West road at Thirlmere closed after 'beast from the east' gales

The road around the west side of Thirlmere reservoir has been closed, following widespread damage by “the Beast from the East”.

The easterly gales last week blew down large numbers of trees, leading to serious concerns for public safety.

Cumbria County Council has made the emergency road closure while landowner United Utilities assesses how best to stabilise the slopes above the road and remove the many tonnes of timber that were brought down by the high winds. The water company will then apply for a formal emergency road closure to carry out the recovery work.

A spokesperson for Cumbria County Council said: “Cumbria Highways have activated an emergency road closure for this road due to the danger of collapsed trees in the carriageway. The council will continue to liaise directly with local partners United Utilities and the Lake District National Park to monitor the situation, and will re-open the road when advised it is safe to do so.”

Paul Phillips, North Area Catchment Manager at United Utilities, explained: “The damage is shocking. Not only have a lot of large trees come down, but this has also destabilised the slopes and there is a lot of loose soil and boulders as well as damage to walls and fences.

“It is now extremely dangerous to access this area so we need to undertake some major recovery work before it’s safe for the public to walk there again.

“Due to the size of the fallen trees, the steep slopes and the limited space available on the narrow road we’ve been working with the council to plan how best to make the area safe. There’s no option but to close the road unfortunately. I think we will be looking at months of work, not weeks.

“It’s very sad that some iconic trees have come down in the gales, including several Douglas Fir specimens that are more than 120 years old – each more than 40 foot tall and some five tonnes in weight. In addition we’ve lost many Scots Pine and Sitka Spruce.

“These trees have weathered many storms in their time, but the north-easterly direction of the latest storm was unusual. These mature trees have naturally acclimatised to the prevailing south-westerly winds in the valley – the Beast from the East has caused havoc.”

United Utilities is working closely with Cumbria County Council and the Lake District National Park Authority to complete the necessary recovery work and get the road reopened as soon as possible.

The priority will be to work on clearing the footpaths so they can be reopened. In the meantime, the public have been advised to observe any signage and not to attempt to access any footpaths that have been closed for their own safety.

Nick Thorne, Countryside Access Adviser for the Lake District National Park, said: “It’s vital that people are safe when they are exploring the National Park. So our advice to anyone thinking of heading to the Thirlmere area is to check our website lakedistrict.gov.uk for the latest information and status of the affected footpaths.”