Hardcastle Crags stepping stones and bridge are now restored
After nine months of work, Hardcastle Crags has been largely restored following extensive damage during Storm Desmond in December 2015.
The Boxing Day heavy rain last year, caused parts of the Crags to be closed with footpaths washed away, the stepping stones being unsafe and a footbridge broken away from its piers and carried down the river.
In the early months of the year, the main footpaths were quickly restored and steps were taken to ensure the land was stabilised and to reduce the impact of future heavy rainfall events.
The challenge of fixing stepping stones
The challenge of repairing the stepping stones and fixing the footbridge were not however as straightforward, as Drew Marsh, National Trust ranger at Hardcastle Crags explains: "The stepping stones were originally made from concrete and would have been cast in-situ when first put into place, a tricky engineering task at any time!
"We couldn't use the same concrete used on the originals, but found a solution to pour fast setting flowable concrete into wooden box forms (which needed to be as watertight as possible) over the top of what was left of the original stones. It took 7-10 days for the concrete to cure sufficiently so that the water flowing past didn't erode the new stones.
"Once we removed the boxes we built up the river bed so that the bottom 30 - 40cm of each new stepping stones is below the bed of the river, to stop the water undercutting the stones and making them unstable."
The challenge of repairing the bridge
Work to restore the footbridge back over the river has taken slightly longer. Only rebuilt three years ago, using recycled plastic (replacing the rotting old wooden bridge), it thankfully hadn't been washed too far from its foundations in December.
National Trust volunteers and ranger were able to recover it from the river when the water levels subsided. The stone piers have now been re-built and the bridge was put back into place in mid-September.
The cost of all this repair work added up to a considerable amount. The National Trust invested £20,000 into footpath repairs and secured a £34,000 grant from Calderdale Council to undertake repairs to the large footbridge, stepping stones and to repair the main track, which is used by nearly 150,000 visitors a year.
Autumn in the Crags
Sara Parsons, visitor services manager at Hardcastle Crags, said,
"Autumn's a beautiful time to come and visit Hardcastle Crags; as the leaves turn along the valley, the whole place becomes a hotspot for fungi and there's plenty of wildlife to spot on a walk.
"After so many months of hard work and planning to repair the estate, it's fantastic to be able to tell our visitors that the footbridge has been replaced and that all our walks and the stepping stones are ready to be enjoyed and explored again."
Repair of several miles of footpaths
With the bulk of the repair work done, the National Trust is now working in partnership with CROWS (community rights of way service) to repair several miles of footpaths on the Hardcastle Crags estate which in turn link into the wider footpath network beyond National Trust land ownership. The work will be undertaken by National Trust volunteers and local contractors to improve access to this important part of Calderdale for tens of thousands of people.