Pooley Bridge - replacement bridge project

The UK's first stainless steel road bridge was officially opened on Friday 23 October over the River Eamont at Pooley Bridge.

Measuring 128ft long, the landmark structure reconnects the Ullswater valley with a permanent bridge to replace the 18th Century stone structure destroyed during Storm Desmond in December 2015.

Cumbria County Council has delivered the single span bridge, a flagship scheme in the council's Infrastructure Recovery Programme which has repaired damage inflicted by Storm Desmond to over 450 bridges as well as large sections of road and other highway infrastructure.

The new bridge at Pooley Bridge is now open to traffic and pedestrians. It will boost the economy and transport links for local people in this popular Lake District beauty spot.

The bridge was designed as a single span structure to avoid the need for piers in the river, thereby reducing the flood risk and making the structure more flood resilient.

In total, around 80 tonnes of stainless steel have been used, 2,000 tonnes of concrete laid and 650 square metres of locally sourced stone. Some 250 people have been involved in the project and the bridge has taken approximately 10,000 person hours to construct.

Pooley Bridge was historically a fishing village. It is now a busy and vibrant place, catering for the millions of tourists who visit Cumbria every year.

Originally named 'Pooley' or 'Pool How' - meaning 'the hill beside the pool,' the 'Bridge' part of the name was added in 1800. An ancient derelict pond exists behind the Sun Inn, and the hill towering above the village is Dunmallet, the site of an ancient British hill fort.

The bridge which gave its name to the village was built in 1764. It spanned the River Eamont, which in 1764 formed part of the boundary between the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland - whose council's organised and funded the bridge's construction.

The initials of construction workers and stonemasons, together with the year 1764, were carved into the stonework of the buttresses but were sadly lost in the floods following Storm Desmond in December 2015.

History History 1

Unprecedented levels of rainfall caused extensive flooding in the Pooley Bridge area in early December 2015. On the afternoon of Sunday 6th, and without warning, the central arch of the 251 year old bridge collapsed; by the next morning the remaining portion had also been swept away.

The village was then isolated from the west bank, causing considerable disruption to residents and businesses.

In February 2016 work started to remove the stone and debris from the river using local contractors, Waitings. The salvaged bridge stone has been stored for possible future use.

Cumbria County Council commissioned Story Contracting to install a temporary modular steel bridge supplied by Mabey Hire in time for Easter. This was a complex job on a challenging timeframe but through the support and co-operation of a wide range of stakeholders the bridge was opened one week ahead of schedule.

The temporary replacement bridge was officially opened on Sunday 20 March 2016 on a gloriously sunny spring day.

On 23 March His Royal Highness Prince Charles visited the village, inspected the bridge and met the Parish Council, affected local residents, the County Council and its contractors. 

This was a tremendous boost to the morale of villagers and businesses and created very useful publicity. The village soon recovered and has been busy with visitors throughout the spring and summer.

Why Why 1 Why 2

Extensive engagement with the local community is being carried out on how the project for a permanent replacement bridge is progressing.

Regular bi-monthly meetings take place with local stakeholders to keep them up to date with the design and construction of the new Pooley Bridge and to provide an opportunity to get feedback from the local community.

The replacement bridge project at Pooley Bridge is a key part of Cumbria County Council's Flood Recovery Programme, involving repairs to hundreds of roads, slopes, bridges and other assets throughout the county damaged during the storms of Winter 2015.

The county council is committed to ensuring the new bridge will provide resilience against extreme bad weather so that the structure continues to connect communities for future generations.

Eric Wright Civil Engineering Ltd (EWCE) is the Principle Contractor for the design of the replacement bridge in partnership with GHD, and detailed design work is well under way with the majority of the steel skeleton of the structure having been designed. The remaining elements of the detailed design involve the bridge abutments and bridge deck. This is predominantly the concrete and heavy duty steel reinforcement detailing which provides the bridge with its structural strength.

EWCE are also focusing on Temporary Works - from crane lifting to excavation support systems - that will be needed to enable the permanent bridge to be built. This is an ongoing process that evolves as designs and discussions with specialist trades progress.

Replacement bridge project

Works completed - May 2020

  • One of the largest cranes in the country has been used to successfully lift the new road bridge into position at Pooley Bridge
  • The complex operation to place the country's first stainless steel road bridge across the River Eamont was completed in around three hours on Thursday 7 May.
  • Works will now continue over the coming months, including completing the steel and concrete required to form the upper road deck and new road surfacing, drainage and parapets, to finish the bridge.
  • It was scheduled to be completed and the bridge opened in June 2020. However the temporary suspension of works due to Covid-19 restrictions means the timescale for completion of the Pooley Bridge project is subject to change.

Works completed September - November 2019

  • Temporary footbridge lifted into place and road bridge removed
  • Installation of sheet pilling on both sides of the river completed.
  • Bracing inside the sheet piles has been installed.
  • Excavation to the formation level on both sides completed.
  • Construction of east side foundation has commenced with first pours of concrete and steel reinforcement placed.
  • Steel fabrication progressing well off-site
  • Pooley Bridge Project Hub has opened in the Ullswater Steamer Tourist Information and Gift Shop

Works planned for November 2019 - January 2020

  • Works will continue to construct the East abutment with the base and walls being constructed in a number of phases, time has to be allowed for the concrete to strengthen at certain points during this process.
  • Further site investigation will be completed on the west abutment and works to construct this should start. 
  • Preparation for the delivery of steel to the Dunmallard carpark will be completed, with temporary bracing being installed on foundations.
  • The first sections of steel should be delivered to site and fabrication on the bridge sections will continue in Pooley.
  • The bridge bearings will be delivered to site

Construction timeline:

November 2019 - Spring 2020

Permanent bridge, abutment works, bridge construction and installation

Construction Works have started to construct the new Pooley Bridge structure over the River Eamont which means that Dumallard car park, to the west side of the village is now closed for visitor parking.  

To compensate for the temporary loss of Dunmallard car park, Cumbria County Council have provided a temporary car park, 100 yards before the junction leaving the B5320. This provides free car parking for up to 30 vehicles. The car park also has access to the footpath, which remains open if visitors wish to walk to the village. 

Car parking is signed posted along the B5320. 

The works to rebuild the bridge have been planned in a way to minimise disruption to the local community, businesses and tourism in the area, whilst this exciting project is completed. Pooley Bridge will remain open for business throughout the construction period.

When can traffic use the bridge and will there be an official opening?

The bridge is scheduled to be open to traffic in late October before the school half term holiday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines, there won't be a grand opening event in order to protect everyone's health, safety and wellbeing.

Why is the new bridge made with steel?

We wanted to create an iconic structure which was in keeping with the Pooley Bridge area. The new structure is the UK's first stainless steel road bridge. Stainless steel is lighter in weight and has longer durability than ordinary steel. Using stainless steel minimised the amount of concrete needed in the structure, creating a sleeker design and reducing the carbon footprint. 

Why build a modern-looking bridge rather than a like-for-like replacement of the old historic stone bridge?

The original bridge was built in the 18th Century, with piers in the river supporting its three arches. But during Storm Desmond, the sheer force of water which built up against the piers, caused scouring and erosion of the riverbed around the piers. When the piers were undermined, the bridge was swept away. Because scour caused the original bridge's piers to fail, a single span structure across the river was required to avoid the need for piers in the river, reducing the flood risk. 

Did local residents have a say on the design of the new bridge?

Extensive consultations on possible designs for the bridge took place with the local community and local stakeholders. The consultation period took around 12 months and involved receiving feedback from over 300 individuals, the final design was then presented to the community and submitted for planning. 

The old bridge was destroyed by Storm Desmond in December 2015. Why is the new bridge only being opened now?

Following Storm Desmond a temporary bridge was installed to meet the immediate needs of access across the river, Storm Desmond caused wide spread damage to over 450 bridges as well as large sections of road and other highway assets. As well as focussing resources it was also necessary to get the design of the new structure right, this led to a 12-month consultation prior to commencing the detailed design. 

Why is the bridge a single lane with traffic lights?

The bridge has a single lane with traffic lights on either side to control traffic flow across the bridge. There are pedestrian footways on both sides of the bridge. The single lane option was chosen for road safety reasons, to slow down traffic as it enters and leaves Pooley Bridge, and had the full support of the local community. 

The bridge looks too narrow, can a tractor or lorry use it?

The carriageway is 3.25m wide and suitable for all forms of vehicle.

How did people get names engraved on the paving stones?

People were invited by the local community to pay to have an engraving of approx 300 paving stones along the footways of the bridge. This has raised money for a community fund to support Pooley Bridge. 

Won't the steel bridge rust and look unsightly?

The steel is high grade stainless steel typically used in marine environments and chosen to not rust and also not require protective painting which can deteriorate overtime. The structure should require little maintenance making it more environmentally friendly over its whole life. 

Was any stone from the old bridge used to retain some of its history? 

Unfortunately most of the stone from the old bridge was lost or when recovered would not have been suitable to use in the construction of the new bridge due to its condition, the quantity that could be salvaged and the amount of processing required to make the material useable.