- The road around Thirlmere Reservoir has been closed for two years after a storm
- Almost 10,000 people have called for it to be reopened for nature-lovers
More than 1,000 locals have joined a protest to keep a historic Lake District road open after its closure stopped ramblers, cyclists and horse riders from doing an entire loop of a popular beauty spot.
The historic road around Thirlmere Reservoir is beloved to outdoor adventurers who are calling for it to be re-opened so they can do the 10-mile walk around the water.
The U7003 to the west of the Lake District reservoir was temporarily shut two years ago after Storm Arwen caused substantial damage.
Its closure means walkers, cyclists and horse riders can no longer make a full circuit of Thirlmere, with cyclists forced to use the treacherous A591 on the eastern side of the lake.
On Sunday, more than 1,000 people gathered to show their fury that the road has not been reopened.
Almost 10,000 people have signed a petition to keep the road open in the name of safety and as a public right of way.
The petition demands: ‘We want the public road along the western side of Thirlmere Reservoir in The Lake District to be reopened to walkers, cyclists and motorists as a through route.
‘We are opposed to the proposal by Cumberland Council to permanently close a section of this road on the western side of Thirlmere.
‘We firmly believe that the entire road should be reopened and remain open as a through route to all forms of traffic, including walkers cyclists and motorists, in order that all who wish to use this route as an enjoyable, quiet and scenic route should be able to do so.’
In 2018, the ‘Beast from the East’ combined with Storm Emma to batter the north-west of England with wind and heavy snow for two weeks.
The storms uprooted several large trees along the length of Thirlmere Reservoir, and the road was closed for several months while contractors worked to repair the damage.
In November 2021, Storm Arwen destroyed 1500 more trees, resulting in another temporary road closure due to fallen trees and disturbed rocks on the crags above.
The road has remained closed ever since, with no safe diversion route for walkers and cyclists.
A proposal is being prepared by Cumberland Council for the Highways Committee on Friday to approve a permanent closure of the road, but the plan has so far met with significant resistance.
A Freedom of Information Request seeking copies of the risk assessment for the closure and diversion route was responded to with the comment: ‘The diversion route only stipulates suitability for vehicular traffic; therefore no diversion route is provided for pedestrians and cyclists at this time.
‘This is under reassessment as the extent of the work required is established with United Utilities’.
Owners United Utilities say they are committed to reopening the road as soon as works are carried out to make it safe.
Land next to the road, known as Rough Crag, was also damaged during the storm, and the area is said to pose a danger to anyone who uses it due to fallen trees, rockfall and debris covering the carriageway.
However, protestors fear that the road will never reopen if the order is introduced.
In 1879, the ‘Manchester Corporation Waterworks Act’ entitled the corporation to dam the lake at Thirlmere creating a reservoir from which water would be pumped over 90 miles to Manchester.
The Act specified that a new road had to be built and maintained for public use and stated that this road ‘shall be maintained by and at the cost of the corporation for ever.’
Local historian Ian Hall, said: ‘In the original Act of 1879, this road had to be built as a compensation for taking the lovely lakes that were here before and making Thirlmere a reservoir.
‘The act said that they had to make this road and maintain it in perpetuity for public use and, for the first 120 years, that’s what was done. Now, United Utilities who own the dam want to close it and keep us out forever.
‘They have a legal obligation to keep it open. It’s not their right to close this road. It’s our right to have it open. I’m delighted to see so many people here today to make that obligation clear.
‘Let’s get this road open as soon as we possibly can.’
Organiser of the Keep Thirlmere Open campaign, Mark Hatton, said: ‘We are here today to object to the woeful lack of progress to reopen this road after almost two years.
‘We are here to show that we won’t simply accept that this road must be permanently closed to all traffic: walkers, cyclists, horse riders and motorists.
‘We are here to demonstrate a collective sense of disbelief that any of this is truly in the interests of public safety; that this isn’t about public safety, it’s all about corporate safety and convenience.
‘We want this public right of way to be restored. We want walkers, cyclists, horse riders and motorists to be free to enjoy the safety, beauty and peacefulness of this road.’
Julia Aglionby, the Liberal Democrat prospective Parliamentary candidate for Penrith and Solway, attended the protest after being approached by many residents who were deeply concerned by the closure of this road.
She said: ‘We need people power and we need to take action ourselves. This is the start of the action we need to take today and we have to use our democratic rights as individuals.
‘They have an obligation to keep this road open forever and maintain it.’
Ted Little, from Cycling UK, attended the protest and said: ‘I have a long history of enjoying this road.
‘I was lucky enough to bring thousands of younger and older people along this road to enjoy this whole area.
‘The thing that worries me is that the corporate decisions are not taking into account future generations.
‘If we don’t stand up for it now, this facility will not be enjoyed in the future as it has been enjoyed for over 100 years. Cycling UK is 100 per cent behind this endeavour.
‘From a cycling perspective, this back road is so important because the A591 is so dangerous.
‘This road is an important link for the north to south corridor in the Lake District. It’s a severance that will never be replaced unless we win this fight.
‘We are thinking about the future and we are bearing in mind the past. We have to keep this road open for future generations.’
The decision will be made at the Cumberland Council Highways Strategic Board meeting at Workington Town Hall on November 10.