The River Lune runs through Lancaster, and two of the more iconic bridges over it include the Devil’s Bridge near Kirkby Lonsdale and the Lune Millennium Bridge in the city itself. About 5 miles upstream from Lancaster is a cluster of three bridges at the Crook o’Lune. A 180-degree right-hand bend turns the Lune back on itself which is followed by a 90-degree left-hand bend forming the shape of a shepherd’s crook. J.M.W. Turner painted the landmark around 1820 and was gifted to the Tate by the Turner Bequest of 1856.
The Crook o’Lune East Viaduct was awarded a grant by the National Railway Heritage Awards in 2014. Converted to a footpath when closed, the viaduct had seriously deteriorated by 2012 and a 12-month programme of restoration saw the bridge restored and once again usable for cyclists and walkers. The work was recognised with a Restoration Award at Merchant Taylors’ Hall with a plaque being unveiled on the viaduct by NRHA Chairman John Ellis.
A landscaped picnic area next to the river was created beneath the bridge with a number of new trees, hedgerows and wildflowers being planted as part of the project. Benches in the style of railway sleepers were installed on top of the bridge, as well as wooden sculptures of otters as the Lune is listed as one of the 10 great places to see Otters in the UK.
The extensive work which was carried out on the listed structure replaced the timber deck, repointed masonry and repainted the ironwork after an inspection had unearthed structural problems with the timber beams in addition to the more aesthetic issues with the ageing bridge.
Work was delayed when nesting birds were found to be living underneath the bridge deck. Jackdaw and blue tit chicks were allowed the time to mature and leave the nest in their own time before progress could recommence.
The bridge itself and Crook o’Lune picnic site links Caton with the River Lune Millennium Park. This area attracts about 250,000 visitors a year and is popular among cyclists, walkers and horse riders.
Just to the west of Lancaster is a car park with toilets as well as a seasonal café, making the area a good base for a walk. Part of the old railway line provides walkers with a clear path, with the river climbing to the 19th Century viewpoint colloquially known as Gray’s Seat and flower meadows are a striking addition during spring and summer months.
The twin bridges at Crook o’Lune were originally built to carry what became known as the “Little North Western Railway” over the river, opening to traffic in 1849. Lancaster architect Edmund Sharpe’s name is attached to the creation of these two bridges, in part because of designing the railway but also taking over the running of the company behind its construction. When it was first built the railway only had a single track but by 1888 a second track needed to be added, meaning the bridges at Crook o’Lune needed to be reconstructed.