MECHANICAL diggers began working on a new bridleway along a stretch of Grasmere's lake shore less than 24 hours after it was approved.

Members of the the Lake District National Park Authority's rights of way committee narrowly gave the legal backing to create a bridleway from the lake shore to White Moss.

By 10am the following morning, construction workers had arrived on site.


"It would be nice to think that this was the national park being super-efficient, but these guys must have known the decision before it was made," claimed Stephen Truelove, one of the opponents to the upgrading of the footpath .

But Steve Gaskell, park management leader at the authority, said the decision to improve the route in practical terms was taken by the development control committee in July.

"Therefore we have been working with contractors to commence the work," he said. "Whichever way the decision of the rights of way committee went would not have prevented the practical improvements taking place. The work would have still gone ahead for groups such as wheelchair users but not for bridleway users."

The plans form part of a £5m government-funded programme aimed to reduce the carbon footprint of the Lake District's millions of visitors by improving cycle links.

It follows extensive consultations and although the need for a cycleway to the village was uncontested, the lakeside stretch saw concerns raised about safety and disruption to walkers.

"Adventure tourism may be appropriate elsewhere, but it is certainly not appropriate on Grasmere lake shore, where enjoyment relies upon tranquility," said Cllr Paul Truelove, speaking on behalf of Lakes Parish Council and the Grasmere Village Society. "Wordsworth would agree, I think."

And Andrew Saalmans, who has lived in Grasmere for 45 years, asked committee members to consider an alternative route via Wishing Gate Road.

"You have an opportunity to complete the cycle route from Ambleside to Grasmere without damaging this unique, fragile, internationally-loved site in the centre of the national park," he said.

Nick Thorne, countryside access adviser at the national park, told members: "Just because there is a minority of people who behave badly, it should not automatically mean than we shouldn't do something that benefits others."