COMMUNITIES in the heart of the Lake District have been reconnected months after a key road was torn apart by a landslide.
A new shuttle bus, which travels along a temporary road reconnecting Keswick and Grasmere, was met with a welcome response by tourists and locals alike when it made its first journey yesterdaytues.
It has re-established Stagecoach’s 555 service which was severed after a section of the A591 collapsed and means the route from Grasmere to Keswick which was taking two hours 40 minutes, now takes just 45 minutes.
Keswick resident Charlotte Farrell, who will be using the service five days a week to get to work in Kendal, was relieved. The 25-year-old worked at Trespass’s Keswick store but after it flooded she was relocated to Kendal in January.
“To get to Kendal it is roughly going to be about the same time. It’s still going to be two hours but it’s more convenient because I could go to Ambleside or Bowness which are the other shops.”
Jesh Tauchercorr moved to Cockermouth three months ago and was making his first trip to Grasmere on the new bus.
“I’m going to explore. I’ve heard a lot about it and never had the chance to go. I’ve only really known this place in floods.”
The 23-year-old, who is originally from New Zealand and enjoys fell running, said he will regularly use the service on his days off from working at The Pheasant Inn, at Bassenthwaite, to visit the South Lakes.
The new road, which is open to cyclists and pedestrians but no other traffic, was an access track offered by United Utilities.
Over the past three weeks it has been widened and resurfaced and now joins the road which meanders along the western shore of Thirlmere.
Along with breathtaking views of the surrounding Helvellyn range, across the water the damage caused to the A591 is clear to see
“I’m awestruck to see the devastation. It’s not vast but it’s total. It’s down into the lake. We didn’t think it would be this bad,” said Rod Berry, 79, of Ambleside.
He and his wife Dorothy, 74, who usually travel to Keswick three times a week and often further afield, were extremely relived. “The thought that we were cut off from the rest of the county has been awful. We use the bus and awful lot. It’s our lifeline,” said Rod.
Tourists were also happy to find Keswick and Grasmere had been reconnected, with many who said they wouldn’t have made the journey had the shuttle service not been up and running.
Bill Hodgekiss, 64, was visiting the area from Surrey for the week. He said: “Otherwise it would have been very difficult to get down there. It would have taken too long.”
Seeing the damage across the reservoir, Bill said: “It’s like a battlefield almost. It’s quite incredible, the power of water to remove 4,000 tonnes of debris. It’s quite extraordinary.”
Planning their trip from Doncaster Kelvin and Alison Bray thought there would be no hope of getting to Ambleside.
Kelvin said: “We’re just very lucky we could get on the first bus and visit Ambleside while we’re staying in Keswick.”
“It’s very lucky for us. It’s great that we can go there but for the locals it must have been horrendous,” added Alison.
Councillor Keith Little, who is responsible for highways and transport at Cumbria County Council, said there is still a huge amount of work to do but hopes the A591 can be reopened at the end of May.
“[The bus] is a huge step forward for these communities of Keswick and Grasmere. I just encourage people to use it,” he said. “It’s been very important from day one when we realised what the damaged was on the A591.”
The hourly service runs between 7am to 7pm Monday to Saturday and every two hours on a Sunday in line with a reduced 555 service.
Explorer tickets have almost halved and while the service is running cost £5.
Matt Cranwell, managing director for Stagecoach Cumbria and north Lancashire, said: “We’re delighted to be able to step in to provide a vital link for Keswick since it was cut off in early December. Hopefully it’s going to be benefitting the community and the local businesses.”