The Pooley Bridges

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright April 2020, David Purchase; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
Images also under a similar Creative Commons Licence.


Pooley Bridge is a small village in the Lake District, named after its bridge across the River Eamont. This article traces the history of that bridge between 2015 and 2020.

I had originally intended not to publish this article until the new Pooley Bridge was open (originally planned for April 2020). But following a suggestion, I made it available then even though the opening has been put back several times. I have continued to update it through to the full opening of the new bridge, which occurred on 23 October 2020.

I am very happy to receive corrections, additions or suggestions for improvement, preferably by email.

The article was first published on 28 April 2020, and last updated on 25 October 2020: however as a coda, in March 2021 I added two photos taken on the morning of Christmas Day 2020. I regard it as 'complete', although I shall be happy to add further relevant material.


Pooley Bridge

NY4624 : Pooley Bridge by Peter McDermott
The bridge at Pooley Bridge crossing the River Eamont.
by Peter McDermott


NY4624 : Pooley No-bridge! by David Purchase
That bridge was swept away in December 2015, and for a period of some 15 weeks there was no bridge at all.


NY4724 : Bailey Bridge over the River Eamont, Pooley Bridge by Anthony Foster
This bridge was opened in March 2016 as a replacement for the original bridge NY4724 : Pooley Bridge that had stood for over 250 years until it was washed away by the floodwater following Storm Desmond in December 2015.

The River Eamont is the boundary between the historic counties of Cumberland and Westmorland.
by Anthony Foster


NY4724 : The pedestrian bridge at Pooley Bridge by David Purchase
After the old bridge was swept away by Storm Desmond in December 2015, a temporary Bailey Bridge was erected. But in order for the new bridge to be constructed, that had to be taken away (there is no other place for the new bridge, it can only be where the old one was). So this bridge was put in place for pedestrians and cyclists. Without it, it was a long way round!


NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw
The northern (downstream) footway was opened on Saturday, 12 September 2020 and Michael Earnshaw was able to cross it on that day. Here we are looking towards the village, with Granny Dowbekin's Tea Rooms conspicuous on the left.


NY4624 : "I now declare the new Pooley Bridge open" by Cumbria County Council
The new bridge is opened on the morning of 23 October 2020.


NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge is open by Cumbria County Council
Appropriately in the Lake District, within 20 minutes of opening, the bridge was crossed by a flock of sheep. I am not sure whether they obeyed the traffic lights!


Introduction

Pooley Bridge is a small village about 8 km (5 miles) south-west of Penrith and just north-east of Ullswater in the Lake District. For many decades now, it has been primarily dependent on tourism.

The river which flows out of Ullswater, the River Eamont, runs for about 17 km (11 miles) before it meets the River Eden east of Penrith. It was crossed by five road bridges (as well as one rail bridge, on the West Coast Main Line, and two or three private footbridges). Two of those are modern, on the M6 and the A66: functional, but hardly attractive. The others are at Pooley Bridge (on the B5320), Eamont Bridge (on the A6), and Brougham Castle (on a minor road south-east of Penrith); this article relates to the first of these.

Just a short warning. It is an awkward site to Geograph, because the 47 easting gridline bisects the bridge, and so the photos here are in two different squares, NY4624 and NY4724. Cross-grids are fairly common!

The 'old' bridge here was built in 1764 (though there had been an earlier bridge on the site). It was a fine three-arched bridge which survived for 251 years. But on the night of 5-6 December 2015, Storm Desmond filled Ullswater so much that the outflow swept away the centre span on the afternoon of Sunday, December 6, and by the following morning the entire bridge was gone. Fortunately, no-one was crossing it at the time! (A large part of the Lake District rainfall east of the main Helvellyn range flows into Ullswater and thence the River Eamont. Thirlmere reported 405mm (nearly 16 inches) of rain in 36 hours, and no doubt Ullswater was similar. The River Eden then flows through Carlisle, and there were serious floods there as well.)

The situation was that Pooley Bridge had gone and Eamont Bridge, though still standing, was deemed to be unsafe. Brougham Castle bridge, built in 1813, was already badly damaged (though not specifically by Storm Desmond). So to get from one side of the river to the other, you either had to use the M6 (which meant a very long detour via Shap) or the A66 (which meant some very narrow and twisty lanes through Brougham, difficult for anything larger than a small van). Residents of that part of Cumbria were feeling rather cut off.

Within less than four months a temporary Bailey Bridge had been erected (and at about the same time the Eamont Bridge was repaired and re-opened) in time for Easter, much to the delight of local businesses.

There was then, understandably, a delay. This was a major project for Cumbria County Council (CCC), who (to be fair) had many other Storm-Desmond-related issues to cope with, including the blockage of the A591, the only road through central Lakeland from Windermere to Keswick. (Mind you, the delay to Pooley Bridge was fairly short. The bridge on the A686 over the River Eden at Langwathby was destroyed in 1968, and the temporary girder bridge recently celebrated its 50th birthday!)

After seeking designs and tenders for a new Pooley Bridge, in April 2018 CCC accepted one from Eric Wright Civil Engineering which would cost about 5 million. It is, in my opinion, an elegant design. It does not try to reconstruct the old bridge, which would be foolish, but it clearly should be able to cope with future storms. It is stated to be the first stainless steel / concrete composite road bridge in Britain, and to require the largest mobile crane in the country to lift it into position across the river. The new bridge is a single span 40m (130ft) long and weighs 450 tonnes.

The only feasible construction site was the Dunmallard car park on the west side of the river, at NY469245, and so a new car park was constructed near the A592/B5320 junction at NY464243. The Bailey Bridge was removed in September 2019 and a temporary pedestrian bridge erected: everyone is most grateful to the local residents who allowed the pedestrian bridge to cross their land. For the ten days or so when there was not even a pedestrian crossing, a free shuttle-bus service operated.

Visiting the site from time to time, and looking at the photos below, I am surprised that the cost is not even higher than 5 million. Of course a bog-standard concrete bridge would have been much cheaper, but it is to the credit of the CCC that they recognised how inappropriate this would have been. (Actually, I think that the Environment Agency imposed some conditions, because the old bridge was listed. It is easy for the EA to do that when they don't have to meet the increased costs!)

Update in August 2020 Like almost everything else, the schedule was seriously upset by the coronavirus pandemic. What one might call 'normal' construction delays had already pushed the opening from April to June, but then in March work had to stop. It soon resumed, but at a slower rate because, to maintain social distancing, fewer workers could be allowed on the site. Another plan which had to be abandoned was to open the bridge before all the 'cosmetic' work was finished, for the same reason. So the planned opening was put back to October 2020.

Update in September 2020 The pedestrian bridge was removed on 9 September 2020, and once again the temporary shuttle-bus service operated. But only for a few days, because on 12 September the new bridge was opened to walkers and cyclists.

Final update The new bridge was fully opened on 23 October 2020. I have seen a report that the final cost is more like 7m than 5m. I do not know how accurate this is, but it would not surprise me.


The construction process


This section is based on my understanding of the process, but I am no expert. Skip it if it doesn't interest you, and go to the photos!

The steelwork was built in sections in a factory in Darwen, Lancashire, brought to the construction site in late 2019 / early 2020, and assembled there. At the same time, work on the footings on each side of the river has been proceeding. I suspect that this work, especially on the west bank, took longer than planned, and this might explain a two-month delay announced in February 2020. This was unwelcome to the local business community, but I imagine that the coronavirus pandemic made this and any further delays to the bridge the least of their worries!

The footings required very firm concrete foundation slabs, as there was no solid rock on which to anchor the bridge. Then there were 'abutment structures' which would house the 'backspan frame'. The frames are basically metal frameworks that transfer the pressure of the load on the bridge down to the foundation slabs. The structures are hollow concrete boxes, making access easy for maintenance.

Once the steelwork had been assembled, the next step was a concrete pour into the lower arch. After that, it was lifted into position across the Eamont on 7 May 2020. During the lift, there was a temporary tie bar joining the lower ends of the steelwork, to prevent any warping of the structure. The next step was to complete the backspan frames to anchor the bridge in position, before concrete is poured into the upper arch and bridge deck. The deck of the bridge is concrete, only 25cm thick and 8m to 9m wide. The tie bars were then removed. There is still much work to do before the bridge can be fully opened!

Acknowledgements


I must conclude this introduction with sincere thanks to Michael Earnshaw, who has taken many photos on my behalf. He lives in Penrith, which is a more convenient base than my home in Bristol! Even during the coronavirus lockdown he was able to get to Pooley Bridge on his permitted cycle rides for exercise. (Please note that if the photo is by Michael, the title and description were written by me even if the description is credited to him.)

Also thanks to Ian Taylor, who has helped me to understand the construction process more clearly. And finally to Cumbria County Council who allowed me to submit photos of the lift in May and the opening in October under the CC licence.

Of course any remaining errors are mine alone.

David Purchase

Map


1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright


Map link/NY4724 link

Timeline

1764Old Pooley Bridge built.
2015 Dec 6Bridge destroyed by Storm Desmond.
2016 March 20Temporary Bailey Bridge opened.
2016 March 23Visit to Pooley Bridge by HRH Prince Charles.
2018 AprilContract for the new bridge signed.
2019 JuneConstruction of a new car park by the A592/B5320 junction, and closure of the Dunmallard car park to become the construction site.
2019 Sept 9Closure, and subsequent removal, of the Bailey Bridge.
2019 Sept 20Opening of a temporary bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.
2020 AprilInitial planned opening of the new bridge - delayed.
2020 May 7Lifting of the bridge span across the river.
2020 Sept 7Closure of the pedestrian bridge (and its removal on Sept 9).
2020 Sept 12The new bridge is opened to pedestrians only.
2020 Oct 23Full opening of the new bridge.


Photo album

Within each sub-heading below, most photos are shown in 'date of submission' order. This is usually also 'date of taking' order.

The village

A few photos of the village and its surroundings, to set the scene.
NY4724 : Granny Dowbekin's Tea Shop at Pooley Bridge by Adie Jackson
It is named after the grandmother of the present owners, who in Lancashire during the 1920s specialised in home baking whilst raising 12 children. A manuscript displayed on the wall says that the teashop was bought for £150 in 1860.
by Adie Jackson

NY4724 : Eusemere Lodge gate, Pooley Bridge by David Purchase
This metalwork struck me as particularly attractive.
by David Purchase


NY4724 : The Crown Inn and monument, Pooley Bridge, Barton by Humphrey Bolton NY4724 : Back gardens adjacent to River Eamont by Roger Smith NY4724 : Treetops cafe and gift shop by Rose and Trev Clough NY4624 : The summit of Dunmallard Hill by David Purchase NY4724 : Pooley Bridge from the south-east by David Purchase NY4724 : The B4320 in Pooley Bridge by Nigel Brown

The old bridge at Pooley Bridge

NY4624 : Pooley  Bridge  and  River  Eamont by Martin Dawes
The old county boundary, this side Cumberland the other Westmorland.
by Martin Dawes

NY4624 : Pooley Bridge by David Dixon
The village of Pooley Bridge takes its name from this eighteenth century bridge which carries the B5320 over the River Eamont at the northern end of Ullswater.

The three-arched bridge, which has the markings "JS & IR 1764" inscribed on the stone parapet, is a Grade II listed building (English Heritage Building ID: 73790 LinkExternal link British Listed Buildings).
by David Dixon


NY4724 : Pooley Bridge, Pooley Bridge by michael ely NY4724 : Pooley Bridge by Anthony Foster NY4624 : Pooley Bridge over the River Eamont by Rose and Trev Clough NY4624 : Pooley Bridge by Ian Greig NY4724 : Pooley Bridge, River Eamont by David Dixon NY4724 : Pooley Bridge by Ian Taylor

Pooley no-bridge!


As I write, this is the only photo on site showing the situation with no bridge at all. It has a rather nice palindromic ID number, 4818184. (When I submitted this photo I was unaware of the minor bridge at Brougham Castle. I have left the description as it stood at the time.)

NY4624 : Pooley No-bridge! by David Purchase
The central arch of the bridge over the River Eamont, just below its exit from Ullswater, was swept away by Storm Desmond on the afternoon of 6 December 2015. The rest of the bridge disappeared during that night. Plans for a temporary bridge are in place, but until now work appears to have concentrated on clearing away the rubble (and no doubt checking the stability of the two end points).
With the bridge on the A6 at Eamont Bridge (just south of Penrith) deemed unsafe for traffic (although still standing), there are now only two surviving vehicular crossings of the River Eamont between Ullswater and the River Eden. One is the M6, which entails a very long detour south of Shap. The other is the A66 bridge, which then involves using quite narrow roads through Brougham. It is hardly surprising that communities in this part of Cumbria are feeling rather cut off!



The era of the Bailey Bridge

NY4624 : Temporary Bridge river Eamont by Steve Houldsworth
Temporary bridge crossing the river Eamont, built in 1764 the original bridge spanned the river at the northern end of Ullswater for more than 250 years before being crushed by the weight of the floodwater during storm Desmond December 2015.
by Steve Houldsworth

NY4624 : Crossing the Bailey Bridge at Pooley Bridge by David Purchase
The old bridge was swept away by the floods associated with Storm Desmond on 6 December 2015 (see NY4624 : Pooley No-bridge!). This temporary bridge across the River Eamont was opened on 20 March 2016.

For a history of the bridges old and new, see Links" href="https://www.geograph.org.uk/article/The-Pooley-Bridges">Link .
by David Purchase
Shared Description

NY4624 : The temporary pontoon bridge at Pooley Bridge by Ruth Sharville
This bridge temporarily replaced the old stone bridge washed away in the flood of 2015.
by Ruth Sharville


NY4724 : Bailey Bridge over the River Eamont by M J Richardson NY4624 : New Bailey bridge, Pooley Bridge by Nigel Brown NY4624 : Temporary car park for visitors to Pooley Bridge by Ruth Sharville NY4624 : Footpath from temporary car park to Pooley Bridge by Ruth Sharville NY4724 : Looking across the river to Pooley Bridge riverside by Ruth Sharville

Constructing the new bridge

During this period the temporary bridge for pedestrians and cyclists was in place.

NY4624 : Pooley Bridge information board by David Purchase
On the site of the temporary car park. For the rest of this information, see NY4624 : Pooley Bridge information board. As for "Why we need a replacement bridge", well, I would have thought that was fairly obvious!

For a history of the bridges old and new, see Links" href="https://www.geograph.org.uk/article/The-Pooley-Bridges">Link .
by David Purchase

NY4624 : Pooley Bridge information board by David Purchase
On the site of the temporary car park. For the start of this information, see NY4624 : Pooley Bridge information board. For a history of the bridges old and new, see Links" href="https://www.geograph.org.uk/article/The-Pooley-Bridges">Link .
by David Purchase

NY4724 : The temporary pedestrian bridge across the River Eamont by David Purchase
On 9 September 2019 the Bailey Bridge was closed and demolished to make way for the new, permanent bridge. (This has to be on the same spot as the old bridge, there is no other practicable crossing point. So for about six months there will again be no vehicular crossing here.) A temporary pedestrian and cyclist bridge, seen here, was opened on 20 September, and for the intervening 10 days or so a free shuttle-bus service operated.

We are looking upstream towards Ullswater, with the Gowbarrow fells in the distance.

For a history of the bridges old and new, see Links" href="https://www.geograph.org.uk/article/The-Pooley-Bridges">Link .
by David Purchase

NY4724 : The east (village) end of the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw
The concrete footings for the new Pooley Bridge. Looking at NY4624 : Steelwork for the new Pooley Bridge one can see roughly how the steelwork will fit into the V-shaped opening in the concrete.

For a history of the bridges old and new, see Links" href="https://www.geograph.org.uk/article/The-Pooley-Bridges">Link .
by Michael Earnshaw

NY4724 : The footings at the east (village) end of the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw
The footings are immediately ahead, though rather difficult to appreciate. Part of the new bridge can be seen on the opposite bank.

NY4724 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw
The footings at the east (village) end appear to be nearly complete.

NY4624 : Ullswater by Michael Earnshaw
This, IMHO, atmospheric photo by Michael Earnshaw shows the River Eamont leaving Ullswater. It is taken from the temporary pedestrian / cyclist bridge in place while the new Pooley Bridge is being built. The prominent hill left of centre is Birk Fell (512m), which falls steeply to the north-west into Ullswater, but rises gently to the left to Place Fell (657m) which is rather obscured by the trees.

In the far distance is the Helvellyn range.


NY4724 : The River Eamont at Pooley Bridge by David Purchase NY4724 : The pedestrian bridge at Pooley Bridge by David Purchase NY4724 : The new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Work for the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Works for the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Steelwork for the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : Pooley Bridge village from Heughscar Hill by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw

High in the air!

The bridge is lifted into position on 7 May 2020. (My grateful thanks to Cumbria County Council for these three photographs. The descriptions are mine.)

NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge by Cumbria County Council
The bridge is being readied for its lift across the River Eamont tomorrow, May 7.

NY4624 : High in the air! by Cumbria County Council
During the three-hour period when the new Pooley Bridge was being moved from the construction site to its destination across the River Eamont, I suspect that the engineers had their fingers crossed. Fortunately, everything went well.

The horizontal tie below the arch is not a permanent feature: it was just there to ensure that the main steelwork did not warp during the lift.

NY4724 : The new Pooley Bridge is safely in position by Cumbria County Council
After a three-hour lift, the bridge has been moved from the construction site to its position across the River Eamont. We are here looking roughly south-west towards Ullswater.

The yellow walkways are, I think, temporary, to enable the contractors to do the concrete pours into the upper part of the arches.



Work continues

NY4724 : Pooley Bridge from Heughscar Hill by Michael Earnshaw
The huge crane which lifted the new bridge into position two days ago still dominates the village.

Dunmallet (or Dunmallard) Hill is the wooded hill just behind the village. In the distance are the Northern Fells, with Blencathra (Saddleback) conspicuous to the left.

NY4624 : Pooley Bridge in position over the river by Michael Earnshaw
The new bridge, two days after being lowered into position across the river by the crane seen top left, looking downstream. The 'ties' below the bridge arch will remain in place until the bridge is securely supported by the footings at each end.

NY4624 : The crane at Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw
This crane was used on 7 May 2020 to lift the new bridge at Pooley Bridge across the River Eamont.

NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw
Work continues, but progress is not very obvious to the inexpert eye.


NY4421 : Ullswater from the slopes of Heughscar Hill by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : The bridge in position by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : Pooley Bridge in position by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : The new Pooley Bridge in position by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : The east footings of the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : The east (village) end of the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4724 : Looking across the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : Building the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw

Walkers Welcome

The pedestrian bridge was closed on 7 Sept 2020, and removed by crane two days later. This may not sound very walker-friendly, but only three days later the northern (downstream) footway on the new bridge was opened to pedestrians!

NY4624 : Warning to walkers by Michael Earnshaw
The road on the left, leading to Pooley Bridge, has been closed for a year now. But for a week, even walkers had to find an alternative route. Fortunately, a shuttle bus service was in operation.

The road ahead is the A592 to Patterdale, Kirkstone and Windermere.

NY4624 : The temporary pedestrian bridge - gone! by Michael Earnshaw
On 9 September 2020 the temporary pedestrian / cycle bridge, which was installed almost exactly a year ago, was removed by crane and deposited in the Dunmallard construction site. This was the last operation by crane during the construction of the new Pooley Bridge. The bridge, which can be seen (for example) in NY4724 : The pedestrian bridge at Pooley Bridge, NY4724 : The temporary pedestrian bridge across the River Eamont and NY4724 : Building the new Pooley Bridge, spanned the river here, to the right (upstream) of the new bridge. It was only three days later that a footway on the new bridge was opened to pedestrians. A shuttle bus service operated for those days.

Clearly a short interval was necessary for safety reasons. One could hardly have the remains of a footbridge swinging in the air above a footway in active use!

For a history of the bridges old and new, see Links" href="https://www.geograph.org.uk/article/The-Pooley-Bridges">Link .
by Michael Earnshaw

NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw
The northern (downstream) footway was opened on Saturday, 12 September 2020 and Michael Earnshaw was able to cross it on that day. Looking along the newly-opened footway towards the village.



NY4724 : The new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw

The new bridge is fully open

NY4624 : "I now declare the new Pooley Bridge open" by Cumbria County Council
The bridge was opened to traffic fairly early in the morning of Friday, 23 October 2020. (It had been open to pedestrians for a few weeks.) Cumbria County Council (to whom I am grateful for images of the opening) had hoped for a more elaborate ceremony, but Covid-19 restrictions prevented that.

Somebody had done their homework, because the date selected for the opening was exactly 50 years after the Cumbrian stretch of the M6 (junctions 38 to 40) was opened.
by Cumbria County Council


NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge is open by Cumbria County Council
Among the very first to cross the new bridge was this flock of sheep!


NY4624 : Crossing the new Pooley Bridge by Michael Earnshaw
Traffic leaving the village later that day.



And to conclude, these two photos were taken on the morning of Christmas Day 2020, the first time that I had seen the new bridge myself.
NY4624 : The new Pooley Bridge by David Purchase
This view probably gives the best impression of the structure of the new bridge.
by David Purchase


NY4724 : Walking across the new Pooley Bridge by David Purchase
Heading straight into the village on Christmas morning, 2020.
by David Purchase




Useful links

These four links were available at the time of first writing (April 2020), but may not remain so.

This is the official Cumbria County Council (CCC) description of the plan (including links to newsletters and press releases issued). LinkExternal link

This is an article in New Civil Engineer which gives a good overview of the construction without being too technical. Why they think 1764 is Victorian is beyond me! LinkExternal link

This is a more technical description of the 'Bridge Construction Sequencing', and may be somewhat obscure to non-experts (including me). I will just say that all stages except the final opening have taken place.
LinkExternal link

And this is the Wikipedia article about Storm Desmond.
LinkExternal link

KML
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