Stenkrith Bridge, just outside Kirkby Stephen on the road to Nateby, is actually a combination of several bridges where the Eden both bends and falls: road bridges and footbridge, over river and (former) railway track; plus the remains of the old railway bridge over the river, of which only the foundations survived the line closure.
We’ll start by taking a look (here on the left, just as the buds of Spring are bursting) downstream from the Millennium footbridge. This is a spectacular spot, reminding me somewhat of one of my favourite places in all the world outside Cumbria, the Aberglaslyn pass in Snowdonia.
We’re at the point where the limestone fells end and the scenery is shaped by the red Eden Valley sandstone. Under the bridge we’ll see the rocks have been carved into grotesque shapes by countless centuries of pounding water.
The Northern Viaduct Trust
We’ll go back now to the little carpark. As we go through the gate onto the footpath there’s an informative plaque describing the work here by the Northern Viaduct Trust which has been responsible for the restoration of several of the historically important viaducts that escaped the wanton destruction of the early years following railway line closures in the 60s and 70s.
Following the path down to the railway track level and walking under the roadbridge we cross the Millennium footbridge and go down to the river’s edge. Here is the view of the two bridges looking back upstream.
Climbing back up to the road we find another way down to the river on the upstream side. A narrow gate on the opposite side of the river from the carpark gives access to steps down to a path leading to the foot of the old railway bridge foundations and then out into the fields on the other side.
Looking back to the bridges it seems that in the past here has been another arch, now bricked up. These Eden bridges sometimes have complex histories, and in this case the combination of gorge, river, road and railway on a double bend in the stream leads inquisitive minds like mine to wonder what were the various stages of change over the centuries.
Early on in this note I mentioned the grotesque rock shapes. Here is a shot looking downwards from the Millennium footbridge. The colours range from greys to reds to almost black. Certainly there’s a combination of sandstone and limestone here. I’m no geological expert; is there granite too?
As soon as the leaves on the trees are fully grown these views will be different, with less of the bridgeworks visible. Whatever the time of year this is a beautiful spot, and the starting point for some excellent walks for which the car park is a great advantage.
If you’re in the Kirkby Stephen area don’t miss at least a stroll in the woods by Stenkrith Bridge.