Repairing flood damage to New Bridge at Rosthwaite

photo of stone bridge with sunlight sparkling off the water
Published : 03 Aug 2016

The sun-warmed cobbles and fern-encrusted stones of a traditional packhorse bridge over a lazy trout river is an idyllic summer Lakeland scene. But back in December 2015 the river Derwent was a raging torrent that battered Rosthwaite’s traditional stone bridge so severely it has taken months of careful planning to get to a point where we can repair the damage.

Careful analysis of a precious heritage feature

New Bridge, despite its name, is a traditional stone packhorse bridge – it’s features like this, as much as the fells and the lakes, that help give the Lake District its distinctive character. The bridge was photographed from all angles to identify the main damage and a Cumbrian construction company who have repaired a number of our historic buildings came up with a plan for repairing the damage.

New Bridge was badly damaged in the December 2015 storms
diagram showing damage to New Bridge at Rosthwaite
New Bridge was badly damaged in the December 2015 storms

We’ve also had to apply for permission to the Environment Agency to work in the River Derwent because there’s only a narrow window of opportunity outside the fish spawning season.

Tree work

In order to get scaffolding to the bridge, we are bringing forward coppicing work on the river bank trees. This was already in our management plan, but doing it now means we can speed up the work to repair the bridge.

Coppicing is a traditional woodland management technique that’s been used in the Lake District for centuries. It involves cutting the trees to ground level in such a way to encourage new growth from the old stump, and keeping the roots alive

On a river bank that’s really important as the roots help bind the earth and stones of the river bank together, stopping it from being eroded away by the river. The tree grows again, providing much needed habitat for birds and insects, and in the past local people would have used the wood as building material, firewood and to make tools.

Temporary foot bridge

While the work is underway, New Bridge will be closed, and a temporary footbridge installed downstream. Once the work has been completed the temporary footbridge will be removed and hopefully New Bridge will be just as good as when it was brand new - two hundred years ago.


There's a lot of work to do to repair the bridge
diagram showing extent of work on New Bridge
There's a lot of work to do to repair the bridge

Fundraising for repairs

The bill for the repairs, including the work getting analysis, surveys and consents for New Bridge and a similar bridge at Watendlath is going to be around £80,000. At the moment it sounds like none of the this work will be covered by our insurance this is all money that’s having to be diverted from other conservation projects we had planned to help care for the paths and wildlife habitats in the Lake District.

Every penny we can raise towards repairing storm damage through our Lake District Appeal is money that we won’t have to take away from other path repair and habitat restoration projects.

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