Residents walked across a new £7m bridge this weekend for the sheer joy of it being there.

The village of Pooley Bridge, a tourist destination near Ullswater, was completely cut off five years ago when Storm Desmond washed away the only access to the village.

A temporary pedestrian bridge was erected to give villagers some access to the outside world.

Last week the temporary bridge was removed and on Saturday residents had their first chance to walk across the pedestrian section of the new stainless steel bridge that will be opened to traffic by mid-term at the end of October.

Miles MacInnes, chairman of the Barton and Pooley Bridge Parish Council, praised the community for their resilience.

“This has been a long time coming," he said. "As well as residents, seven or eight businesses have been affected.

“Today we were able to look forward but, while there were many people out enjoying their first walk across the bridge, we will have a proper opening ceremony in November when the bridge is full completed.”

Colin Hindle runs the Granny Dowbekins Tearooms at the end of the bridge.

“We are part of the bridge," he said. "We have spent the last 12 months on a building site but today feels like the heart of the village has opened again.”

He said his business makes its profit in six months of the year, when the visitors come to the Lake District. Between being cut off by Storm Desmond and then having to shut down for the pandemic, he lost many of those profitable months.

He said the area had been very busy since rules were relaxed however.

“Another aspect of the new bridge that people have enjoyed is that it gave us our first chance to see half the memorial stone," he said.

Residents were able to buy a paving stone with their names or the names of loved ones included. The other half will be on the other side of the bridge when it opens.

County councillor transport portfolio holder Keith Little said the bridge had taken longer than expected because of Covid-19 and weather problems. The cost had also risen.

“We estimated about £5.5 but it is nearer £7m," he said.

“We wanted the best design and consulted the community to make sure their wants were met. I think the result is great.

“It is the first stainless steel bridge in the county, I believe, and has been built so it never got its feet in the water.”

He was not there for the opening of the first walkway on Saturday but has visited several times over the construction period and said he 'will definitely be there' for the formal opening towards the end of October.

"Prince Charles has been a champion of this area so I suspect he might be invited to open it," he said.