public later this summer. Some sections of footpath will be closed during the duration of the work to ensure the safety of local visitors enjoying their daily exercise during lockdown. A one-way system around the waterfall trails will ensure the site remains easy to navigate.

Keep checking back below for regular updates from the project team, we're looking forward to sharing this exciting project with you as each stage unfolds.