THE Lake District landscape has almost fully recovered from the devastation wrought by Storm Desmond three years ago, it was revealed this week.

Ramblers and lovers of the great outdoors now have full access to 40 kilometres of public rights of way which were badly damaged by the cataclysmic storm of December 2015.

National park bosses said this week that since then £3 million has been spent repairing the area's infrastructure.

The major project has seen:

  •  Ninety-four bridges repaired and strengthened to withstand a future deluge on the scale of Storm Desmond
  •  Sixty-five public paths mended
  •  Forty-four gates, stiles and signposts re-instated

But an urgent plea for still more cash has been made to complete the vital work to ensure the Lake District can withstand any tougher weather it might face in the future.

Richard Leafe, the chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, there is still much to be done and he estimates nearly £2m is still required to finish the job.

"We need to recognise the fantastic work that everyone has done so far," he said. "We couldn't have done it without the money that was given for this cause.

"However, we also need to recognise how dramatic the climate has become in recent times, so we have not only repaired the bridges but we have replaced them to make them more resilient against tougher weather we may face in the future."

Mr Leafe added: "There is still a bit to do. We are still short of about £1.8 million so any funding is obviously greatly appreciated."

The £3m to carry out the work has come through the government-funded Routes to Resilience programme. The work has also been funded by the Rural Payments Agency with money from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development,

A celebration to mark the significant milestone in the works took place at the site of a new footbridge over Greenhead Gill in Grasmere, which replaced the one destroyed by Storm Desmond. The bridge was officially opened by Jacquie Middleton from the Rural Payments Agency who described the scheme as a 'fantastic achievement' by all.

Michael McGregor, of the Wordsworth Trust, said the project as a great way for people to keep enjoying the Lake District and also to celebrate the relationship tourists and residents have with the landscape. He blessed the bridge with an extract from William Wordsworth's poem Michael, a poignant reminder of the qualities the Lake District has to offer.

The charity Fix The Fells was also involved in the crowning of the bridge as volunteers and rangers have spent the past four years repairing and maintaining the mountain paths across the county. Programme manager Joanne Backshall said it has been a tough yet rewarding journey for the team.

"There is still a lot to do and the task is still ongoing but thanks to the money this task has been achievable," she said.

"It's been a fantastic partnership and everyone is pulling together for the same aim - we all want what's best for the Lake District."

Cllr Vicky Hughes, who represents Ambleside and Grasmere on South Lakeland District Council, said the bridge looked 'amazing' and that it had been an important celebration and reminder to everyone.

"Public right of ways here are so important for both tourists and residents," she said. "Now we just need to get the message out there to remind everyone that Grasmere isn't closed."

Cumbria County Council has also announced that it has completed its £500,000 programme of repairs as more than 40 footpaths and 13 footbridges across the county have been upgraded.

The council focused on repairing and improving popular paths and trails in areas outside the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District national parks. The programme was also funded by the Rural Payments Agency. Among the trails which have undergone repairs are the re-grading and reinstatement of the path beside the River Eden in Appleby and the route alongside the River Lune, near Devil's Bridge, at Kirkby Lonsdale.

Meanwhile, this week a 500-ton crane arrived in Burneside to repair Ford Bridge, which has been closed for nearly a year due to damage caused by the floods. It is due to re-open this Spring.