A RURAL community in north Cumbria left divided after Storm Desmond wrecked a key road has been reunited - after engineers moved a road.

Before the storm three and a half years ago, travelling between Gaitsgill and Raughton Head, south of Carlisle, was simple and quick, taking only a few minutes by car.

But the River Roe burst its banks, destabilising the road that linked the two villages.

Declared unsafe by engineers, the road was closed, forcing locals to endure a five mile detour on alternative roads.

For such a scattered rural community - which includes several hamlets - the closure caused daily disruption.

But on Monday, Cumbria County Council officially opened the new replacement road, now safely relocated to a route several yards west of the original and further from the river.

Costing £320,000, the new 260 metre stretch of road is now open to traffic.

Last weeknd, its pristine tarmac was the scene of an unlikely celebration as villagers gathered to mark the occasion.

"What happened cut our community in half," said Cythia Ebbatson, 82, as she sipped a celebratory glass of white wine.

"We've got the church and the school at Raughton Head, and our village hall at Gaitsgill. The village hall is used nearly every day, and people come to it nearly every day from Raughton Head."

Her husband Jefferey, also 82, who made a short speech declaring the community reunited, said: "We expected this problem to be sorted out in six months.

"We've lived in Gaitsgill since 1961, and this is the first time that the parish has been split in this way."

Doreen Hallsworth, 73, was as delighted to see the communities reunited, but she was concerned about the potential for motorists to speed along the new stretch of road, which sweeps impressively downhill towards a right-hand bend as it approaches Raughton Head.

"There should be a speed limit," she said, pointing out that there are 14 children living near the road's Gaitsgill junction.

As a local living in Hawksdale, north west of Raughton Head, 58-year-old Dr Andrew Robson braved a chilly crosswind to test out his bike on the new road.

"The closure meant I couldn't get to see my friend as quickly as I once could," he said.

"So having it open again is brilliant.

"It's a nice road."

Farmer Gerald Bainbridge has lived in the area all his life.

"I live the other side of High Bridge, and mostly used the road to supply people with hay," he said.

"It's been a big inconvenience having to go the long way round."

Dalston Parish Council has repeatedly pressed for the road repair.

Among those whose lives were most disrupted were parents living on the road's Gaitsgill side whose children are pupils at Raughton Head CE Primary School.

Thankfully, daily detour is now over.

A spokesman for Cumbria County Council told The Cumberland news that the road's realignment and associated drainage works have proved to be a very challenging engineering project for its contractor because of the topography of the land and the ground conditions.

The project is one of more than 1,200 schemes which has been funded as part of the council’s £120m Infrastructure Recovery Programme, set up in the wake of Storm Desmond.