Improving the walkways at Aira Force

Aerial view of main falls at Aira Force, Cumbria

On 1 March we began 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. 

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.

Part funded by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas

Latest updates

11 Nov 21

Tree fall update

Following the tree fall at Aira Force in August 2021 we have been working with expert partners to investigate the exact cause and to undertake surveys to access the damage and stability of other trees in the gorge. We have got to the stage now where we can safely access the site to clear it, but due to the specialist nature of the works we need to appoint an expert contractor, and we will be doing so shortly. The clearance works are expected to take some weeks to achieve with mid to late spring 2022 our best estimate as to when this will be completed. Once clearance works have been completed, further inspection will be required to identify subsequent steps to restore the site and make it safe for future use by the public. We are unsure at this stage as to when this work will be completed and the impact to the walkways project but will issue regular updates. Aira Force does remain open and visitors will still be able to view the falls from the main footpath and while crossing the stone bridge at the top of the falls and enjoy the network of trails leading to wonderful spots like the glade, the pinetum, High Force gorge and High Cascades. Ensuring the safety of everyone concerned is our top priority, as well as making sure that Aira Force is safeguarded for future generations to enjoy.

Fallen tree at Aira Force

28 Sep 21

Frustrating times

Over the last few weeks works on the walkways have had to come to a stop as in early August a tree fell from a bank and landed on the lower stone bridge, depositing earth onto the new viewing platform. Before the fall we were just about to put the finishing touches to the lower viewing platform and commence installing the aerial walkway in preparation for a grand opening in October. Unfortunately, the tree fall will delay the opening of the new walkways until late autumn at the earliest. Even though this is a setback and frustrating for all concerned, our ranger team and contractors will be working hard to make up for lost time once we have approval to safely access the site.

Aira Force

28 Jul 21

Backbreaking works

It was full steam ahead last week as our ranger team removed all the existing walkway down to the bedrock in preparation for the installation of the aerial pathway. Our team was joined by the Langdale rangers and with the help of three power barrows 10 tonnes of material has now been removed! All materials will be repurposed for other jobs we have in progress around Aira Force and Ullswater. The handrails were also installed at the bottom viewing platform in time for the walkway panels to be installed, which have now arrived and are awaiting painting.

Rangers digging out existing footpath