New flood resilient path created at Derwent Water
When a path that you've spent thousands of pounds repairing many times over the last few years gets washed out yet again, destroying weeks of work in just a few short hours, what do you do?
That was the choice facing the National Trust ranger team in the North Lakes in the aftermath of Storm Desmond in December 2015
In the short term, of course, they picked themselves up, brushed themselves off and got right back to filling in the biggest holes and literally dragging a footbridge back into position to make sure that the Derwent Water lakeshore path at Strandshag Bay - under one mile from Keswick and one of the most popular routes in the Lakes - was ready for the Christmas visitors.
A long-term solution
It was obvious to everyone, however, that in the long term continuing to put hours of work, and thousands of pounds of donations into replacing a path that was just going to get destroyed again in the next storm simply wasn't a real solution.
Another problem faced by the team was that the logs and boulders which had been hurled at the bank by storm-force waves had excavated deep 'caves' in the soft soil and had undermined and exposed the roots of several large trees growing at the edge of the beach.
Working together with the tenant farmer who grazes his livestock on the field at Strandshag Bay, the rangers created a much more imaginative solution.
Access for All
One of the main draws of the route to Strandshag Bay - just beyond the famous viewpoint of Friar's Crag - is that it's less than one mile from Keswick, and it's one of the easiest walks for people with limited mobility. There are no steps, no stiles and no steep gradients, and the views down the length of the lake to the Jaws of Borrowdale and Cat Bells make it a really great combination of huge rewards for relatively little effort.
Maintaining a path surface that was accessible to all, however, was proving difficult - the beach-side path was getting 'washed out' with increasing frequency, meaning that rangers were having to spend more and more time repairing it, instead of working on other more significant conservation tasks in the valley.
By moving the path to the top of the bank, we've ensured that the even surface will need less regular maintenance. It will be out of the reach of even the most severe waves caused by winter storms, and should experience less 'guttering' where rainwater runnoff cuts a channel across or along a path's surface. So it will provide a good surface for visitors with pushchairs, or for those who rely on a nice even surface. We're using local material so it will blend in well with the natural surroundings too.
A re-naturalised beach
The other winner here is the lakeshore habitat. Now that the path has been moved to the top of the bank, the path along the edge of the lake will gradually return to natural beach. The trees that were undermined have been temporarily fenced off and had a load of extra soil to help them recover so their roots can stabilise the bank.
The plan is that over the long-term, the beach and bank will be reshaped by the waves druing winter storms to have a more natural 'profile': a gradual slope, rather than a steep vertical with a flat horizontal path at it's base, which will be better able to absorb the energy of waves in future winter storms.
Rather than fighting natural processes to keep the path where it was, we'd rather work with natural processes to create a more flood-resilient path higher up with better access for all, and in the process allow the natural beach environment to regenerate, providing a better habitat for lakeshore wildlife.
The next steps..
If you're visiting Keswick please take a walk along our new path at Strandshag Bay, we hope you enjoy the experience and will perhaps be inspired to explore even more of Derwent Water's lakeshore.
We want to continue the work we have started at Strandshag Bay at places all around Derwent Water so we can improve access for you at the same time as improving conditions for wildlife...but it's an expensive project.
If you can help us raise money for projects like this across the Lake District by donating to the Lake District Appeal, it would really help us improve things for walkers and for nature.
Donate to the Lake District flood appeal
With your support we can continue to repair the destruction caused by Storm Desmond and protect the Lake District from future storms