Keer Falls Forest Farm

Building a Bridge at Keer Falls

There is evidence that this ford has existed since Roman times

Keer Falls is situated in Wash Dub Wood. A 'wash dub' was a dammed section of river that was used to wash sheep prior to shearing. This was the site of a wash dub for the sheep farmed in the surrounding area.
Sheep would have been gathered from the surrounding land and driven down to the clearing in the wood where we now have our sheep pens. The river would have been dammed and the sheep would have been dipped in the water.
When we first came here in 1986 the wash dub was long since gone and all that remained was part of the stone walls on the river bank and the ford across the river linking the two fields. There is evidence that there has been a ford on this site since Roman times. A number of Roman coins were found near by when the bank collapsed in the 1970's following heavy rain (probably from the stream that now feeds our pond) flooding.
For many years we used this ford daily, crossing on foot and in a variety of vehicles to get to our sheep pens beyond. It has never been a problem for us and frankly we could have carried on using this ford indefinitely. However, crossing the river in this way was washing silt and mud from our vehicles into the water and then onto the spawning beds for sea trout below the falls and pollution from animal manure and oils from tractors was also a problem.  As our farm here grew we could see that this was starting to do more damage to the ecosystem and we found that unacceptable and defeated the very reason that we decided to live here in the first place.
So in 2013 we bit the bullet and set out to build a bridge here to take away the need for us, our vehicles and livestock to cross the ford. We were supported by the National Rivers Authority, British Nature and Defra under the Catchment Sensitive Farming initiative who awarded a grant to help with the costs.
The only real question was why we hadn't done it before? Well, apart from the cost, the river is the county boundary so planning permission would require approval from two district councils, and two county councils. We'd have to have the application examined by two parish councils, the National River Authority, both fisheries and flood control departments, Natural England, Defra and two county council highways departments that might be affected if our plans were thought to increase flood risk and do you know what? I really couldn't face all that agro!
Sad really, once we had Natural England and the National Rivers authority behind us, the rest were cooperative. Well, to a point, there's always one idiot who thinks he knows better than everyone else!

Putting in the Base

Bridging the Gap

Once the concrete had gone off, we were able to cross the river with the tractor. We had been told that the bridge could manage 70 tonnes, but we were still a bit worried, the first time we crossed! No Problem!!!

One of the major concerns we all had, was the bridge's ability to withstand flooding. The National Rivers' Authority asked that the bottom of the bridge should be higher than the top of the river bank. I thought that this would put the bridge well above the top of the flooding river as I had never seen the river reach the top of the bank in thirty years that we'd been here.
Then, in 2015 we had record breaking floods in this part of the world, culminating with storm Desmond. Lancaster, Morecambe, Carnforth and Kendal all had floods. Actually, the Keer here was higher two weeks before when a freak rainstorm flooded the upper Keer valley.
That steel girder is twenty-two inches deep, so from the picture on the left, you can see that even in an
"once-in-a-hundred year" flood, the bridge was well above the river.
In all honesty I can't say that the bridge will never be flooded, but I do know that if this bridge is washed away by bigger storms than Desmond, those down stream will have more to worry about than what happens to our bridge as Carnforth, Lancaster, Morecambe and Kendal would all be devastated by other rivers in the area, if the Keer breaks its banks up here!

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Tel.: 015242 21019

Keer Falls.

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