Improving the walkways at Aira Force

Project
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. 

The work will take place between March and August, with the new sections of footpath in place and open to the public early this autumn. 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.

Latest updates

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

21 Jun 21

Strong foundations going in

Due to the delay in receiving the German manufactured steel graepel the last few weeks have been slightly quieter on the ground. However, the contractors have been putting the finishing touches to the base framework, with the steel struts now cemented in place. They have also been building up the revetment wall by the bottom waterfall bridge, an added protection for the old stone bridge which is an iconic part of our traditional waterfall view. They have even been able to use some of the original stone, making sure it’s a perfect fit with the surrounding features.

Steel struts in place at Aira Force ready for the new walkways

24 May 21

Unexpected delays

In the last few weeks contractors have been on site far less than they were previously. These quiet weeks have been caused by a delay in materials. Some components of the viewing platform and walkways are coming from Germany and our initial 8-week lead time for these to arrive has been extended to around 12 weeks, this means our predicted completion date has moved to September. Even though it feels like a bit of a setback having to push our re-opening to later in the year, it is not all bad news. We have recently received the drawings for the proposed new retaining wall, an important job that the contractors can work on whilst we wait for the German components to arrive on site. The contractors are expected on site any day to commence this next section of the project.

Scaffolding at Aira Force in Ullswater